How to Get Abs—Without Ever Doing One Sit-Up ~ Eat This, Not That!

By celebrity trainer Mark Langowski, author, Eat This, Not That! for Abs

I haven’t done a sit-up in over a decade, and yet I have a six-pack.

How is this possible?

I realized a long time ago that the largest role in seeing any abdominal definition was diet. The only way get your body fat levels low enough to see muscle definition in your abdomen is by watching what you eat, doing countless hours of cardio, or a combination of both.

Because I don’t have the time or attention span to do any more than 30 minutes of cardio one to three days a week, and only have time for another one to two full body workouts per week, I know my diet has to be on point.

But once my body fat levels are low, how do I sculpt a visible 6 pack?

You would think the answer is: By doing countless sit-ups. WRONG.

I have been a personal trainer for over 13 years—during this time, I have learned a lot about a lot, but the most important topic that I discovered was 10 years ago when I found out how damaging sit-ups are to the discs in my spine. It was after listening to genius professor Stuart McGill, who is head of spine biomechanics at the University of Waterloo, that I realized I had been doing more harm to myself and my clients by having them do traditional sit-ups.

I never relied solely on sit-ups when training myself or my clients, but I did do them.

After listening to McGill, I did my own extensive research and spoke to some of the world’s top spine surgeons, and they all said the same thing: Sit-ups can and will cause disc herniation. Once you flex the spine past approximately 25 degrees, you actually stop using your abdominals as the primary muscle group and start engaging your hips.
When you flex the spine forward past a certain point, you are creating such pressure on the discs in your spine that you are at high risk for a herniation.

A traditional sit-up generates at least 3,350 newtons (the equivalent of 340 kg) of compressive force on the spine. The U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health states that anything above 3,300 newtons is unsafe.

Although kids and adults should both steer away from sit-ups, it is more common to see disc herniations in adults, as the degeneration of the spine has not yet taken place in children. (This doesn’t make sit-ups OK for kids—I advise the families I train against it.)

But without sit-ups, you ask, how can I get a six pack?

With Eat This, Not That! For Abs, I have created an entire workout plan that is meant to get you a rock hard core without involving one single sit-up.

You’ll learn how to train the core in a functional way, keeping the spine healthy. I have seen clients go through back operations from injuries sustained outside of the gym and the process from injury to recovery is painful and grueling. You don’t want to end up under the knife of a spine surgeon; trust me.

Throughout the workout section of the book, I explain how to train the entire body in a way that is activating the core muscles in every exercise you do. A squat may look like a leg exercise, but did you know you are also working your core muscles when done properly? Inside the book, you’ll also get a complete meal plan. Below are my 15 favorite foods that keep my muscles fueled and stomach full!

1. Fish


Not only is fish packed with healthy fat, but it is also carb-free and packed with protein.

2. Eggs

The yolks often get bad press, but the yolks provide healthy fat that is needed for brain development! These keep me full and are a great pair with my next favorite food for abs; oats!

3. Oatmeal

The steel cut oats provide your body with the energy it needs to make it through those tough workouts and digests nice and slow into your bloodstream, so you don’t get a spike and crash!

Test panelists got a six pack in less than six weeks! See for yourself on Eat This, Not That! For Abs!

4. Almonds

I love this snack because it is portable and satisfies my hunger when I’m on the road. The healthy fat, protein, and zero carbs make this one of my favorite snacks; don’t forget about the fiber as well!

5. Spinach

So many ways to enjoy this delicious green. Throw it in your morning smoothie, sauté it, or have it in a salad. Either way, you are getting an alphabet full of vitamins and an excellent source of fiber.

6. Beans

Black, white, red; whatever your choice is, make sure you keep these in your diet. These slow digesting carbs will provide you with energy for your day and also give you a great dose of fiber and protein! So complex!

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7. Dried edamame

If you are on the road like I am, you need go-to snacks that are portable and multifaceted. With edamame, you get a huge dose of fiber, protein, and minimal carbohydrates.

8. Pumpkin seeds

Magnesium, Zinc, and Omega-3’s! Don’t throw these out next Halloween! Make sure you bake them and throw some sea salt on them and enjoy!! These are also great to throw into a trail mix!

9. Olive oil

Become friends with olive oil. You will be using it to cook almost everything with! This healthy fat will help keep your joints lubricated and brain healthy!

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10. Quinoa

This grain is one of my favorite foods to accompany a piece of fish with veggies. You don’t need much to fill you up and you can also prepare it in the morning with your eggs. Fiber, good carbs, and protein make this a must-have if you want to stay energized and see your abs.

11. Protein powder

Lets face it, in a perfect world, we would get all of our protein from natural food sources—but it’s hard. Select a powder that fits your dietary needs and stomach tolerance. I choose vegan protein powder, but one option that is great for getting your muscles to recover quickly is whey protein. Casein is also good for bedtime cravings as it will slowly digest while you sleep, steadily fueling your muscles.

12. Avocado

It has the healthy fat that’s great for hair, skin and nails…and tastes delicious! Try it with eggs, in your salad or next to your salmon for dinner.

Test panelists got a six pack in less than six weeks using Eat This, Not That! For Abs!

13. Berries

Strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries. All of these fruits have a ton of antioxidants, are low in carbs, and high in fiber. Throw them in your morning smoothie!

14. Black Rice

Packed with so many vitamins and has more fiber than regular rice. Did I mention it is delicious.

15. Sweet Potatoes

These will be your new best friend. These low glycemic index carbs will keep your muscles full for your grueling workouts and also provide you a huge dose of vitamins!

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