And, since the muscle is designed to bring your lower ribs and pelvis closer together or farther apart, you need to work them that way—with crunches and reverse crunches, Cary says. In fact, research commissioned by the American Council on Exercise shows that the crunch works the rectus abdominis better than other common abs exercises including the plank, sit-up, and boat pose.
Even though your rectus abdominus is the muscle you want to see when you look in the mirror, your inner core muscles, including your internal obliques and transverse abdominis, are the foundation for your six-pack. “You would not build a mansion on a weak foundation, so don’t try to build a six-pack on a weak core,” Cary says. This is when you’ll want to try out some more creative core workouts like planks, dead bugs, core twists, and farmer’s walks, he says. All of these tap your core’s ability to stabilize, rather than crunch, your core.
If you want to get fit faster and burn more calories in less time, don't spend all your time in the so-called fat-burning zone. Instead, add some High Intensity Training (HIT) to your workouts a couple times each week. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, you can burn more calories in less time with short, high intensity exercise. You can also boost your overall cardiovascular fitness with this type of training. Be sure to slowly ramp up your intensity, however, or you could wind up with an injury.
Do it: Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold a dumbbell in your right hand, palm facing inwards towards the torso. Keep your back straight, activate your core, and then bend to the side as far as possible—but only at the waist. Hold for one second at the bottom of your range of motion, and return to start for one rep. Do between 12 and 20 reps for one set.
To do it: Lie on your back with your hands interlaced behind head, knees bent ,and feet hip-width apart on the floor. Inhale and lift your chest towards your knees, bringing your shoulders and head off the floor, maintaining a neutral pelvis (keeping it parallel to the floor). Exhale and rotate to the right side, and then exhale again rotating even further, lifting a little higher. Next, inhale and lift as you return to the center and repeat to the other side. Do 8-10 reps per side.
Why it made the list: It turns out the ball is good for more than just sitting and waiting for your partner to finish his set! A research team from California State, Sacramento demonstrated that the pike movement is one of the most effective total-ab workouts. It topped their EMG list for upper abs, lower abs, and obliques. This movement may be the heavy hitter that's been missing from your daily routine. While not exactly the same, the pike can also be done using a TRX system with similar results expected.
To do it: Stand with your feet hip-width apart, shoulders down, and your abs drawn in. Hinge forward at your waist and inch forward, walking with your hands into a top-of-the-pushup (or plank) position. Hold plank for three seconds, being sure to keep your chest lifted and your belly button drawn into your spine. Your body should form a straight line from your ears to your ankles. Then, perform one pushup by bending your elbows to the sides and lowering your body towards (but not touching) the floor, maintaining a straight spine.