I use 24 hour fitness facilities quite frequently when I'm not training at the Olympic Training Center. I always try to go incognito--meaning not head to toe spandex and definitely no midriff bearing tops. People stare. And then they ask questions. Many times they like to know how and what--how can they get their stomach muscles to appear and what exercises should they be doing. This past weekend I was at the gym and by the end of my core workout I was giving mini lessons. It wasn't planned, buy my ipod died on me and I happened to be in a sharing mood that day. And since I'm still in a sharing mood, I figured I would share with you as well...
Watch what you eat. I am constantly watching what I eat. I watch it sit on my plate and then find it's way to my mouth. Pizza...french fries...chocolate...you name it. But if you aren't working out hours a day and you don't have lightning fast metabolism, I would suggest you watch a little more carefully than I do.
Lower your body fat percentage. This is key. If you want a flatter looking stomach and for there to be an outline of muscles, you have to get rid of the fat that's on top of it. You can spend all the time in the world building up a strong core, but if it's hidden, the world will never see it. The main reason why people in my sport have six-packs is because our training usually creates athletes with low body fat percentage. It's also why it's easier for men than women--men just typically have lower body fat. So before you sit down to do a set of crunches, run some intervals and eat some broccoli.
Work a core routine into your your regular exercise routine. I have never been the person to do 5000 sit-ups before bed. I also don't believe in strapping some vibrating gadget to my midsection while I sit back and watch T.V. Sprinting and the type of explosive training I do engages my core and works my stomach muscles all the time. Beyond that, I just incorporate core work the same way I do flexibility and anything else that's going to help my overall training. I'm big on using the physioball, medicine balls, plates, hanging from a bar... basically I like variety. But if you're able to use a physioball and put yourself in an unstable environment that causes you to engage your core already, you're doing twice the work and getting more accomplished. Core work is part of my warm-up, cool-down, and work that I do in the weight room. That way I am always getting it in, but not feeling like it's a chore.
Blame your parents. You can either thank them or tell them it's their fault that you aren't walking around with ripped abs. I can't recall either of my parents ever having a six-pack, but I know that it has to be part of my genetics that I don't carry much fat around my midsection and I'm able to tone very easily.
Those are my secrets. If you want an actual routine to follow, try to catch me at the local 24-hour fitness with a dead ipod and a welcoming smile on my face.