We live in an age where rock-hard, six-pack abdominal muscles are the goal of many workout enthusiasts. We all want that washboard look, but which ab exercises actually work? There are two sets of muscles to target: the rectus abdominis muscles (the ones you engage during regular situps, that run from your sternum to your pelvis) and the transverse abdominis (the deepest ab muscles that wrap around the spine and help stabilize your core).
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.
Good news: Thanks to some of the best trainers in the country, we’re going to help you out. Below are their favorite abs exercises, along with a few pro tips to ensure that you’re executing each one perfectly. Incorporate them à la carte into your existing routine—or, if you’re feeling ambitious, turn all six into an abs workout circuit. Try two sets of each movement, resting for 30 seconds between each set.
Lie face-up on a mat grasping something overhead or your arms flat at your sides. Pull your legs up so that they are at a right angle with your torso. (Theresa Hessler demonstrates at top of page.) This is your start position. Keep the position of your legs as consistent as possible. Now curl your hips up to the position shown in the second photo while exhaling. Your weight should be concentrated on your shoulders, not your neck. Slowly return to the start position while inhaling.
The ‘skinny fat’ problem — A lot of individuals suffer from the ‘skinny fat’ fat syndrome. They look seemingly normal, don’t have much fat on their face, arms or elsewhere but have a noticeable tummy. This happens when you have relatively low amount of muscle mass and a high percentage of fat. If you’re skinny fat, you probably eat a lot of carbohydrates (broadly, just ‘not so healthy’ food), very little protein and maintain a sedentary lifestyle. The fix is to maintain a caloric deficit, keep a high protein intake and focus on a body recomposition, which is exactly what I did. I’ll be explaining and describing everything in detail through the course of this article.
The long arm crunch is ranked the 6th most effective ab exercise, changing the traditional floor crunch by straightening the arms behind you. This adds a longer lever to the move, adding a bit more challenge and difficulty. This move also emphasizes the upper part of the abs, although it's important to remember that your rectus abdominis is actually one long muscle that travels from your lower chest to your pelvis. While you can emphasize one part, any exercise you do will work the entire muscle.
AthleanX — If I were to recommend you ONE channel, this would be it. Don’t watch anything else, just listen to Jeff Cavaliere. His entire approach towards fitness is something that has come to resonate with me. There’s no bulking-cutting nonsense, pure focus on form, getting the maximum out of each exercise and a lifelong approach towards good, sustainable nutrition. If I wanted a few exercises to target a particular muscle group, this is where I go to first, learn them, try them out in the gym and invariably get results. There’s a ton I’ve learnt from Jeff and couldn’t thank him enough.
Body Recomposition — This essentially refers to losing body fat and building muscle at the same time. Now, conventional wisdom dictates that you cannot do both at the same time . This however, is not entirely true. You can lose fat and build muscle at the same time if you are in a positive nitrogen balance (I just take this to be sufficient protein intake) OR you’ve never trained with weights before. When you first start lifting, your body is not used to the amount of wear and tear (shock) resistance training causes to your muscles. Because of this, your body amps up it’s testosterone (muscle building hormone) production to make sure it can keep up, resulting in some awesome newbie gains. These are highly accelerated periods of muscle growth right after you start training. It’s often said that the muscle you gain during your first 1–2 years of training is more than all of the muscle you can pack on in subsequent years combined. Seeing these quick gains is great as it’s extremely satisfying and motivating as a newbie.
Kneel on a mat on all fours with your hands directly under your shoulders. Stretch your legs back one at a time to come into plank position (the “up” part of a push-up); engage your ab muscles. Your body should be long and straight; don’t let your hips sag or lift your butt too high. Imagine there’s a seat belt tightening around your waist, drawing your lower-ab muscles inward.
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.
To do it: Lie on the floor with your arms extended above your head and both legs lifted in the air at about a 45-degree angle. Inhale, roll your head and shoulders off the mat, press your ribs down toward your hip bones and exhale, lifting your entire upper body off the mat (keeping both legs up). At the top of the exercise, "land" your arms so that the arms and legs are parallel to one another. Then, breathe "naturally" while holding the top/up position for two slow counts. Reverse the action by inhaling and then rolling your back, shoulders and head down onto the mat exhaling at the start position.
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For example, believing that you should eat your pre-workout meal is a great way to procrastinate with your training. What if you worked overtime and you don’t have enough time to eat your pre-workout meal? What if you don’t have enough money to buy supplements? All the items in the above list have the potential to evolve into excuses for procrastinating, or worse, quitting. Just forget about them and only do what matters. This will save you enormous time and willpower that should be spared for the things that actually matter in your quest to get abs.