07/29/2010 AT 01:00 AM EDT
Learning karate at age 16, plus swimming, basketball, jogging and working out at the gym, have kept Mike 'The Situation' Sorrentino
looking buff. But the Jersey Shore
star also thanks his parents for his great abs.
"I have always had an unbelievable six-pack," The Situation, 28, tells PEOPLE. "It's genetic. I am gifted that way. My dad was a Golden Gloves boxer and my mom has a small waist."
The reality star has always been thin and athletic but in high school started to notice. "I would show up at school and at parties and would look at me and yell, 'Oh my God! Your abs are amazing,' " he says. "They called me 'Mikey Abs.'"
By the time he was 18, he began pulling up his shirt to show off his six-pack and he enjoyed the response he got from . "I soon learned how to flex my stomach in various ways," he says. "I found a technique where I would suck in my stomach and not push out. I can flex all day long."
Now, The Situation is flattered – but not humbled – by all the attention he's getting since Jersey Shore
, which begins its second season
Thursday, first aired. "People have a fixation with me ... I am blessed with international popularity," he says. "I kiss 's cheeks, sign autographs and give advice to young kids."
So how does he maintain his fit physique? "I eat clean – chicken, fish, steak, no sugar, no sauces, no Diet Coke,” he tells PEOPLE. "I drink plenty of water. I believe in the old saying, 'No pain, no gain.' "
And as for putting the "G" in "GTL," he works out five days a week, doing of 30 to 40 minutes of cardio, whether it's running, elliptical training or working on the StairMaster
. Abs, he says, should be worked every other day.
"I have no fears about the future," he says of one day growing old. "I will stay physical because that is the key to success. When your body and mind are in sync, all else follows." --Linda Marx