released as Update, June
by Phil Kaplan
A few nights before
I wrote this I conducted my 3-hour Breakthroughs seminar.
As I walked into the Grand Ballroom at the Marriott, a very
excited woman ran up to me and apologized for the brief interruption.
"Phil, I'm sorry, I know you have to get on stage, but
I just need to know, how can I get a waist like her?"
She pointed to a woman wearing a half shirt (belly shirt?)
who was proudly displaying a lean midsection. She asked the
question as if she were the only one who harbored this unanswered
enigma. I calmly said, "don't worry, 3 hours from now
you'll understand." I walked up on the stage realizing
I had just met someone I'd met 17,000 times before. Let me
the course of my career, I feel as if I meet the same 12 people
over and over again. They have different faces, and different
names, but the questions are pretty much the same. There is
the over-aerobicizer, the muscle wanter, the sugar-holic,
the diet addict, the supplement junkie, and of course the
"waistline hater." Although everyone who asks believes
his or her question is unique, the "trim the waistline"
question shows up in various forms, but the questions can
all be clumped together so a single answer would suffice.
- How do I reduce my waist?
- How do I flatten my gut?
- How do I get the "six
- How do I get great abs?
- How do I trim down?
- How do I get ripped?
- How do I get rid of the
- How do I get a waistline
like those models?
- How do I get rid of love
- How, how, how, how????
have a few options. You can cut calories and perform crunches,
you can try one of the hot new incredible infomercial devices,
you can buy a fat burner, or you can go to the gym and use
the ab machines. Oh, and then there's the other option. Eat
right, understand the respective functions of the various
abdominal muscles, work the body as a whole, and allow for
onoing fat release. Of all of those options, there is only
one that "works," 100% of the time. Unfortunately
it appears to be the most complicated, but when the smoke
clears you'll find it's the "secret" you've been
Let's first understand
why the first supposed options I mentioned will leave you
calories and do crunches
written no less than 100 articles about the pitfalls of calorie
deprivation as a fat loss solution. The bottom line is, it
slows metabolism, causes the body to sacrifice muscle, and
leads to the summoning up of some protective biological processes
that cause your body to cling to fat. If you want "great
abs," that means you want bodyfat levels low enough so
you can see the rectus abdominus through the skin, and while
caloric deprivation eats at muscle, crunches do absolutely
nothing to reduce the subcutaneous fat in the midsection.
of the hot new incredible infomercial devices
devices are cyclical. In other words, one new model or design
emerges as an incredible discovery and millions upon millions
of dollars are generated by the sale of the product to anxious
buyers. Research, the FTC, and user experience all kick in
to prove that the device is ineffective and it is pulled from
the marketplace, but hardly a day passes before the new miracle
ab trimmer emerges and the process repeats all over again.
The bottom line is, even those few devices that actually do
stimulate muscle contraction that might lead to muscular development
are not waist trimmers. Working the muscle does not reveal
the muscle through layers of fat. It is a flawed approach
destined to fail people. The science of infomercials is not
about getting results, it's about getting people to pick up
the phone and recite their credit card numbers aloud.
can buy a fat burner
This one's simple.
There isn't any true fat burner. High level scientists are
playing around with genetic manipulation, with microscopic
computer robots that can remove fatty deposits, and with redesigning
the entire hormonal environment, but none of that research
is actually making its way into bottles. The bottles usually
contain stimulants, many with addictive properties, and the
ads are usually deceptive and misleading. If you want to better
understand the fat burners, you might find my article on ephedrine
valuable, or, if for now you just want to believe me, you'll
accept that nothing in a bottle will miraculously deliver
You can go to the
gym and use the ab machines
Doing the "Ab
machines," is a great way to kill time, in some cases
a great way to kill your lower back, and a very ineffective
way of reducing fat around the waistline. Do these machines
have their place? Sure. Some of them, if used properly, can
strengthen the rectus abdominus and the obliques, but that
is a very different goal than that sought by most who say
they want "great abs."
important, before fully delving into the solution, to understand
precisely what we do mean when we say "great abs."
We mean bodyfat levels
are low enough so the tendinous inscriptions that run across
the rectus abdominus are visible. Translation, you can see
the "six pack" (which is really an eight-pack).
We mean the rectus
abdominus is reasonably developed so once fat levels are low
enough, the muscle definition and mass are both aesthetically
pleasing and the muscle is functional.
We mean the obliques,
the muscles that lie under the dreaded "love handles"
are also visible and reasonably developed.
We mean the deep lying
abdominal muscles involved in maintaining the integrity of
the abdominal wall are strengthened to prevent the tummy from
Now that we understand
what we're seeking, let's zero in on the solution.
sounds so simplistic, but it's a vital element in they synergy
required to reduce that subcutaneous fat clouding or preventing
idea is not only to eat healthy foods, and to avoid that which
we know as junk food, but to eat in a manner that supports
the desired goal. If "great abs" are the goal, the
real trick lies in stabilizing blood sugar, taking in adequate
combinations of nutrients, and maintaining a hormonal environment
(a balance of pancreatic hormones) optimal for ongoing fat
loss. This ideally would be a nutritional program built around
nutrient complete meals. The meals would be free from simple
sugars and refined carbs, low in saturated fat, and balanced
with protein, complex carbs, fiber, and essential fatty acids.
Most bodybuilders, who have mastered leanness, consume a meal
every 3 - 3 1/2 hours and in each meal include a lean protein,
a starchy carbohydrate, and a fibrous carbohydrate, a concept
I refer to as "Supportive Eating."
the respective functions of the abdominal muscles
- the rectus abdominus, as I touched on earlier, is the "six
pack" muscle. It is located in the anterior (front) abdominal
wall, an is divided by tendinous inscriptions and contained
by the rectus sheath. Its primary function in body movement
is to flex the trunk or to draw the rib cage toward the pelvic
on your back, the rectus abdominus works to draw the torso
upward to a point of 30 degrees. Beyond that the hip flexors
take over which is why many of the oft-used sit-up type movements
where the feet are fixed in place are limited in their actual
stimulation of the rectus abdominus muscle.
The rectus abdominus
also contracts to increase intra-abdominal pressure such as
in the act of coughing or childbirth. What you should understand
is, that "six pack" is in there, even if you can't
see it. It's also important to note that this muscle is used
during virtually any movement requiring stabilization of the
trunk, such as squats or overhead presses. Abdominal crunches
do "work" the rectus abdominus, but they really
play a little role in going from "I don't like my belly"
to "I love my abs." Unfortunately, far too many
believe that crunches are, in and of themselves, the solution,
and a crunching routine without the other elements in place
is a guaranteed exercise in futility.
- attached to the ribs, the spine, and the pelvic bone and
maintains abdominal integrity. This is the muscle, which acting
sort of like an internal corset, leads to the flat tummy so
the external obliques are those muscles you can see when the
love handle fat goes away. They connect to the line that runs
down the middle of the rectus abominus (the linea alba) by
connective tissue and the iliac crest, the crest of the pelvis
bone. They compress the abomen, flex, or twist the trunk.
A common mistake in trying to reduce love handles is the incorporation
of weighted side bends and twisting abdominal movements. These
will develop the external obliques, but will not assist in
fat loss leading to a more prominent fatty deposit on each
side of the waist. Because the obliques are called to act
in stabilization, balance, and twisting, "great abs"
usually do not require direct focus on training these muscles.
The internal obliques, like the transversus, are deep lying
muscles which assist in providing intra-abominal integrity
In the quest for the
flat tummy and great abs, exercises that target the deep lying
muscles, primarily the transversus, are more instrumental
than endless sets of crunches and twists. If you move your
crunches from the floor to the stability ball you get a greater
extension on the movement while providing support for the
lumbar region. This brings in the deep lying muscles that
you want to target. Another valuable movement is the "captain's
chair," otherwise known as the hanging leg raise, which,
when the pelvic bone is tilted so the hips are rolled forward
at the top of the movement, asks the transversus to act. Back
in the 70's, bodybuilders used to perform both a pose and
an exercise called The Abdominal Vacuum where, in a standing
position with the arms extended overhead (elbows bent, hands
behind the head), the abs were sucked in as if they were trying
to touch their bellybuttons to their spinal columns. This
is yet another way to help develop intra-abdominal strength
the body as a whole
Because the abs are
involved in stabilization during free standing movements,
it's important to perform compond movements that ask the body
to move as the body was designed to function. Squats, lunges,
presses, and standing curls all have their place, not only
in increasing muscle mass and respectively metabolism, but
also in strengthening the abdominal musculature.
for ongoing fat release
This is the element
that most leads to making those "abs" become visible.
Eat right, work the body as a whole,
optimize circulation with moderate aerobic exercise, and fat
release should be consistent and ongoing, and a little at
a time, those abs will shine through.
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3/22/03 - I Know What I Should Eat, But . . .
3/6/03 - Deceptive Food Labels
2/4/03 - The Relationship Between Sex and Fitness
1/25/03 - Phil's Biggest Mistake - The EAT! Formula Screw
1/12/03 - The Talk Show Illusion (Infomercials exposed)
12/14/02 - Penis Enlargers and Breast Enhancing Pills
11/20/02 - How Do I Lose This?
8/27/02 - The Promise and the Real Story Behind the Infomercials
Update 8/01/02 - Clearing
up Four Prevalent Myths
6/20/02 - Giving Credit Where Credit is Due
Update 5/11/02 - Miracle
GH, What "Works"
Update 3/25/02 - Women on
Steroids and More on Core Training
2/15/02 - the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Fitness
1/14/02 - Counting Calories
12/28 - 'Twas the Night Before New Years
12/8 - The New Electronic Ab Offerings
12/12 - The "Magic" is Within You
Update 11/20 - Holiday
11/3 - Weight Loss Bread and other Nonsense!
Update 10/29 - Supplement
10/3 - Getting Back to Doing What We Do
Update 9/19 - Tragedy and
Love, RE: Sept 11
Update 8/15 - Myths, Fallacies,
Update 8/1 - The Internet,
Leptin, Steroids, and more
7/9 - The New Supplements
Update 6/14 - Seminar
offerings and clarity on "Brownies"
Update 5/29 - Lose
Weight, Eat Brownies?!?!?
Update 5/1/01 - Pizza, Beer, and Fitness
Update 4/7/01 - "Phil-osophies"
and Rip-Off Realities!
Update 4/1/01 - Gourmet Recipes!
Update 3/15/01 - Research Has
Update 3/1/01 - Preparing for
The New Infomercial
Update 2/1/01 - Time, Space,
Matter, and Energy
Update 1/15/01 - Atkins hits
Update 10/7/00 - Supplements,
Update 7/27/00 - The Experts
Round Table, Almada, Colgan, Parillo
Update 7/3/00 - Core Training
& Metabolism Boosters
see: The 10 Worst Abdominal
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