Ask almost anyone what their definition of a great physique is and they will more than likely describe a lean mid-section: abs that have a six pack or eight pack. In my 12+ years of training hundreds of men and women, that remains the biggest request from new clients.

Ask almost anyone what their definition of a great physique is and they will more than likely describe a physique with a lean mid-section: abs that have a six pack or eight pack of muscles. In my 12+ years of training hundreds of men and women, that description remains the biggest request from new clients.

So, with that said, how exactly does one achieve tight, sculpted abs? If your first thought is doing hundreds of sit ups, crunches, and a multitude of ab exercises, you would only be partially correct. The reality of the situation is that although these exercises are good for having a strong core, having a lean one can really only come from a proper meal plan and either cardiovascular exercises like running, and biking, or plyometric (explosive) exercises like box jumps, high knees, straddle hops, box shuffles, box jumps, and jump roping. If you’re unfamiliar with any of these exercises, please feel free to contact me and I will review them with you.

Your meal plans should have a correct breakdown of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. Consult a personal trainer that is well versed in performance nutrition or a nutritionist to get a better understanding on what the correct breakdown should be for you.

One thing that is very important for me for folks to understand is that even though a lean sculpted mid-section is great for outward beauty, it is also equally as important for your health. Weight gain will almost inevitably lead to high blood pressure, hypertension, and coronary heart disease. None of these things is anything you want to have, trust me. Ask any one you know who is suffering with one of these illnesses and they will tell you how debilitating it is.

Also, outside of our health and beauty, another thing that is wonderful in having a strong and lean core, is the improvement in our athleticism. Honestly, athletes know they need a strong lean core to properly aid in explosive movements in the arms and legs, and to increase speed and agility. To put this in proper perspective, picture throwing a football, dunking a basketball, swinging a baseball bat, or kicking a soccer ball with a large belly. Now that you’ve done that, now picture someone doing all of these things with a tight mid-section. Certainly you may be able to do these things with additional weight gain, but you will not be able to do them as effectively as you would with a lean core. Not only that, but you will undoubtedly also tire easily, have some trouble breathing, and also have lower back pain and soreness.

Now let’s move this scenario to some basic functional things you do around the house and your workplace. Picture yourself vacuuming the rugs in your home and work place, bending down to pick things off of the floor, standing on your toes to put cups away in the cupboards, running after your toddler or small child, or rushing to your car on days you’re rushing to work, or to drop off the kids, or to tend to an emergency. As with athletics, you could reasonably do all these things either with a lean mid-section or a heavy one, but your endurance, breathing, flexibility, stress level, and quickness will all be compromised by extra weight, not to mention your longevity (length of time we live).

So, you see when you peer through the veil, it isn’t just vanity or feel good muscles anymore is it? It’s your health, quality of life, length of life, and overall happiness that can be affected. So we should all be vigilant and mindful of our weight control, strength of body, breathing and flexibility.

I decided to spotlight one of my clients, Richard, with this article (see photo) because he is what men and women bring to me in pictures when they want me to see a visual of their hopes and desires. I have trained, coached, and managed Richard for a few years now as an athlete, model and bodybuilding competitor in the Men’s Physique and Classic Physique divisions. One of my purposes in training him wasn’t just accolades and awards, it was also education. Richard is part Dominican and part Irish, and very close to his elder relatives. He is very involved in helping and encouraging them. So, the more he learns, the more he will apply that knowledge to his family. I encourage all of you to do the same; whether you are a long time reader of my column, or a new reader.

Anne Wilson Schaef once said, “Good health is not something we can buy. However, it can be an extremely valuable savings account.” It is our savings account that will take care of us when we need it; the thing we will rely on. Think about that for a second.

I will leave you with that.

Michael Shaw is a certified fitness trainer, sports performance nutrition specialist, owner of Shaw LLC, a member of the Maryland Advisory Council on Physical Fitness, and a fitness and fashion model manager. He can be reached at