This piece was first published on my old site on May 28, 2013.

There are many paths to six pack abs.

I have written this before. This compilation of interviews with Olympians shows one example of non-traditional methods to get ripped.

Recently I was with my family at the Club Med Ixtapa in Mexico. On a side note, I’ll highly recommend the place, especially if you have children you want a break from. We practically had to beg our kids to spend time with us because there were so many activities for them to do that were much more fun than boring old mom and dad.

One such activity was the flying trapeze.

The staff members who run the trapeze are all in amazing shape. Check them out:


Left to right: Joe Moreno, Joe Machado Vianna, Rolando De La Brena, Maureen Lortie

That’s a lot of abs right there.

My kids loved the trapeze, trained their butts off for the two weeks we were there, and were good enough to be performers in the show where they pick the best of the resort guests to showcase their new talent.

Now that I’m done bragging about my kids, let’s get back to proving my point: There are many paths to six pack abs.

There are those scam artists who will have you believe there is some miracle exercise, secret diet, or magical pill or powder that will unveil a rippling midsection. The reality: it just takes a lot of hard work and ensuring a caloric deficit to get the abs to come out. After they show up, it’s about keeping calories at maintenance level.

“The main thing that keeps our muscles in shape is to fly on the trapeze,” Maureen Lortie, 24, told me. “We do a lot of upper body work, chin ups, climbing ropes etc. It’s a lot of abs too.”

Beyond all the work on the trapeze, Maureen only teaches one fitness class a week for the Club Med guests. “I don’t use the gym here,” she said. She doesn’t have to. The trapeze is her gym. “Our job naturally keeps our bodies in shape.”

And that job results in an accumulated time of about 10-15 hours a week of exercise. That’s the hard work that creates the sculpted physiques. No miracle exercise or magical diet. Just considerable effort.

Twenty-six-year-old Joe Moreno used to be a competitive bodybuilder, but always enjoyed the circus from when he was a child. When he joined Club Med to work in the sailing area, he started to practice with the trapeze, and before long, ended up changing jobs.

“For many years I did bodybuilding competitions,” Moreno said. “I was bigger as a bodybuilder. Now I need to be smaller and lighter for flying on the trapeze.” It’s true, trapeze won’t make you huge. You wouldn’t want to be overly muscular and do this sport. The added weight and size would be problematic.

And, I’d argue, not necessarily more esthetically appealing. I’ve written before about how some people just don’t find excessive muscle attractive. Being ripped, however, usually looks pretty good.

Rolando De La Brena, 28, started off at the climbing wall in Club Med, but thinks it’s his experience roller-blading in the half pipe that took him to the trapeze because of the agility and balance it required. He used to play soccer and lift weights, “but almost everything is trapeze now,” Rolando told me. “We try to go to the gym every once in a while, but it’s hard because you’re tired from all the trapeze. It’s many hours a week: It’s a job, but it’s also a workout and it’s fun.”

“It’s a sport and a workout at the same time,” 22-year-old Joe Machado Vianna told me. Before getting into trapeze, Joe did a number of martial arts, including capoiera, judo, jiu-jitsu, and Muay Thai kickboxing. “I also surf,” he said. “Abs are important for all of this. Mostly it’s back, shoulders and abs.”


Above: Joe Machado Vianna. Below: Rolando De La Brena.

Controlling caloric intake

As I mentioned in a previous article, the food at Club Med Ixtapa was awesome. It’s the same food the trapeze staff eat, yet some need to be more careful than others.

“I like to eat healthy,” Joe Moreno said. “Because of being a former bodybuilder, I know a bit about nutrition and what I need to eat, but I do like to try everything.” Joe talked about the benefits of being young and having a faster metabolism, but I think most of it has to do with the fact that his job requires a lot of physical activity. Actually, that’s the case for all of the trapeze team. Still, Joe had dinner with us one night and I noticed he focused on very healthy food. It almost made me feel guilty about what was on my plate.

Maureen is even more cautious about what she eats. “I love vegetables and fruit, and I’ve not had the ice cream here because I know that if I do it’s game over,” she said. “There are a lot of temptations here, but I stay away from sweets.”

And then there is Rolando. He also had dinner with us, and he eats like he’s on death row. “I eat a lot of everything because I exercise so much. I think I have a fast metabolism.”

Let’s drive the main point home one more time.

There are many paths to six pack abs.

Food will always be a critical issue, and for those who exercise at very levels, like this Club Med trapeze team (who are all great people, I might add), you attain more caloric leeway. You can eat more, and afford more treats, and still be lean. For the average person whose job does not involve lots of intense physical activity, we must be more cautious about food intake.

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James S. Fell, CSCS, is an internationally syndicated fitness columnist for the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times and He is the author of Lose it Right: A Brutally Honest 3-Stage Program to Help You Get Fit and Lose Weight Without Losing Your Mind, published by Random House Canada.