Today we are going to get real about your tummy.
One of the most searched fitness questions asked by woman the world over is ‘How long will it take to get abs’. Rippling abs are not for everyone, and in our experience having helped literally hundreds of thousands of women take their first steps towards their fitness goals over the last ten years, what most people actually want is visible muscle tone and definition - not fully separated abs that you can grate cheese on. If fully popping, ripped abs is your goal - everything in this article still applies (and even more so). We are going to keep this real for you, and achieving muscle tone on your core is a big audacious goal for most of us just starting out.
Most famous actresses, even the elite level ones that play our favourite comic book heroes on the big screen, aren’t sporting six-packs. These women have studio funded ‘Hollywood’ trainers, the best chefs, and all of the support that money and privilege can buy. These women are paid millions of dollars to maintain themselves for action roles, and they still don’t typically have six-pack abs. More realistically (even for them) is the aim to have tone and definition. Keep this in mind when you are setting your intentions around your body composition goals. Wonder Woman may have abs in the comics, but she doesn’t have them on the big screen - and yet she still manages to kick ass and save the world (and look good doing it). Get clear about what it is that you actually want, so that you can take better aim on how to get there.
First Things First - What is The Core?
Most people tend to think of the core as just the abs region. The core is actually a lot more than that. To be clear about what we are talking about, the core is the full mid-section of the body, armpits to hips, all the way around. This means that your core comprises of all of these various muscle groups in the front, side and back of the body, and all of these muscles knit together and work together to stabilize the spine and pelvis. A strong core powers all of the functional movements you make each day, which makes having a strong core important for everything from sitting at your desk pain free, to lifting a bag of groceries.
It’s really easy to focus down of the cosmetic and aesthetic allure of a defined stomach, but the benefits actually extend much further. Keep this in mind.
So How Long will It Take to Get Visible Tone?
The only answer that matters is that our bodies are unique. We all have core muscles, but genetically, some of us are more muscular than others. We are each coming out of the blocks at a different starting points, with different levels of body fat and at different fitness levels. In our experience, if all the elements that we will cover in this article are in place, the average woman will start to see muscle tone beginning to form after approximately 6-8 weeks of consistent training and dedication to their goals. You can read more about the time it takes to reach your goals here. It’s incredibly rare to find an article online that will actually commit to putting a number down - but in the spirit of keeping this real for you guys, you are likely not going to start seeing anything for at least 6-8 weeks. There are a handful of factors that will impact this timeline.
If you want visible tone on your core, you can’t pretend that a random approach to what you eat and drink on a daily basis is going to get you there. You need a meal plan that you can follow, and that plan should be focused on eating whole foods - not a bunch of processed crap, not endless smoothies, not protein shakes and carrot sticks. Crash diets usually end up stripping you of lean muscle, which will just make reaching your goals that much harder. Eat real food, and follow a realistic plan put together with someone that understands that fat loss is your driving goal. Our meal plan is an easy to follow, highly realistic approach to food that has helped thousands of people get their food right.
Do The Right Workout For Your Core Goals
Not all workouts and exercises are equal. If the goal is a toned stomach with visible definition, then the workouts you put your time and effort into should combine strength training (resistance training) with HIIT (high intensity interval training). We can't emphasize this enough. You can lose months or even years doing steady-state cardio and not get beyond the dreaded skinny fat stage. Think of all the people that tell you that they workout without any hint of muscle tone anywhere, or all of the people that train but look the same years later. The benefits for women from Strength Training and HIIT are totally aligned with your goal of having a toned core. This type of training combines lifting weights with cardio elements, and is the best prescription for building fat incinerating lean muscle, and will set up your body to optimally burn fat even while you sleep. Train purposefully.
The amount of non-exercise movement you get in a day.
Your workout might be 1 hour in 24 if you train everyday. Out of that hour, you might be effectively putting your muscles under load for 30 minutes. This is not enough movement to get you where you want to go. Up your daily steps and move more to reach your goals. Move more.
7 Tips That Actually Work to Tone Your Core
In the spirit of keeping it real, follow these 7 tips to achieve your core gaols.
1. Stop Comparing Yourself To Your Instagram Feed
If you don’t know this by now, social media is terrible for most people, but woman and young girls are particularly negatively impacted when it comes to their body confidence. The gram is full of a lot of totally deceptive content, from ‘influencers’ that photoshop and filter their bodies, to ‘trainers’ with implanted and injected everything passing it off as effortlessly natural. I like a good swipe up as much as the next person, but most of what professes to be ‘health’ content on social is toxic garbage. Get real about about what your goals are and focus down on making them happen.
2. Get Real About Your Diet to Get Real About Muscle Tone
Achieving a defined core with visible tone is going to be primarily about losing body fat. You need to eliminate enough of the fat covering your core muscles to make tone a possibility. To make this happen, you will need to live your day to day life in a calorie deficit. Let's break that down even further - you will need to consume less calories than you burn, and you will need to do this consistently over time, and then you will have to rebalance your intake to maintain this outcome. Diet always comes down to making a significant lifestyle change, and keeping this change in effect, even when life, special occasions, holidays and other disruptive events threaten your progress. To be straight up, this is not easy. It’s not easy for the highest paid actresses in the world, and it’s not easy for the rest of us either - even if you have the best intentions to change. Let me take this a step further. It’s extremely f*cking hard, and thats why so few of us are rocking visible muscle tone, much less six-pack abs. You will be hungry. You will be irritable. It’s likely that you will be flat out miserable for good stretches of time. Most people aim for a calorie deficit of between 300-500 calories per day, more than enough to bump you out of your established comfort zone. By its very nature, living in caloric deficit is highly restrictive. I’m not trying to discourage anyone, but by keeping it real, maybe you can see your way to be a little bit more forgiving of yourself for trying and failing in the past.
With all of that on the table, it is absolutely possible to live and function in a calorie deficit, but you will definitely need a solid plan to follow that takes the guess work out of the process to have a chance. That said, it’s not safe for everyone to be on a restrictive diet. If you are pregnant or breast feeding, you are a child or teenager, or you are recovering from disordered eating, this isn’t for you.
3. Intermittent Fasting For Her?
Intermittent fasting eliminates the need to count your macro-nutrients after every meal and operates under what some would consider a more manageable set of rules. With fasting, the focus largely shifts from what you are eating, to when you are eating. Intermittent fasting has become a popular movement recently, and has been shown to be a highly effective method of losing body fat in both men and woman. However, the rules for fasting for men and women are not the same, and women should follow a plan that is specifically designed for the female body. We have an intermittent fasting program specifically for women, and an accompanying workout series that you can check out here.
4. Move More.
Once you have your diet plan and calorie deficit approach locked in, you will also have to start moving more each day. Review your day. Where are all the hidden, low hanging opportunities to increase your steps? Can you walk more? Even if its by parking further away? Can you take the stairs? Walk your dog instead of just letting them go outback? Find ways to increase your activity - they are all around you.
The hard truth is that your exercise burn is not going to cut it on its own. If you struggle with actual fitness based exercise, this is where you have an opportunity to turn on the gas. Any movement can be optimized and turned into strength training, simply by adding some resistance weight to the activity. By adding handsfree resistance to house cleaning, cutting the lawn, playing with your kids, biking, hiking, even just walking - you are upping the burn and helping to build muscle tone. The best handsfree resistance on the market is our BodyRock Weighted Vest, which has been specifically designed to fit comfortably on a woman's body while she moves. You can get check out our five star reviewed vest here.
5. You Need More Sleep.
Finally some good news. Sleep keeps our stress hormones in check. A lack of sleep (only getting 5 hours a night) makes people more stressed out and anxious. Over 50% of women in a recent study said that a lack of sleep was the primary reason that they didn’t move more or exercise. You need your ZZZ’s if you want a sculpted core. Get out of the late night NetFlix habit. Go. To. Sleep.
6. Get Your Stress Under Control.
The stress hormone Cortisol is released when we are under stress. Too much of this chemical can slow down your metabolism to a crawl, and dramatically impact how your body breaks down fat. Stress can been shown to contribute to the fat deposits that sit directly over your abdominal area, so getting your stress down to a manageable level is critical in achieving your goal of visible tone. The good news is that the more sleep that you get, the better results you can expect, and exercise has been proven to counteract the negative effects of stress.
7. Mix Strength Training and Cardio for the Best Results
Strength Training mixed with HIIT is the most effective fat burning, muscle tone sculpting workout that you can do. Period.
As a beginner, learning to do this style of combined training can be challenging, so we created a free 5 Day Virtual Introduction To Strength Training Bootcamp that you can sign up for here. In this free 5 day video workout series, we teach you the basics at a beginner level. It’s a great way to get your toes wet before progressing to longer workout series on our fitness streaming platform BodyRockPlus.com. These programs will get you started, and have been designed for you to do at home or anywhere that you enjoy training. Every pound of lean muscle that you can add across your body will burn up to 5X more calories at rest than a pound of fat. Muscle is metabolically much more active than fat, which is why we encourage women in our workouts to train from a full body perspective - the more lean, athletic muscle that you build, the more visible tone you will have everywhere - your tummy included.