World-renowned spine specialist Stuart McGill recently referred to the Swiss-Ball Stir-the-Pot as the best core exercise you can do. Try it once, and you’ll start to see why: It’s hard. Make that really hard. That’s because it combines two elements that leave your abs screaming: instability and dynamic movement. This combo allows you to work your rectus abdominis (a.k.a. six-pack muscles), obliques, and all of the muscles that help stabilize your spine from just about every direction. The upshot: an ab workout like you’ve never done.
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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.
For training, you need to set a serious pace for when you hit the gym. Standing around your overloaded squat bar that you were going to do quarter reps on every five minutes won’t cut it. Start serious volume short-rest training by laying a smackdown on your muscles. Building mass comes at the price of getting lean, so maintenance and permanent pump will be the strategy—the results will be worth it. For training you’re going to do 4 exercises at 4 sets and 12 reps minimum per body part approach. It’s encouraged to do 5 or even 6 sets, and if you’re not struggling with those, then go further. When it comes to abs, slow and steady wins the race. I know it sounds cliché, but large range-of-motion reps with added weight for your 12 reps will produce far deeper cuts than doing 50 crappy situps. Give yourself at least a 4-count per rep on your abs.
Building muscle and burning fat at the same time is the holy grail of bodybuilding but many people believe that it’s impossible. Here’s how it goes. Experienced bodybuilders first bulk then cut. Bulking is the period where they eat more calories than they burn (caloric surplus) in order to pack on muscle mass. Cutting is the period where they eat fewer calories than they burn (caloric deficit) in order to burn off the fat they inevitably gained during the bulk. The remaining muscle after bulking and cutting is their lean muscle gain.
Lie on your back, arms behind your head, like you’re in a crunch position, with legs raised and bent at a 90-degree angle. Kick your legs back and forth like you’re riding a bike. While you do that, alternatively twist the upper part of your torso in tandem with your legs. For maximum toning, do this for as long as you can take it. Once you master this move, you’ll never forget it—it’s just like riding a bike!
But instead of just trying to perform as many reps as possible, slow down and really focus on the quality of the movement—especially the eccentric, or downward motion, of the exercise, he says. “The eccentric contraction is the most important phase when sculpting any muscle.” Plus, focusing on quality over quantity will help protect your back (some experts say crunches can be potentially troublesome for guys with back issues.)
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.
If the basic plank is too easy, after 60 seconds, add a few arm and leg lifts to the next 60 seconds. Every 15 seconds, alternate lifting one arm out in front of you while maintaining your posture for 10 seconds and repeating on the other side, and then switch to the legs. Lift the toes 5-10 inches off the floor and hold it for 15 seconds, and repeat with the other leg.
This way, you will prevent muscle exhaustion and injuries. There are several exercises for your abdomen that are highly efficient, such as the bicycle, Captain’s chair leg raise, exercise ball crunches, long arm crunches or the well-known crunch with heel push. These particular exercises are especially designed to stimulate your abdominal muscles, and they also involve several other muscle groups. Vary the exercises and add weights as necessary to make sure you are always pushing yourself.
To do it: Stand with your feet planted 3-4 feet apart, toes slightly turned out, hands on your hips. Lower into a plie by bending your knees out over your toes and lowering your hips directly underneath your shoulders. Then, as your straighten back up, slowly lift the right knee up towards the right shoulder. As you go back into the plie, slowly return the foot to the floor. Be sure to move at a very controlled pace to really engage the obliques the entire time—on the way up and on the way down. Do 10 repetitions on the right side, then another 10 repetitions on the left side for a total of 20.
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).
"This exercise is so effective because it teaches you not to rely on your bigger muscle groups (like your thighs) and focuses on using your abdominals correctly in a controlled manner without using momentum. The use of the ball gives you natural feedback of your weaker side so that you can adjust and work on symmetry of your musculature, preventing future injuries."
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.
How to: Lie on your left side with your legs straight and your right leg stacked on your left. Position yourself so your weight is resting on your left forearm and the outside edge of your left foot. Your elbow should be directly beneath your shoulder, and your upper arm should be perpendicular to the floor. Align your body so it forms a straight line from your neck to your ankles, and place your right hand on your hip. Lower your hips toward the ground a couple inches, then come back up to start. That’s one rep. Do 15 reps on each side.