I was freaking out. Literally. And it didn’t feel good at all. I had just finished another documentary about our food supply, and just discovered that everything I had learned in the media was DEAD WRONG.
My entire world had just shifted around.
Artificial sweeteners caused cancer instead of making me lean. My favorite breakfast cereals were the worst breakfast I could ever eat. The fruits and veggies I had in my plate were sprayed with pesticides, herbicides and other nasty chemicals. GMOs were lurking somewhere in my pantry, waiting to get me for good.
“Every food around is bad. What the %$/? can I eat?”
“I guess I’ll just drink water…”
I was satisfied with this for a couple hours, until I read an article about tap water and how it now contains traces of birth control pills and aspartame that’s not filtered at the water treatment plant.
I was freaking out. That was the real problem.
This “freaking-out-ness” is the #1 reason people fail to lose weight, change their eating habits and achieve any health and fitness goal.
Food around us is screwed up. That’s a fact.
Our food supply is “contaminated” with bad stuff, and corporations won’t stop making money just to make you healthier anytime soon.
How you react to this sad reality will dictate how lean or how healthy you will ever get:
Option #1: Freak out. Try to change every single food you eat overnight, and develop a really unhealthy relationship with food where you consider “bad food” evil, and feel guilty every time you eat something that’s “forbidden”.
Option #2: Understand that all these chemicals and nasty foods will not only NEVER kill you instantly, but that eating them do not define who you are.
Then, follow this blueprint to a “freak-out-free” life:
- Get educated. Stop trusting everything you hear from the media, from me, or from anyone else. In my very biased opinion, Healthy or Not is the best resource for that.
- Get real. You can’t change everything all at once. Focus on changing 1 thing every month, instead of throwing away 95% of what’s in your fridge and ending up feeling overwhelmed.
- Get cooking. Stop focusing on how you can avoid this weekly night out with your friends. You can choose to make healthier choices at restaurant and drink one less beer, but nothing will make as much of a difference as what you eat during the week – 80% of the time.
Focus on changing your habits. Grab a new cookbook, and try things out. You’ll screw up. You’ll waste food. You’ll feel like this is taking all your time and energy. But you’ll get around it, and will start to like it a lot when people around you start to compliment you about your healthy and tasty meals.
While you’re at it, try to enjoy the process. Be curious. Be proud that you take action. You can do it, one habit at a time.
Keep it simple and healthy
If you don’t learn the actual facts on what is healthy and what’s not, how can you stop yourself from making the wrong choices and stopping your fat loss cold?
Here’s my definition of a healthy breakfast:
1) Chocolate frosting on white bread: chocolate frosting has been shown to be part of a healthy breakfast for years. I know this is unconventional wisdom, but it actually contains a lot of good nutrients. Plus, it’s super tasty.
2) To really quench my morning thirst, I put AT LEAST 1 big tablespoon of sugar in a cup of water and drink that. I know sugar is supposedly bad but when you drink sugar in liquid form your body knows it’s good for you. Of course, I add some sugar to my coffee too!
3) Sometimes, I’ll stop by my favorite breakfast restaurant before I go to work and grab a huge piece of cake instead. Cake has been proven to curb appetite and taste awesome in your mouth… so that’s a no-brainer.
That’s what I eat every morning. And you should do the same. Thanks.
Breakfast of Champions
…If you’re still here, you know something is definitely wrong. Is Nick trying to prove a point, or is he gone crazier than Jack Nicholson in… any of his movies?
Here’s the point: some people actually eat like this every day and still THINK they are making “healthy” choices…
Let’s play a little game. I’ll change some words around and see what happens.
1) Let’s change “frosting” for “Nutella”: Nutella (famous chocolate spread brand), as the famous advertising goes, is supposed to be part of a “healthy breakfast”. I mean, with 56 roasted hazelnuts in it… it MUST be healthy! The nutrition facts say otherwise:
2 tbsp. Betty Crocker frosting: 130 calories, 18g sugar, cheap refined soybean or cottonseed oil
2 tbsp. Nutella: 200 calories, 22g sugar, cheap refined palm oil
Turns out chocolate frosting might actually be a smarter choice. It’s no wonder Nutella just paid $3 million after being sued for false advertising to children…
2) Let’s change “Water and Sugar” for “A cup of 100% orange juice”. Don’t be fooled: fruit juice, even the 100% pure “not-from-concentrated” kind basically contains water and sugar.
1 cup orange juice: water, 22g sugar, some vitamin C (for what it’s worth). Instant fat storage guaranteed.1 cup water with a big tbsp. of sugar: water, 15g sugar. Instant fat storage guaranteed.
Orange juice contains 3 times more sugar than the actual fruit. Plus, the fact that it lacks the fiber, enzymes and other nutrients of the whole fruits makes it WAY more fattening.
3) Let’s change “a piece of cake” for “a small blueberry muffin”: your morning muffin has to be better than cake!
1 small blueberry muffin (my favorite kind): white flour, sugar, and refined vegetable oil. 340 calories and 25g sugar.1 piece of generic cake (without frosting): white flour, sugar, and refined vegetable oil. 260 calories and 26g sugar. Pretty similar to me.
Some people eat Nutella, orange juice and muffins every single morning and still think they are doing a healthy choice. Can you see how this habit will screw up their health and any fat loss efforts?
If you could remember one thing from this lesson, here it is:
Don’t believe everything you hear, especially when it comes to food. Don’t trust the ads, don’t trust the restaurants. Heck, don’t even trust me too much (I might turn insane some day).
Don’t freak out just yet: instead, check the facts. Read the ingredients. Compare nutrition labels. And decide if eating chocolate frosting, pure sugar in water and cake in the morning every day makes sense if you want to feel great and look great.
While kettlebells and any kind of lifting for that matter can develop strong abs indirectly, we teach direct abdominal exercise. A strong posterior and anterior chain are fundamentals of “The Ageless Body.” Having one without the other is like pitching one side of a tent. The structure is unstable and will lead to problems.
General Truths About a “Six Pack”
First of all, getting a six pack requires more than just abdominal crunches or planks. The most important element to getting a six-pack is diet. Yes, I know, no one wants to hear it. We all want to believe “spot reducing or target training” alone with give us those washboard abs. It just ain’t going to happen without a proper, low carb and calorie restricted diet. So if a six-pack is at the top of your body-comp list, start with a diet overhaul.
Point number one, is to realize is that some people will just never get a six-pack. Call it genetics, or body type, but honestly, some people will never get one. Other people, with work, can achieve great looking abs.
Point number two, just because someone doesn’t model a picture-perfect washboard doesn’t not mean they don’t have very strong core and abdominal strength.
Training Yourself Out of a Six Pack
Doing crunches incorrectly leads to even MORE protruding of the abdominal wall. So it is vitally important to understand how to train the abs correctly unless you enjoy futility.
In order to train the abs optimally, first let’s look at what the abs are and their different parts.
The Anatomy of the Abs
Let’s take a very brief look at what makes up the abdominal wall. There are 3 basic muscles groups, Rectus Abdominis, Internal/External Obliques and the Transverus Abdominus.
The Rectus Abdominis, are the most superficial of all the Ab muscles. These are the muscles lying just under the skin (or uhumm, fat); they are what we think of when we see a six-pack. You are actually seeing these muscles under the skin, and if they are strong and defined you’ll get the lines of the six-pack. The main purpose of this muscle is to flex us forward, into a crunch for instance.
The next set of muscles, I’ve lumped together, the Internal and External Obliques, these muscles lie underneath the Rectus and they flex side to side and rotate the torso.
The Transverus Abdominus is the deepest of the 3 abdominal muscles. They are the muscles responsible for pulling our belly in, you know when you’re walking along the beach and you see an attractive person you want to impress. Or you are trying to put on your tightest jeans and you have to “suck it all in”. These muscles also stabilize the pelvis and are very important for lower back health.
The Correct Order of Abs Training
Now that we have a basic overview of what makes up our abdominals, let me explain why doing just one type of ab exercise – at the expense of others OR doing them improperly will not lead you to develop “bullet-proof abs of steel” and a six pack!
You do have to do flexion exercises in order to develop and define the outer most Rectus muscles… the “six-packers”. Planks alone will not give you those, but you must do your flexion exercises whether they are crunches or hanging leg raises or tucks correctly.
The KEY to getting the most from your crunch is to engage the T.A (transversus abs) BEFORE you engage the outer abs. Otherwise, what you are doing is TRAINING your Rectus to pouch outward. The result is a protruding, shapeless – but possibly strong abdominal core.
Not only will you not get the abs of your dreams, you risk not engaging the pelvic floor muscles, which fire when you use your TA. You also need to engage the T.A. before and while performing your planks.
How to Activate the Tranverse Abdominus – The Source of Ageless Abs
Many people don’t’ know how to engage them and since they are the deepest you have to really focus on them. I’m going to give you an exercise that will teach you how to feel them engage.
Stand 6-8” away from a wall, with your feet hip distance apart. Round your back and press your lower back firmly into the wall. You will be “slouching or rounding forward. Get a balloon and holding it with one hand, hold it to your mouth and exhale keeping your tongue close to the roof of your mouth. Inhale and don’t let any air out and exhale again. Repeat until the balloon is filled with air and then release the air.
While you are exhaling you will tighten the muscle just above your public bone that runs across from hip to hip. You will keep firmly pressing your lower back into the wall. You should feel a tightening of that muscle with each exhale. As you breath in expand your ribcage and DO NOT let your lower belly push out.
Once you have learned how to engage the TA at the wall you are ready to try in the crunch position. Lie on your back with knees bent. You can start with the balloon breathing as that seems to help keep the lower abs in and tight.
When applying this to your crunches your focus should be on pressing your lower back into the floor and tightening your lower abs AS you crunch up… Do not let your abs push up as you lift up.
I guarantee you will have abs of steel. Don’t forget to add other oblique exercises as well as planks, into your mix.
The Big Four and Programming Them
1) TA Activation: Lie on back, knees bent. Inhale and as you exhale press your lower back firmly into the floor, slightly lifting your tailbone off the floor, but keeping your head down. Inhale release, do reps, then add lifting your heels off the floor or feet once you have your lower back pressing down. Hold a second or two and then lower feet/heels and relax. Try NOT to let your lower abdominals bulge out when you lift your feet. The lower abs that run from hip bone to hip bone (Transverse Abdominus ) must be kept tight and as flat as possible. They must engage first.
2) Hollow Position, leg lowering: Lie on back, begin as with the previous drill then lift your feet up toward the ceiling, hands by sides. Begin by lowering one leg at a time alternating your legs slowly. Keep the lower back pressed firmly into the floor and again tries not to let your TA bulge out. When this is easy, lower both legs at the same time.
3) Hollow Position with KB held overhead: Floor press two (or one) kettlebells, keep the kettlebells in line with your sternum, not over your face or chest. Press your lower back into the floor as in previous exercises, keeping your upper abs and chest and lats tight, lower one or both legs as low as possible while keeping your lower back pressed into the floor.
4) Hard Style Plank: Assume the plank position on forearms and toes, imagine your are pressing your lower back into the floor, to flatten it out, you can also think of doing a slight posterior tilt of the pelvis, at the same time pull your elbows down toward your feet to engage the lats, squeeze your butt cheeks together as if pinching a coin between them, keep your neck neutral by looking at your hands or slightly above them. Squeeze your abs tight, press your hells back and tighten your entire body.
This can be done 3-4 times a week. In between drills stretch your abs or “chop” your belly with your hands. You do not have to do them for more that 30 seconds at a time. You can repeat each drill twice or go from one to the other. Stop when you lose the ability of keeping your lower back pressed into the floor or flat in the plank.