For as long as I can remember, I've wanted a six pack. I used to read any Men's Health magazine I could get my hands on to discover the latest magical food or exercise formula. I would idolise every fitness model on every cover and say "why can't I look like that"?
The more I read, the more frustrated and confused I became. Nothing I did seemed to work and I tried everything. No ab crunch, leg raise, sit up or plank gave me the six pack I desired. Something needed to change if I wanted results. I'll let you in on a little secret - I didn't do one single sit up before any of those pictures above.
Now, I'm nobody special. I have no special genetics or any magic formula (because there aint one). I'm just like your average joe.
In this article, I'll share with you the exact steps I take to get myself, and my clients to low levels of body fat. Here are 5 simple steps to single digit body fat for the average joe.
What was their secret?
Why did every fitness model seem to have an amazing sculpted six pack but nothing I did seemed to work? I was making a huge mistake.
Fast forward three years, I've stepped on the bodybuilding stage on five separate occasions, placing 1st, 3rd (twice), 4th and 5th. I've been involved in six separate photoshoots, all of which required low levels of body fat. You see, the problem wasn't entirely WHAT I was doing, it was HOW I going about achieving it. This is why I'm going to share with you the mistakes I made, how exactly I got to single digit body fat and what you should be doing moving forward if you want to achieve the same. Plus, is it really worth it? Here are 5 simple steps to single digit body fat.
5 Simple Steps To Single Digit Body Fat For The Average Joe
Now, before moving onto the five steps, there are a couple of things you must know. First, you cannot compare yourself to somebody else. I'm all for having an idol (I have many) but if you constantly compare yourself to someone else, you'll be more disappointed than a snowman in the summer. Secondly, low levels of body fat (both male and female) are not sustainable. When I say single digit body fat, I'm talking more so for males. Females, for the equivalent, you're looking at the high teens. For example, 16-19%. Any less than that and it's one cold world. Okay, on to step one..
Step 1: Know The Trade-Offs
As a personal trainer, almost every day I'll have a conversation that goes something like this...
Me: What brings you to the gym today?
Client: I want a six pack and I want it by tomorrow.
Me: Great! I'd be happy to show you how to achieve that but first, let's delve into your why and what's required to achieve it.
10 minutes later...
Client: You mean I have to give up my chocolate, wine AND I have to exercise?!
The biggest mistake I made when I set out to achieve low levels of body fat was I didn't fully understand the trade-offs required to achieve such a goal. On that note, not many people do. The fitness models you see in magazines and #instagram don't look like that all year round. The photos are taken after an extensive period of dieting, all timed for that one day. Same applies to bodybuilders and bikini models. The point is, you're seeing the end result, not what they did to get there. Same with my photos - I don't look like that now. I sit around 12% body fat year round. Why? It's sustainable, I'm compliant with the trade-offs and I feel my best.
Thanks to Precision Nutrition and their awesome infographics, here's their REALLY COOL chart which outlines what the trade-offs are to achieve a certain level of body fat.
I know you're busy, so have a quick scroll down to identify where you currently are, and what level of body fat you're prepared to work towards.
Did you have a read?
Do you know what the trade-offs are to achieve single digit body fat?
Hopefully a few things came to mind on what you can work on. This leads us to step two.
Step 2: Be Prepared To Sacrifice
Now you know the trade-offs required to achieve single digit body fat (men) and high teens (female), are you prepared to make the sacrifice? If not, thats totally cool! Please don't feel like you've failed because you're not prepared to sacrifice. That's completely up to you and that's okay. All you need to do is match your goal with your behaviours. For example, looking back at the chart, if you're prepared to reduce alcohol to weekends, exercise daily and do some sort of food prep then I recommend you aim for the 13-15% range for men and 23-25% for female.
When I was busting my arse to step on stage, I was sitting in the 'unhealthy' range. For my leanest, I was around 6% body fat. I might have looked good, and had a six pack but don't be fooled, I felt awful. I sacrificed social situations, missed out on parties, life events and favourite foods. I took pre-cooked meals on holiday, asked the waiter for special requirements at every restaurant and tracked every last bit of food that entered my mouth.
By now, you can see that getting to low levels of body fat is NOT easy and requires a LOT of sacrifices.
Is A 6-Pack Worth it?
Maybe. It depends on the goal. For a photoshoot or stepping on stage, that's by choice and a big goal. For a lifestyle? I'll let you decide. It's extremely taxing to maintain and it can impact body image. I struggled (and still do) with body image since my time on stage. You battle with comparing yourself now, to how you were on stage. I even have people say to me "wow look at you in those photos, why aren't you still like that"? It's taken a long time to overcome insecurities. I joke and say "I can't wear fake tan all the time".
So, let's have a quick recap. Once you know the trade-off required, be prepared to make those sacrifices! If you're not ready, that's totally cool, simply match your goals with what you're prepared to sacrifice. Now it's time to hit up step three...
Step 3: Have A Plan
Achieving single digit body fat requires immense preparation. I'm not just talking about spending your Sunday cooking meals, I'm talking about having a plan for EVERYTHING. What does your weight training program look like? What days are you training and how often? What about when the weekends come around? Are you a social bunny and need to read restaurant menus before heading out? Maybe you travel for work and need to ensure you stay in shape whilst on the road? As you can see, having a plan is everything when it comes to achieving low levels of body fat.
Ladies, I can't stress enough how important it is for you to weight train. All my female success stories weight trained and by lifting weights, I don't mean your pump class, I mean heavy weights. This involves (but not limited to) squats, bench press, deadlifts, lunges, pull ups and rows. You'll boost your metabolism, strip the fat and build that strength like you wouldn't believe (also known as 'toning').
Lads, you won't build muscle whilst in a calorie deficit (unless assisted with gear or a newbie) but with weight training, you'll prevent any muscle from being lost. Please, for the love of all that is holy, leave your ego at the door and make sure you lift with full range of motion with a slowed tempo. Time your lifts if you have to.
Once you have a plan, it's time to move onto step four.
Step 4: Measure Your Progress
At the start when I spoke about trying every exercise to get a six pack and not succeeding, it was because of these two reasons.
1) I wasn't consistent enough over a period of time
2) I didn't measure my progress
If you're not measuring your progress, how do you know if it's working or heading in the right direction? Yeah there will be times when it's painful and progress is slow, but put it this way, when you're driving to a destination and there's an accident or roadworks, do you turn around and simply go home? No, you say "fuck sake", deal with it, find an alternative route and keep going till you get to your destination. Fat loss is no different in the sense of measuring progress and taking action based of your findings.
There are several ways to measure your fat loss progress. Here is what I use with my clients:
Once you're measuring progress, it's time for step five.
Step 5: Adjust Accordingly
Here's an example situation:
However, with that said, here are some important factors to consider when making adjustments:
These five steps to single digit body fat are simple, but not easy. If it was easy, every body would do it. We would all have amazing six packs and obesity would be a think of the past. Truth is, it's HARD. I've shared with you the mistakes I made and the struggles I encountered when achieving low levels of body fat but that's barely scratching the surface. Please have a read of my full story here which involves binge eating, bodybuilding and football.
The five steps I outlined in this article are EXACTLY the same steps I use on myself and my clients. Now, I highly recommend seeking the help from a coach to help take the confusion out of training, nutrition, measuring and adjusting. I currently have my own coach I report to on a weekly basis, ask a shit-tonne of questions and together, we make adjustments to my plan. The thing is, coaches know how to adjust (good ones) and do so with your best intentions in mind. You can see how strenuous it can be on the body to achieve low levels of body fat so before starting a journey, make sure you do it with a fitness professional. If you follow the five steps, you'll achieve your desired level of body fat in record time and hey, you'll never know what opportunities it could lead to!
If you enjoyed this article, please share it with other awesome people like you. Fortunately, I have the opportunity to help people all over the world achieve their fat loss goals and share my struggles.
Let's Work Together...
I'm looking for males and females who want to obtain a low level of body fat and expose that hard earned six pack for summer! If this is you, I want to see your email in my inbox. Fill out the short form below and I'll be in touch. If you're not ready, maybe these success stories will help. Only limited spots available so be quick!
One More Thing....
If you avoided the form because you think I'm trying to sell you something, thats cool, I understand. After all, this is the internet right? You don't trust me yet. Come and join our private Facebook group Healthy Living With D'Arcy Online Coaching and discuss this article with us. There's a whole bunch of free information there too from all things fat loss, eating and recipes to support, banter and healthy living. Plus, I know you've got questions and this is the place to ask.
Join this amazing group here --> Healthy Living With D'Arcy Online Coaching
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If you have ANY questions about getting to single digit body fat, please comment or send me an email. I'll personally respond to EVERY question!
Aidan D'Arcy - Personal Training Frenchs Forest