By Scott Canatsey – Lead trainer at the Parrillo Performance training facility
We have all heard it a thousand times or more that “abs are made in the kitchen”. But is this actually true? Do we all have an awesome six pack just waiting to be unveiled after we shed unwanted fat? Let us take a closer look at this assumption and break down the reality of the statement. And remember, there are exceptions to every rule.
The most desired body part that everyone wants to have are ripped abdominals. The sign of health and happiness in our American culture is the acquisition of these showy muscles. There is no doubt, that when a person has noticeable abdominals that the rest of their body is typically in shape, as well. Even if they are really thin, they seem to have some level of lean muscle to admire, along with the amazing abs. Is that what leads to the perception of the abs being the most glorious muscle group to acquire? Could there be some truth to the thought that health and happiness can be found in a set of crisp abdominals? Let us look further.
I will use our in-house Amazon, Carrie Canatsey, as our first subject to examine. Carrie started out really fat and holding 51% body fat. Most of the fat was in her belly, butt, hips and legs. So, I am thinking there was probably no six-pack under there. Her abdominals, (transverse abdominus primarily) had prolapsed and that belly really stuck out there. The abdominals are stretched as well as her skin, and I see no way for any observable muscle to exist in that state. I am sure you can agree. But, we can see now that 10 years later, Carrie has remarkable abdominals that anyone would be proud of. But we found out for certain that there were no abs waiting to be found under all of the fat. It took very specific work over a period of three years once Carrie (with the help of John Parrillo’s expertise) found that she was not correctly contracting her abs when performing her ab movements. She was working her hip flexors. And they are fantastic! But, after 3 hard years of learning to connect to her abs, and several sets a day, she has arrived. Now, the one and only Peter McGough can say she finally has abs. (He critiqued her at the Jr. Nationals 5 years ago and said she had no abs. Needless to say, she was embarrassed).
Let us use our “Iron Cowboy”, Seth Drake, as another subject for examination. When I met Seth as a young athlete, he already had decent abs and was quite muscular for 165 pounds. Riding Bulls and playing Football had given Seth a great base to work with for Bodybuilding. He was strong, determined and as tough as an Ohio HS wrestler. (That’s my personal marker for mental toughness in young men). Now, one can easily argue that if Seth got fat, that a six pack will certainly be there waiting to appear. Let us take that a step further. When you consider what Seth was able to create with his hard work as a young man, is what most any person has done that played demanding sports in grade school or High School. These are the people that skew the perception of abdominals just being there and waiting to be uncovered. These people can be “chubby” and have some quality muscle underneath that will be revealed when they get serious about the quality of their diet. The first time they get lean, the abs are present and developed. This, in my opinion, is evidence enough to dismiss the myth of abs are built in the kitchen. That is only part of the story. It clearly takes hard work and disciplined eating to attain the great abs that we all admire.
The conclusion seems pretty clear that we must work in the gym and in the kitchen to have a defined set of abdominal muscles. So, cardio alone is not going to reveal all of that sexy muscle that we may think is hiding. It takes serious contraction and laser focused concentration to get the level of work needed to build legendary abs. There is a mental connection that is necessary. Some seem to have been born with it, and that gives them a distinct advantage in creating a great core. That puts them way ahead in this game, but it is a marathon not a race. With enough determination, the abdominals can be created even from the most disadvantaged situation. Carrie Canatsey shows us that it is true even if it takes a few years of hard work and disciplined eating.
Get to work on that muscle building!