You’ve likely seen them on magazine covers, movie posters, or fitness videos: the perfectly sculpted six-pack abs that appear to epitomize physical attractiveness and health. But have you ever wondered why some people have six packs, while others have four packs, eight packs, or even no packs at all? What determines the number and shape of your abs, and how can you enhance them?
The answer lies in the anatomy and genetics of your abdominal muscles and the connective tissue bands that divide them. Your abs are made up of four main muscles: the rectus abdominis, which runs from your sternum to your pubic bone; the external obliques, which are on the sides of your torso; the internal obliques, which are underneath the external ones; and the transverse abdominis, which is the deepest layer that wraps around your spine.
The rectus abdominis is the muscle that forms the visible packs on your stomach. It is divided into segments by tendinous intersections, which are horizontal bands of connective tissue that attach the muscle to the underlying sheath. The number and location of these intersections vary from person to person, depending on their genetic makeup. Some people have more intersections than others, resulting in more packs. Some people have wider or narrower intersections, resulting in bigger or smaller packs. Some people have asymmetrical intersections, resulting in uneven packs.
The shape and size of your packs are also influenced by the amount and distribution of fat and skin over your muscles. The more fat you have, the less defined your packs will be. The more skin you have, the more saggy your packs will be. The way your fat and skin are distributed depends on factors such as age, gender, hormones, diet, and lifestyle.
So how can you get more packs or make them more visible? The first step is to reduce your body fat percentage by following a healthy diet and doing regular cardio exercises. The second step is to strengthen and tone your abdominal muscles by doing specific exercises that target them. Some examples are crunches, planks, leg raises, bicycles, and reverse crunches. You can also use equipment such as stability balls, resistance bands, or ab rollers to increase the intensity and variety of your workouts.
However, you should also be aware that having more packs does not necessarily mean having better health or performance. According to trainer and fitness expert Ben Bruno, who has an eight-pack himself, “Having an eight-pack doesn’t make you any stronger or faster than having a six-pack. It’s purely aesthetic.” He also warns that getting an eight-pack requires a lot of dedication and sacrifice, such as following a strict diet and avoiding alcohol and junk food. “It’s not easy or fun,” he says. “It’s a lifestyle choice.”
Another trainer and fitness expert, Jillian Michaels, who has a six-pack herself, agrees that having abs is not a measure of health or fitness. She says that having abs is “a combination of genetics, hormones, body fat percentage, age, gender, and training.” She also advises that having abs should not be your only goal when working out. “You want to be strong, you want to be flexible, you want to have endurance,” she says. “You want to have a well-rounded fitness regimen that makes you feel good and look good.”
So whether you have four packs, six packs, eight packs, or no packs at all, remember that your abs are only one part of your body and your health. Don’t obsess over them or compare yourself to others. Focus on what makes you happy and healthy.