What Guitar God Steve Vai Can Teach Us About The Work Required To Have Shredded Abs
A while back one of my favourite clients asked me a question I get a lot. “Pete, what would it take to kick this up a level and start finally seeing my abs pop?”
Here's a little context: this mystery client is about fifty years old and has been training consistently for over a year. She went from having never worked out to dropping around 25lbs of fat and deadlifting over 150lbs. She feels like champ and sometimes beats people half her age in workouts. And she looks damn good.
No big deal.
She's already pretty lean now and trains three times a week most weeks. She figured that if she just added another one or two workouts per week, those abs would start looking shredded right quick.
The problem is, poppin' abs don't really work this way.
THE MYTH THE FITNESS INDUSTRY LOVES TO SELL
Fitness magazines sell the promise of sculpted butts and abs so chiseled you could shred a cabbage on them - in only 15 minutes a day! But I'm here to tell you what you already know... The reality of getting super lean and toned is far less glamorous.
Just like with anything else, it takes extreme effort to get extreme results. Let’s look at an analogy.
WHAT GUITAR LEGEND STEVE VAI CAN TEACH US ABOUT WHAT IT TAKES TO BE ELITE
It’s not that hard to learn some chords on the guitar and maybe even nail a few killer riffs. Look up some Youtube instructionals and put a little time in. Before long you'll be able to rock out to Smoke on the Water and some AC/DC classics.
While getting decent results isn’t actually very difficult, getting incredible results is. Have you heard of a guitar player - make that guitar god - named Steve Vai? I'm not a big fan of Heavy Metal, but this guy is unreal.
Punch his name into YouTube and listen to him shred! No ones gets to that level without plenty of natural talent and an insane level of dedication to their craft over the course of a lifetime. I can guarantee you that while other kids were out playing with water balloons and trying to score the lingerie section of the Sears Catalog, he was practicing in his room, by himself.
The point is, nutrition, fitness and body composition work the same way. For most people getting decent results actually isn’t that tough. You don’t need to workout at 5AM and pound wheat grass shakes every day for the rest of your life. You just need to get a bit better at consistently doing the basics.
Plan ahead, exercise a few times a week, eat less processed food, eat plenty of vegetables and lean proteins at most meals, and maybe think about chewing more slowly. That doesn't sound so hard, does it? It’s not an epic sacrifice and just about everyone can do it.
If, like my client, you want to rev it up from having admirable, above average results to full out ab-popping show stopper results, know that you’re in for a lot more effort - unless you're a 15 year old with excellent genetics. Then you can probably coast for the next five to ten years before you start losing your abs.
WHAT DOES IT REALLY TAKE TO LOOK AND PERFORM LIKE AN ELITE ATHLETE?
Just like there's a big difference between being decent at the guitar and being a face-melting virtuoso, there's a big difference in what it takes for a man to go from 20% to 15% body fat, and one who goes from 10% to 6% body fat. The closer you get to the extreme end of the spectrum, the harder it is to make additional progress.
You’ll probably need to:
- Be strict with your eating 90-95% of the time;
- Prioritise sleep and training time above beers with your buds;
- Actually just go ahead and stop drinking all together;
- Weigh and measuring your meals...
... And that's before you even set foot in a gym. If all that seems way too hard, I'm here to tell you that you don’t really want a magazine-ready six pack - or at least you don't want one in the real world where it requires a lot of work to get it. Most people don’t. It’s really hard to get. And that’s OK.
HOW TO SET FITNESS GOALS FOR THE LIFE YOU ACTUALLY WANT
Deciding what goals to aim for on your fitness journey all comes down to what you value in your life. Where do you want to allocate time and resources? What do you enjoy doing? How do you want to feel? What do you get out of your health and fitness? What changes are you willing to make or not make? Are abs going to make or break that for you?
There are no right or wrong answers. If you want extraordinary results, make it happen! It can be an awesome journey when you push your potential. If you actually don’t want it, be honest about it, own the choice, and be happy with still being in whatever level of shape does work for you.
Sometimes it takes a bit of coaching, but when you can be real with yourself, it's possible to find a nice, fulfilling balance between health/fitness and everything else you care about in your life.
In the end, my client decided that getting a fitness model physique wasn’t worth it to her. She was already happy were she was and how she felt, and that’s the best place you can be.
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