T Nation

Core Frustration


#1


Hello! I'm new here, so I apologize if I break any unwritten rules.

I'll try to keep this as short as possible.

I began my weight training journey last year (see attached photo). I went from being skinny fat, to skinny, to slowly building solid muscle. I stand at about 5'4 and weigh 118 lbs.

I've worked my butt off to get where I am. Cutting out all alcohol for good. Eating clean (ok, 98% of the time), ingesting copious amounts of lean proteins and the right kind of carbs. My sodium and sugar intake is slim to none. And the results show -- my quads, arms, glutes, back, everything has grown significantly.

But I have a major problem--my abs. I have a little baby four pack, but I can't get my bottom two abs to show no matter what I do. I've tried fasted cardio + hanging leg lifts, reverse crunches, I've tried HIIT sprints, I've tried having "ab days," --pretty much everything.

My stomach bloats easily, so I shy away from anything that could cause bloating. But it never seems good enough. My stomach is NEVER as flat as I want it to be, and it drives me crazy.

I have these beefy arms, defined back and solid quads...and a pouchy stomach to cancel out all my hard work. I feel like I can never wear tight clothing because I'm uncomfortable with how it looks on my stomach.

I have a slight inkling it has something to do with my birth control, but I can't be sure.

My biggest fear is cannibalizing hard-earned muscle, but I am at my wits end. I don't want to have a pouch anymore. Does anyone have any suggestions for a cardio/ab program? I want a mid section like all of the lovely ladies I see on this site.

Thank you in advance!


#2

Hi Olivia,

It sounds like you’ve made some great improvements in the past year since you started training.

Just keep at it because the results will continue to come over time and you mentioned that you have “a baby 4-pack” which is not a bad thing and you can only improve from this point. As you continue to train you will build more muscle and the abs will be much more prominent when you get lean.

The issues with bloating and overall visibility of abs could be due to a number of different issues so I don’t want to make any assumptions, so I’ll ask you a few more questions…

What is your current training program like?
Current diet?
Supplements you are taking?

Avoiding sodium all together isn’t you best choice because your body needs the sodium for regular function and if you restrict sodium and then eat a sodium rich meal you will bloat up like a balloon. The bloating might also have something to do with the type of birth control you use, I know a lot of girlfriends who have experienced extra water retention and abdominal bloating because of the hormone fluctuations.

Keep in mind a lot of photos you see online of women are from stage or from photoshoots which are not accurate indications of an “everyday look” it’s something that takes months of preparing for and this is the finished product on show day. Don’t be discouraged because you’ll get there too if your dedicated and give it time.

Post a picture of your abs if you are up to it and then I can see where you’re at :slight_smile:

Ps… You didn’t break any unwritten rules here, basically anything goes so don’t be shy.


#3

You should prob be able to differentiate between fat and bloat, i mean how does it feel when you touch/pinch?

I’ve got somewhat similar issue with my love handles, which are more resistant to go away. suspecting it might have to do something with being a sort of a fat kid.

http://www.T-Nation.com/diet-fat-loss/how-to-burn-stubborn-body-fat this article is pretty good in terms of stubborn fat, maybe consider the supplements mentioned?

Good Luck


#4

Hi Bron,

Thanks for the message. Sorry I didn’t reply sooner.

Up until this week actually, I’ve been on a basic split program (lifting 4 or 5 times a week, depending on my work schedule), with typically one or two days of some sort of full body HIIT workout. On lifting days, I alternated between steady state cardio and HIIT training (sprints, ab circuits, or something similar).

After a year of split programming, I decided to take on a weekly full body workout routine. One or two major powerlifts 3 days a week (high sets, low reps), with six or seven accessory lifts. On the other days, I do mainly accessory work and more cardio.

My diet is pretty simple.

In the morning, I typically have some sort of a combination of low-sugar oatmeal, a protein shake, and eggs. It all depends on what I have time for before work.

I bring my lunches to work. For lunch I’ll have a protein (tuna, chicken breast, or salmon) with some veggies, and maybe a banana or apple (I TRY to avoid apples, but it’s so hard to!). I am a TV reporter, and someone is always bringing donuts or something similar to the newsroom. I allow myself one once in a while – but only if I’m deadlifting or squatting that day. I tell myself I’ll burn the sugar off, haha.

For dinner, I have a protein again, veggies, and maybe some cheese. I’ve considered giving up dairy though, as this may contribute to my problem.

Also, I don’t drink alcohol. I haven’t since January of 2014.

As for supplements, I use Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Whey. I have considered fat burners, but of course, my friends have talked me out of that.

I fear my birth control really is the problem. I’m on an ortho cyclen. I have strongly considered discontinuing the medication. If I knew for sure it was the cause of my problems, I most likely would.

Any insight would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you again!

[quote]Bron Sapir wrote:

Hi Olivia,

It sounds like you’ve made some great improvements in the past year since you started training.

Just keep at it because the results will continue to come over time and you mentioned that you have “a baby 4-pack” which is not a bad thing and you can only improve from this point. As you continue to train you will build more muscle and the abs will be much more prominent when you get lean.

The issues with bloating and overall visibility of abs could be due to a number of different issues so I don’t want to make any assumptions, so I’ll ask you a few more questions…

What is your current training program like?
Current diet?
Supplements you are taking?

Avoiding sodium all together isn’t you best choice because your body needs the sodium for regular function and if you restrict sodium and then eat a sodium rich meal you will bloat up like a balloon. The bloating might also have something to do with the type of birth control you use, I know a lot of girlfriends who have experienced extra water retention and abdominal bloating because of the hormone fluctuations.

Keep in mind a lot of photos you see online of women are from stage or from photoshoots which are not accurate indications of an “everyday look” it’s something that takes months of preparing for and this is the finished product on show day. Don’t be discouraged because you’ll get there too if your dedicated and give it time.

Post a picture of your abs if you are up to it and then I can see where you’re at :slight_smile:

Ps… You didn’t break any unwritten rules here, basically anything goes so don’t be shy.[/quote]


#5

Just a couple of thoughts here, without seeing pictures of the abs in question. :slight_smile:

  • Your lower abs may just be your last fat stand. For me, I will get ribzy and lean out everywhere else first. My inner thigh and just below my belly button are the last places for it to go. That’s just my genetics. If that’s the case, there are trade offs because most of us don’t store fat evenly everywhere. If I wanted ripped abs and definition all the way up my thighs, I’m going to get leaner than I want to be in other places. :slight_smile: There’s a woman at my gym who has a full six-pack, small waist, narrow shoulders, small breasts, really wide hips and large thighs. She’s very pear-shaped. She just doesn’t put fat on her upper body or abs. I’d keep my small hour glass shape any day.

  • Many women won’t show a full six pack until they are contest lean. When you look at pics of women doing bikini comps, many will have vertical lines but not the squared out abs all the way down, or just show the top four abs. You may decide your OK with that, given it’s a bit softer feminine look rather than having a squared out abdomen with thick enough abs for them to show. Depends on your goals, but building ab thickness can widen your waist which might make your protruding ab problem worse.

  • Postural issues. Lordosis can make the people look like their abdomen rounds forward. Probably not the whole problem, but posture can really contribute to people looking like they have more of a gut than they really do. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lordosis.

  • Focus on planks and vacuum type exercises that tend to corset in the abdominal wall. Try keeping your core tight when you’re lifting. Try to focus on pulling your belly button toward your spine when you are just walking around or sitting so you aren’t inadvertently “training” them to fall forward in a relaxed position all the time.

  • Other thoughts would be to try eliminating dairy for a couple of weeks or a month and just see if it’s a factor. If not, you could try eliminating gluten just to see if you’re experiencing inflammation or bloating from some food sensitivity. You’d probably have to stay away from gluten for a month or more. I believe it can take awhile for the body to adjust if that’s the problem. Or as you mentioned, you could switch forms of birth control to see if you notice a difference. I don’t have any experience with that side effect.

Best of luck!
Puff