What video, picture, program or article will attract more eyes in fitness?
The one promising a chiseled physique with a sharp set of 6-pack abs. Try adding the promise of developing a clear set of abdominal muscles in your social media video or pic, and you will see more views, likes & comments than most other posts of yours.
Why? Because over the years, the trend of fitness has shifted to a false, and often dangerous attraction towards developing a set of sharp six-pack abs. This obsession caught on the western world quite early, and the 80s actions heroes in the likes of Arnold, Stallone, Van Dam, were ones mainly responsible for this change in mindset of the population.
Though the craze in India was quite late to catch on. As far as I remember, it was the Hindi movie industry, which initiated this trend, and it was after the famous song “O O Jaane Jana”, where actor Salman, showcased his shirtless physique, with a visible set of abdominal muscles.
However, the craze really caught on after the advent of social media, when tons of fitness freaks, started displaying their ripped physique online, virtually every second of the day, and this craze has no end in sight.
This mindless obsession with developing a clear set of sharp six packs has nothing to do with fitness or health. It’s simply a fashion trend, which has been fueled by the display of false and unrealistic body image, propagated over the years by the media.
Six packs don’t automatically make you fit, but they also in any way mean that you are unfit. The reality lies somewhere in the middle. Your health, mortality, wellness or longevity aren’t indicated by the number of packs visible in the mirror. In most cases, that’s just to fuel your ego and make you feel to be a part of the current trend.
Women in general store higher amount of body fat than men. 20-25% is considered a healthy range of body fat for women, and a healthy range of body fat for men is app. 10-15%. A body fat percentage over 20% for men or 30% for women is considered an indication of obesity, which leads to multiple risk factors like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia etc.
In most cases, when your fat percentage falls below app. 15%, your abdominal muscles start getting visible. And that’s something people should try and achieve, though a slightly higher amount won’t make much of a difference either.
The problem is, the obsession with having an extremely low-fat percentage, well below 10%, and using all sort of extreme methods to achieve them. Worse, trying to maintain that fat percentage for a long time, because your Instagram handle demands so.
There are only 4 ways you can achieve a below 10% body fat:
- Extreme diets which involve drastic calorie control, or literally going off an entire macronutrient like carbohydrate; salt/sodium manipulations, water control (specially days before the photo shoot), and on top of that, use of extreme anabolic steroids, diuretics, fat burners and virtually everything they can.
2. You are genetically extremely gifted, and a lean muscular look with a low fat percentage comes quite naturally to you. In fact, your problem is gaining lean muscle mass.
3. You are a professional athlete, who’s daily routine involves multiple high intensity workout sessions, carefully monitored diet and multiple processes for optimal recovery. For e.g. track & field, mma & marital arts fighters, soccer, basketball, swimming, hockey etc.
4. You are a person who’s daily work involves extreme amount of physical labour, like a farmer, or a daily wage labourer performing heavy work like working on a construction site, or digging roads etc.
But out of the top four conditions, none (specially the 1st one), has anything to do with health and wellness. For some, it’s a consequence of extreme physical work, like athletes, farmers and labourers, yet for others, it’s more genetic.
Therefore, having a set of natural strong abdominal muscles, a fat percentage just below 15%, and a great overall health, in terms of no nutritional deficiencies, a well-functioning cardiovascular system, immune system, digestive system, endocrine system, central nervous system etc. is what should be the aim.
That’s why a sportsman may be extremely fit in terms of his muscular strength, endurance and other fitness components, and have a clear set of six pack abs. But he won’t be called healthy, if he is having constant digestive issues, or suffering from anxiety issues, or falling sick often.
On the other hand, having a chicken legs, but a sharp sex of six packs has no word except ‘stupidity’ to define them.
That’s why, having a sharp set of six packs, and suffering from anxiety and depression, eating disorders, digestive issues, multiple nutritional deficiencies, losing hair, weakening of bones, low self-esteem, has nothing to do with fitness.
But does that mean, anyone with higher fat percentage, where the abdominal muscles aren’t that clearly visible, is unhealthy? Absolutely not.
Here is the picture of legendary Gama Pehlwan and Bruce Lee, masters of their own sport, but none of them ever focussed on developing sharp six packs. They focussed on extreme physical and mental training to reach the top of their sport, fulfilling the demands laid out in front of them. Bruce Lee’s six packs were as a result of extremely low fat percentage due to extreme amount of training he underwent, not because he left salt and water before his photoshoot.
The great Dara Singh Ji, wasn’t interested in having a sharp set of six packs, for his Insta handle.
Sunny Deol was one of the strongest actors we have had. But his focus was never on showcasing a set of six packs.
These were the phenomenal physiques which Indians possessed way before independence. One look and today’s youth will declare them as enhanced physiques (when a person is on anabolic steroids). By the way, back then there were no filters or photoshops.
But in this tech-crazy world, the real hard work and natural strength is overshadowed by pics of steroid filled (not competitive bodybuilders) and photoshopped physiques of youngsters, who turn fitness guru virtually overnight.
And this craze has no end in sight. There is an entire industry which revolves around obtaining and maintaining – sharp six packs. People are obsessed to a level, where they are afraid to even put a piece of chocolate in their mouth, and consider it as cheating with the entire process.
“How to get six packs?” is still one of the most searched question on Google. And so is “how to get 90% without studying?”.
Your six packs, won’t pay your bills
Your six packs, won’t repay your loans
Your six packs, won’t take care of your family
Your six packs, won’t pay your taxes
Your six packs, won’t buy you a house
Believe me, there is no fun in having chiselled abdominals and an empty pocket. Focus on your overall development in terms of fitness, overall health, better finances, smarter personality and other traits. Six packs are always complementary