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15 Things You Should Know Before Trying To Get Shredded Abs

Here's everything the infomercials won't tell you.

Everyone has their own unique goals for their health, wellness, and body. Some of those goals might have to do with body composition (whether for health or aesthetics). Not everyone cares about having a six-pack and that's just fine. But if you do or are curious about how it's done we wanted to provide the real deal, expert- and science-backed info on how to do it, free of promises about big body changes in a short period of time.

For this story BuzzFeed Life consulted three experts: Nick Tumminello, owner of Performance University International in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and author of Strength Training for Fat Loss; strength and conditioning expert Tony Gentilcore, CSCS, co-founder of Cressey Sports Performance; and Brian St. Pierre, MS, RD, CSCS, director of performance nutrition at Precision Nutrition.

1. First things first: A six-pack is just a muscle that runs the length of your abdomen.

2. The way your abs look basically has to do with one thing: how much body fat you have.

3. For most people the first step will be figuring out how much body fat you'll need to lose.

4. Shedding fat will mean eating fewer calories than required to maintain your current weight.

5. But you don't just want to lose any weight, you want to lose fat.

6. You'll also have to get serious and specific about full-body strength training.

7. And you'll also have to do some training specifically for your abs.

8. But you can't just do a million sit-ups, crunches, and planks to get bigger abs.

If you've ever seen someone banging out hundreds of reps of sit-ups and crunches you know exactly what not to do if you want a six-pack. Tumminello points out that training the abs should be like training any other muscle you want to get bigger. This means challenging your muscles with different kinds of workouts — some where you do more reps with lower weights, others where you do fewer reps using heavier weights — causing your muscles to overload, and then resting and recovering from your workouts adequately, all of which when taken together cause muscles to grow. Tumminello says that doing tons of reps of the same movement over and over can also cause injury and will not aid your goal of getting your abs to get bigger.

9. Start doing rollouts and pikes with a Swiss ball.

Tumminello says that abs exercises that also activate the shoulders or hips have been shown to be the most effective at activating the ab muscles.

His favorite two exercises for abs (also shown in a small study to beat out crunches and sit-ups in terms of how much they activate the abs) are the Swiss ball rollout and Swiss ball pike. Both are shown above and you can learn to do them both here.

10. Get ready to spend a lot of time thinking about and preparing food.

11. And be prepared to stick to your diet basically always and give up certain foods.

12. And also know that you'll have to prioritize rest and recovery, including sleep.

Your muscles don't grow when you're lifting weights. They grow when you're resting and recovering between workouts and the damage you did to them during lifting is being repaired. That's why taking rest days to truly chill and give your body a time out are crucial when it comes to getting results from your workout. This also means prioritizing sleep and relaxation and choosing, for example, a couple extra hours of sleep over staying up late.

13. All of this together means that your social life will probably take a hit.

14. Try to be realistic about your expectations and remember that every body is different.

15. Don't forget to factor in enjoying friends, food, and life when you're deciding if you want to pursue a six-pack.

Bottom line: You have to want a six-pack more than you want happy hour cocktails, more than you want boozy brunch, more than you want to eat Nutella out of the jar, and more than you want to skip a workout.