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How can I distinguish between them in some simple way?

Sometimes after running or weightlifting it seems that my gut is quite flat. In fact abdominal muscles are visible when I try a posedown. But then when I relax, it seems that I have a big gut.

Do I need some specific exercise to make my abdominal muscles more visible or I must loose fat?

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I am not completely sure what this question asks about: Abdominal exercises or reducing abdominal fat, please be more clear. –  Baarn Nov 3 '12 at 23:02
Neither. My question is how to distinguish poor abdominal development or visceral fat. If the former is the case, which exercises are recommended. –  Peter Timoz Nov 3 '12 at 23:10
Just a small point - visceral fat is the fat inside the body cavity, that surrounds and cushions internal organs. You will not see this fat at all. Most likely, you just need to lose some of your body fat to make your abdominals more visible on a regular basis, so my answer would be probably a little bit of both, toning and fat loss. –  JohnP Nov 4 '12 at 0:55
Thanks for the point, but that does not answer my question. –  Peter Timoz Nov 4 '12 at 14:13
@peterRit - That is also answered in my first post. Visceral fat is internal and cannot be seen at all. It's highly unlikely that you have enough visceral fat to actually push out the abdominals, although anything is possible. The external, visible fat (What you "pinch") is subcutaneous fat, and reducing that is also addressed in my first answer. –  JohnP Nov 4 '12 at 17:44
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closed as not a real question by Baarn, FredrikD, YYY, Ivo Flipse Nov 20 '12 at 20:03

It's difficult to tell what is being asked here. This question is ambiguous, vague, incomplete, overly broad, or rhetorical and cannot be reasonably answered in its current form. For help clarifying this question so that it can be reopened, visit the help center.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

1 Answer

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I don't think there is a simple way to distinguish, and that's kind of amazing when you think about it. There is no way to say something like "there is a half inch layer of fat here." Skin calipers were popular maybe 30-40 years ago to do this, but they turned out to be wildly inaccurate. Most intriguing to me is we no longer have an objective standard for abdominal strength. We used to do Roman Chair sit ups holding weights, but I don't think anyone would do them now. I think 15 reps with 25 pounds was considered strong. Holding a plank for 45 seconds is considered good, but only if done perfectly. You need a spotter to verify and this is as much a test of endurance as strength. If you are free weight squatting and deadlifting your body weight for reps, your abs are probably well developed. "...when I relax, it seems that I have a big gut..." sounds like a posture issue - check out lordosis and pelvic tilt. A six pack is formed by non muscle fibers that hold in the ab muscles - you may not have them. Skin tightness is a huge, under discussed part of 6-packiness. "Sometimes after running or weightlifting..." I wonder if you are retaining beer or salty snacks at other times. Water retention is a problem for body builders prior to competition. A good set of erectors and obliques will help stretch your skin across your abs (assuming your skin is young). The Body Mass Index (BMI) seems to be holding up as an objective fat standard. You should have a good score for health's sake, and it seems unlikely you can have a high score and showy abs at the same time (you could still have powerful abs however). Hope this helps.

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I'm glad you understanded my question. –  Peter Timoz Nov 6 '12 at 0:05
@medmal skin folds (via skin callipers) are still very prevalent and the cheapest preferred method of body fat calculation amongst trainers. The actual calculated body fat percentage has been shown to be a bit off, but measuring the skin folds and seeing the millimetres shrink over time is invaluable for assessing training/diet needs. –  Mike S Nov 6 '12 at 1:25
@MikeS Thanks, did not know that. Back then, the problem was with the user, as I recall. It was impossible to be consistent. These were plastic mechanical devices. These new ones (I Googled skin callipers) look a lot more substantial. I would guess you'd want a skilled (certified?) person to use them on you - I wouldn't trust myself to be objective. –  medmal Nov 6 '12 at 5:56
I wonder where the downvote came from. Maybe some formating and some references would have made this post look better, but I still don't get the downvote. –  Baarn Nov 6 '12 at 18:19
I down voted it and left a comment. The answer starts by stating there is no way to distinguish between visceral fat and poor abdominal muscles. There clearly is since visceral fat is internal. Furthermore if pinch tests aren't accurate enough for you, you can get a DXA scan and get a very accurate body composition profile. Aside from subcutaneous (not visceral) fat covering the muscle, abdominals vary greatly genetically. Some have more smooth and others have more stand out abs. Because of this, some people can get to 12% and have pronounced abs. Others have to get to 6%. –  Mike S Nov 6 '12 at 22:32
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