This isn’t about a six-pack of beer from the store, this is about saying no to six-pack abs. Today’s media has led us to believe that a strong, healthy, and in shape person must have a stomach like an old-fashion washboard, a.k.a. a six-pack. The idea of this being the poster child for strength, health and beauty is scary and misleading. And in most cases the images seen have been digitally enhanced to make the abdominals appear chiseled. To truly achieve this look is unrealistic to the average person, and is definitely not a marker of health.
Having a strong, stable core is definitely necessary to supporting the body, but it doesn’t have to be visible. The actual muscles of the six-pack are called the rectus abdominis, and are a small superficial fraction of all the muscles comprising the stomach and core. For the core to properly support the body it needs every muscle surrounding the spine to be equally balanced in strength and flexibility. Consequently, when the rectus muscles are overly defined it is a sure sign of muscle imbalance and week core. The training involved to achieve a six-pack is at the expense of overall core strength and leads to back and neck pain, rounded shoulders, bad posture, and pelvic misalignment.
Perfectly defined abdominal muscles are usually the result of extreme leanness, not increased functionality and strength. A six-pack becomes visible at about 10 to 14 percent body fat for women, and 6 to 12 percent for men. Unless you are an Olympian or professional athlete, these percentages are very hard to reach and sustain. Body fat this low results in issues such as depression, eating disorders, infertility and an interrupted menstrual cycle in women. According to the American Council of Exercise, 17 to 24 percent body fat is a healthy range for men and women.
So let the guilty feeling go for not having picture-perfect defined abs, and feel empowered to know strength and health lie in a balanced body. Choose a fitness program like Pilates and yoga that emphasizes a balance of mind, body and spirit and you may start to feel better…not just look better. Plus, you can still enjoy a beer here and there.