Instead, we've put together a full slate of top-level choices in no particular order, along with some explanation about what make each one great and the research backing them up, when available. When building this list, we considered bodyweight and loaded exercises, EMG studies, anti-rotation movements, and much more so that no ab exercise was left behind. That said, it's time to meet the crème de la crème of the core!
Trainer tip: You know planks, right? It’s easy to go through the motions here. Don’t do it. “The key is to squeeze your entire body—quads, glutes, core, back, and fists—as tight as possible while taking diaphoretic breathes throughout the hold,” says Wealth. No matter how many times you’ve done it, this exercise is as difficult as you’re willing to make it.
Warm up and cool down for 5 to 10 minutes. Go for a brisk walk or jog, do jumping jacks, run in place, or jump rope at the start of your workouts. Moderate aerobic exercise will increase blood flow to your muscles, which reduces your risk of injuring yourself. When you finish working out, cool down for 5 to 10 minutes to help your muscles recover.
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When I first started my journey, there’s no way I ever would’ve imagined I’d still be here. I was the LAST person my friends would’ve caught in the gym or eating healthy. In fact, I hid my journey for the first YEAR because of it. 🙈 This journey can be scary you know? Trying to work on improving your habits and not knowing whether you’re going to succeed or not... . But what I quickly realized was that no matter how much I struggled, the fact that I was trying was enough to be proud of. That was more than most could say! Especially those who are the quickest to criticize. I learned to be proud of my journey and of my struggles because it meant I was at least learning from those struggles. . I also realized that no matter how slow or how small, progress is progress! And over time small progress is going to amount to big progress! 🙌 Which is exactly what happened! My progress is not a result of overnight success. It’s days, weeks, months, years of fine tuning what works best for ME. Do you need years to see progress? No. Realistically most can see a significant change in 3-6 months with buckling down, following a regimented workout plan and meal plan. . But it shouldn’t stop there. When it becomes a lifestyle is when you’ll see changes that last. Even if you don’t envision yourself as “that person” who goes to the gym and eats healthy, there is still a place in the community for you. I was in your shoes and trust me when I say, if I can do it, YOU CAN TOO 💪 #fbggirls #fitbodyapp www.annavictoria.com/fitbodyapp
The crunch is the most popular abs exercise because anyone can do it. But that doesn't mean it's the best exercise for training your middle. "Crunches flex your trunk," says David Jack, owner of ActivPrayer in Phoenix, Arizona and creator of Men's Health MA40 Workout. "But the main function of your core is to prevent movement and resist force through your torso."
On hardwood or tiled floor, place feet on two sliders and assume a high plank position (hands under shoulders, soft bend in elbows, butt and core engaged). Pull feet in toward chest, bending knees until you’re in a bear plank, knees below hips, but still lifted off floor. Slowly push feet back to high plank. Continue to repeat. To make it easier, move one leg at a time.
Then, when it comes to sculpting those abs of your dreams, it’s not as simple as doing endless crunches. “Developing a six-pack requires more than just working the ‘pretty’ muscles that you can see,” Fitzgerald says. “The deeper, transverse core muscles must be strengthened first to create a strong, solid base—without that, only doing crunches can actually make your belly stick out more. Nobody wants that.”
For building muscle; follow a simple training routine that focuses on compound movements. Compound movements for weightlifting are deadlift, squat, and presses. For bodyweight training, they are burpees, push-ups, bodyweight squats, and pull-ups. These exercises are enough to train 80% of the muscles in your body. Add a few supporting exercises for the remaining muscles and you have all the exercises you need to build a great physique.
Common knowledge will tell you that, to get six-pack abs, carbs are verboten. Common knowledge is right—kind of. The key is to avoid the wrong carbs, like French fries, and eat the right carbs, like sweet potatoes. These orange goodies are full of carotenoids, which prevent calories from turning into fat; fiber, which helps you stay sated, and ultimately eat less; and Vitamin C, which’ll give you energy (for working out). And for more ab-shredding foods, check out the 10 Healthy Carbs That Won’t Derail Your Six-Pack.
Try starting your day off eating heavier, and ending on a light dinner. Instead of waking up and running out of the door with a banana, eating a small lunch, and then eating a hefty dinner, try making your breakfast your heaviest meal and your dinner the lightest. For carb intake at dinner time, try to ingest the wet types of carbs that are in high-water, medium-fiber foods.
Lie faceup with feet flexed in the air so body creates a 90-degree angle and arms are rested palms down at sides. Use core to pulse legs straight up towards ceiling, lifting butt off floor and pushing weight into hands. Think about stamping the bottom of your shoes on the ceiling and avoid using momentum to swing legs forward and up. Lower back to floor and repeat.
Lie down on a mat and place your hands behind your head, gently supporting your head with your fingers without pulling. Bring your knee up to your chest, while rotating your upper body to meet your knee with the elbow of your opposite arm (see photo). The opposite leg will go straight out. Switch to the opposite side, “cycling” the legs. Do one to three sets of 12 to 16 repetitions each.
So let's get to it. Here are the experts' choices on the most effective abdominal exercises. These should be performed two to three times weekly (for beginners, two is plenty to start). Each exercise should be executed until the point of momentary muscular failure, which should happen between 30 and 90 seconds. This is considered one set, which should be no more than 15 to 20 repetitions. Rest for 30 to 60 seconds. Concentrate on performing each exercise slowly with good form. Work up to completing two to three sets of each exercise.
Amazingly, exercising the abdominal muscles is far less important than shedding the fat which hides them. Lots of people attain incredible six packs simply by becoming leaner, though sometimes, compound exercises which recruit lots of muscle fibers (which I’m a big fan of), such as deadlifts or squats, may help improve the appearance of the abdominal muscles.
When it comes to building a six-pack, many guys don’t think to work any muscles outside of their core. But, to uncover your abs, you need to train your whole body, especially your legs. “Some of the largest and most metabolically consuming muscles in our body are in our hips and legs,” Cary says. “Work your lower body by doing squats, lunges, and dead lifts.” If you can work to engage your core during all of these exercises, even better.
Exercise also can't erase a couple factors beyond your control, experts say. "I think age plays a critical role in how easy or hard it is to get 'six-pack abs.' It's all about hormones – when we are younger, we have more circulating androgen hormones, which affords us the ability to not eat clean and yet continue to be shredded," Chait says. Our androgen hormone levels decline after we reach age 27, he says. (Testosterone is an androgen hormone in men. In women, a primary purpose of androgens is to be converted into female hormones known as estrogen.) After that age, "we need to focus more on dietary adjustments to maintain a lean body," Chait says.
"My goals six years ago was to 'get abs' and I used to think cardio and crunches would get me there. But it wasn’t until I started lifting weights and varying my abdominal exercises that I started to see a major change. You don’t realize how much you use your core muscles in order to perform powerful rapid movements like deadlifts!" — Shante Franca, @shantefranca