The Real Reason You Can't Get Flat Abs

You've done every abdominal exercise in the book, used every machine, done Pilates and Yoga, crunched, balanced, lunged and still - your abs aren't flat.  Where's your six-pack?  Will exercise alone ever give you flat abs?  Unfortunately not.

There are four factors that contribute to the shape of your abs-muscle tone, body fat, genetics, and skin elasticity. While exercise is key to good muscle tone and keeping body fat in the safe zone, it will do nothing about skin tightness and genetics. For those, you'll need surgery or better yet, acceptance.

The abdominal muscles consist of four major groups: 

  1. Rectus abdominus

  2. Internal obliques

  3. External obliques

  4. Transverse abdominals

The internal and external obliques come in pairs (on the right and left sides of your abdomen) and altogether, they make up your "six pack." Un-toned, weak, abdominal muscles certainly add to a lumpy abdominal appearance but more importantly, may not support your back and spine properly.  Spot conditioning with traditional abdominal exercises can strengthen these muscles and tighten them up.  This adds to a "flatter" appearance but is only part of the picture of "flat abs."  It's important to also tone back, leg, and upper body muscle groups to keep your spine aligned and prevent injury.

Body Fat

Your muscles are covered and protected by a layer of body fat. Some body fat is necessary for normal, healthy body function.  Too much body fat adds to a an oversized abdomen and contributes to poor health but too little can disrupt your body's metabolism and hormone functions.  You can reduce overall body fat by eating a healthy diet and exercising. 

Genetics. The way fat is distributed on your body has a lot to do with genetics. Most people can't and shouldn't maintain the extremely low body fat necessary to eliminate the layer that covers the abdomen.  How a normal amount of body fat is distributed over your tummy is largely pre-programmed by genetics. If you maintain a normal body weight and have toned abdominal muscles, the remaining fat will distribute with a more uniform "flat" appearance.  If you've tried everything else, and just can't live with your curves, liposuction permanently removes abdominal fat cells.

Skin Elasticity

If you've gained or lost a lot of weight or experienced a pregnancy, the skin covering your abdomen may be permanently stretched out.  Skin has a finite capability for bouncing back after it has been stretched to the max. While weight loss will improve your abdominal appearance, nothing short of surgery can eliminate a saggy skin pouch.  That's why tummy tucks have become so popular in recent years. 

Every body has its own unique make up, strengths, weaknesses, experiences and history.   Exercise alone won't give you flat abs but if you're in good physical shape and have a healthy body weight, the best way to make peace with your abs is to accept them.