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.
You may think of power bars as protein-loaded snacks that are perfect pre- or post-workout. And while you’re not entirely wrong, you’re not entirely wrong, either. In addition to high protein levels, many power bars are surreptitiously loaded with sugar, which will bring any ab-seeking efforts of yours screeching to a halt. So, if you’re going to reach for a bar, be sure to check the nutrition facts first. Many bars—like the offerings from ONE or thinkThin—only have 1 gram of sugar for 20 grams of protein (and still taste delicious, to boot).
To do it: Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Bend your knees slightly (or more if needed) and place both hands flat on the ground. Keeping your legs extended and your feet planted, walk your hands away from your body, as far past your shoulders as you can, until you are in a full plank position. Hold for one count at the furthest point, and then walk your hands back to your feet and slowly return to standing. That’s one rep. Repeat up to 10 times.
Contrary to what popular culture portrays, one does not need to lift really heavy if muscle hypertrophy, aka “bigger muscles” or aesthetic gains are the primary goal (see bodybuilding vs powerlifting). One needs to ensure that a particular muscle is subjected to enough time under tension and training volume to ensure that muscle fibres are broken down and rebuilt stronger over time. This can be done by following a high-volume, moderately high rep range, moderate weight and low rest period lifting routine. I start off with 5 sets of a heavier compound lift eventually moving to isolation exercises. I started off with the popular ‘3 sets of 10’ for isolation exercises, then to 12 and now hit 4 sets with the rep ranges 15,12,10 and 8. Higher reps would mean a lighter weight and vice versa. My last set is almost invariably a dropset. I hit around 15 -18 working sets per muscle group per week.
A common belief in bodybuilding is that a beginner can make progress lifting rocks. This is not to offend the brutally huge strongmen you see on the MET-Rx World’s Strongest Men on ESPN who lift those 350-lb. Atlas Stones but is to emphasize the point that beginners can make progress on just about any program, using just about anything for resistance, even small Flinstone pebbles. But just because beginners can have success with minimal effort and nonspecific workouts, this doesn’t mean that their training protocol will also work for an experienced athlete, or for someone who wants to go even beyond a “slightly visible” 6-Pack!
Directions: Begin each of these workouts with a five-minute warmup, or go through the moves after you’ve done your usual cardio or strength training when you’re already warm. Each should also begin with 20 reps of what Fitzgerald calls “transverse pullbacks”—where you pull your navel toward your spine, as if bracing yourself against a sucker punch—as a way to activate the muscles for the work you’re about to ask of them. You’ll also need some dumbbells for some of these moves.
To do it: Start seated, then lean back, resting your weight on your forearms (bending your elbows behind your body, fingers facing forward). Extend both legs straight out in front of you. Bend your right knee into a ‘passé position’ by pointing your right foot and pressing the inside edge of your right foot along the inside of your left knee. Draw your abs in tight and lift your legs off the mat and towards the chest (maintaining passé position). Bring your right knee all the way up to the right side of your chest and then lower your legs (still in passé) back down, about two inches from the floor (or as low as you can). Repeat 8 times and then switch legs. Try to do 8 reps on each side, for up to 2 sets.
First up is the diet. This will become your most important component because it takes the most discipline, and if you’re not getting rid of the fat and water, then your abs are going to seem more like a two-pack. With the diet, don’t drastically cut carbs—instead burn them. Keep carbs constant until your abs are truly ready to be seen, then a quick cut will rip out the final drops of water. This is the biggest mistake I’ve seen, dropping carbs too fast and too much, which reduces energy and forces “skinny fat” syndrome instead of good fat burning. Increase your protein to an additional 50-60g per day and amino acid intake to 10-20g per day of supplementation; do this while increasing your veggie intake, so that you can get your calorie count where it needs to be to shed the excess poundage. To reduce excess water weight, add natural diuretic-based products that have dandelion and green tea extract and uva ursi and cranberry. Also, make sure to hit a fat burner that cooperates with your gut, and keep tabs on your indulgences. When you’re out, resist the urge to consume heavy or sugary drinks and fatty foods. Lastly, eat several smaller meals each day to maintain fuel and curb appetite.
“I’m a sous chef at Sac-a-lait in New Orleans, and I average 12-hour days where I’m tasting a lot of food in the kitchen—including desserts, as part of my job is to develop new treats to put on the menu. That’s why my husband and I meal prep every Sunday. I’ll bring meals that are high in protein and full of green veggies, so that when I’m tempted to really dig in to the high-calorie food, I can quickly eat that instead. It allows me to really enjoy and savor the small bites of everything else I eat, too.” —Rocko Payne, @rockopayne
Thankfully, if you’re already reasonably fit, just a few tweaks to your routine here, a few modifications to your diet there, and you’ll be well on your way to shredded stomach glory. To that end, we’ve gathered up the best tips and tricks—expert-approved advice to ensure that, in no time, you’ll have the sculpted abs of your dreams. And for some core-specific moves, check out The Best Workouts For Getting That Summer Six-Pack.
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."
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.
2. Cut out or greatly curtail your consumption of refined sugar. Not all calories are equal when you're trying to lose weight and develop a six-pack, Herrington says. For example, 200 calories from a robust serving of beans or from a sugary cookie provide vastly different amounts of nutrition. A serving of beans would typically contain good amounts of protein, potassium, magnesium and dietary fiber, while a cookie packed with sugar is mostly empty calories, Herrington says. She advises staying away from foods like white bread, cakes and pies and white crackers that are laden with refined sugar. You should also eschew sugary sports drinks, fruit juices and sodas, in favor of plain water or milk. "The biggest thing I advise people to avoid is added sugars," Herrington says. "If you want to cut out body fat, cut that out. Refined sugar isn't doing you any good. You get a temporary boost of energy, then you crash and crave more. It's like burning money; it's a waste." Eating too much refined sugar is also linked to fatty liver disease, obesity and diabetes, she 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