We put this on the list because of how easy it is to manipulate the degree of difficulty. If a regular plank is too easy for you, lift an arm, or a leg—or an arm and a leg. Put your feet into a TRX and give that a whirl. Still too easy? Take your feet out, and put your forearms in. Each one of these progressions leads to a greater training stimulus to the abs.
To make sure you stay safe, put one hand underneath the small of your back, crunch your head and shoulders up just a handful of inches, hold for about 10 seconds, and release back down, advises Stuart M. McGill, Ph.D., director of the spine biomechanics laboratory at the University of Waterloo. This move basically ensures that you aren’t rounding your back so that your weight doesn’t drop into your low spine, per McGill.
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.
Bicycle: This exercise works your obliques as well as your rectus abdominis. Lie on your back, hips and knees bent at 90-degrees, chest curled over ribs, hands behind your head. Extend the left leg out while bringing the right knee in towards the chest and rotating the left shoulder toward the right knee. Keep the arm from crossing the face. Rotate from the trunk through the center to the other side without dropping your chest. Move in slow, controlled movements without shifting your hips.
Pre-Workout [Morning — 6.30AM, Evening — 6.30PM] — ½ scoop of Whey. This ensures you don’t lose muscle mass during your workout. On Cardio days, I consume nothing else but on Weight Training days, I have 1 slice of brown bread spread with Unsweetened, Natural Peanut Butter topped with 1 banana. It’s a solid combination of complex carbs and fruit sugar to fuel your workout.
To do it: Lie down with a small ball (a small pillow will also work if you don’t have a ball) under your heels, both arms extended over your head, palms facing towards each other. Inhale to prepare as you lift your head, neck, and shoulders off the floor and then exhale as you continue to roll up by drawing in your abdominals, reaching up and over towards the feet. Keep your abdominals contracted, with your spine rounded in a ‘C’ curve, and then inhale to prepare and exhale as you roll down through each vertebra in a controlled movement, keeping your heels pressed evenly into the ball the entire way up and down. Do 15 reps as controlled and precise as you can.
I train 6 times a week with the only goal of getting stronger, lifting heavier and beating my previous records. I aggressively subscribe to the concept of progressive overload where you constantly challenge yourself by increasing volume, intensity, weight or a combination of those 3. This is the only way to continue building lean muscle as someone natural (one who does not consume anabolic steroids or enhancement drugs). I keep notes on how heavy I hit an exercise previously and new exercises I would like to incorporate for each muscle group.
One of the hardest parts of getting a six-pack is to maintain your training and diet discipline until you achieve your goal. There will be days when you will want to skip your training because you feel tired or you don’t feel like training. There will be days when you will want to devour a large pizza, abs be damned. Giving in to your impulsions will prolong the time to get ripped or worse, quit altogether before you reach your goal. You must persevere when the going gets tough and get tough it will.
To do it: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, with the barbell on the back of your shoulders. Lower your body toward the floor, sending your hips back and down and bending your knees. Push through your heels to return to start position, keeping your back flat and head up throughout the movement. Try to do 8-10 reps for 3 sets (resting 45-60 seconds between sets).
Here at Men's Health we love the plank. It strengthens your abs, stabilizes your spine, and prevents lower back pain. But let's be honest: Once you master the move, it can get boring just hovering there. That's why Tony Gentilcore, C.S.C.S., strength coach at Cressey Perfomance in Hudson, Massachussetts, came up with prone plate switches—a new, super hard version of the classic ab exercise.
Instead of copying the experienced bodybuilders, newbies would be better off if they took advantage of a phenomenon called newbie gains (a.k.a. beginner gains). There’s a brief phase in strength training where building muscle and burning fat at the same time is a better strategy than bulking and cutting. It’s the beginner phase. Thanks to newbie gains, beginners will build muscle fast even in a state of caloric deficit, provided that they train and eat right.