As easy as the models and athletes in our magazine make being lean and ripped look, we’ve got to be honest, it couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s hard, it takes time, and it demands an unwavering degree of discipline. In our on-going efforts to assist you in sculpting the body you’ve always wanted, we’ve laid out the gold rules to getting ripped.
The Torso Track comes out as number 5 for effective ab exercises, but this is one of my least favorite exercises because it can cause lower-back pain, particularly if you roll out too far. In fact, in the ACE study, researchers found that a significant number of subjects reported lower-back pain, so you may want to skip the expense, and discomfort, of this one and choose other exercises that can target the abs with equal effectiveness.
Lying on your back with hands either by your side or tucked under your pelvis, keep legs as straight as possible without locking them out and raise them so your heels point at the ceiling., lift your glutes off the floor and feet towards the ceiling as your twist hips to the left, feet point right, then lower, lift, and twist to the opposite side. That’s one rep and we’re already tired.
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).
“For me, getting a six-pack was about paying attention to what I was eating and lifting heavy weights at CrossFit. I do have a semi-strict diet, and I loosely count macros (focusing on daily carbs, protein, and fat intake rather than blindly counting calories) to stay balanced and on track. It sounds like a lot of work, but it really isn’t. Eventually, it just became a part of my lifestyle, and it’s something I enjoy doing. I even started a custom meal-plan business based on macros because I had such great results!” —Tina Haupert, @carrotsncake
No matter how strong your core is, you aren’t going to see a six-pack if your muscles are hiding behind a big layer of fat, says Jim White, R.D., owner of Jim White Fitness & Nutrition Studios in Virginia. “Each individual is going to be slightly different, but the ideal range of body fat in men is eight to 20 percent,” he says. Get below six percent and you could compromise your health.
Lie on your back with knees bent to 90-degree angles. Straighten your arms by your sides, and lengthen your fingertips. Press the backs of your shoulders against a mat, and slide them down away from your ears. Focusing on the deep waist muscles, inhale and slowly move your knees to the right, then exhale and return to starting position. Repeat on the left; that’s 1 rep. Do 5–8 reps.
There are many ways you can do this move, even including a Pallof press with rotation, but most start at a cable stack with a D-handle just below shoulder height. Grab the handle in two hands, take 4-5 steps away from the pulley, and turn so that your side is facing the plate stack. Without rotating at the hips, press the D-handle straight out, and return back to center; all the while, you'll fight against turning toward the pulley. Be sure to maintain a neutral spine and keep your shoulders down during the entire pressing motion.
When it comes to improving core stability, the plank has your back (and your front!). By working your transverse abdominis — the deep core muscles that wrap around your middle — as well as your back, shoulders and glutes (yes, you should activate your butt, too), you get a full body burn in one isometric movement. But the best thing about planks: You can continuously switch them up and make your muscles work even more. Check out these creative twists on a typical plank routine and you’ll see what we mean.
Spend a lot of money on expensive supplements and food — There are plenty of (rather expensive) supplements like plant protein powders and vegetarian meal replacement shakes. You might have to substitute more of solid food for these supplements to hit your ideal macro goals. As a vegetarian, you’re also not going to get in a lot of BCAAs through food so you might have to supplement with them separately. I’m not the one to tell you whether this is a good idea or not. If you can afford purchasing fancy food and supplements frequently, up to you.
Creatine works twofold. It helps your muscles retain water, which means they’ll really pop, and it gives you long-lasting energy, which means you can make it through a grueling core workout, no problem. And taking it is effortless: just drop a scoop into your water bottle next time you head to the gym. (Best Life recommends the fruit punch flavor. It’s far and away the smoothest.) And for more great workout-boosting dietary additions, check out the 50 Best Supplements on the Planet.
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The first step to finding your six pack is to clean up your diet. If you want to see your ab muscles, you need to decrease your overall body fat. Get rid of processed "junk" foods, sugars and processed carbs. Eat more vegetables, nuts, and fruits, organic lean protein and healthy fats, such as olive oil, fish oils, and avocados. Try eating several small meals each day and avoid late night snacking. Eat some protein for breakfast, lots of vegetables, fruits, and fiber and drink water rather than calorie-laden beverages. Don't cut calories drastically or you could inadvertently lower your metabolism. Bottom line: eat more high quality, nutrient-rich foods and eat fewer empty, processed calories.
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Even though your rectus abdominus is the muscle you want to see when you look in the mirror, your inner core muscles, including your internal obliques and transverse abdominis, are the foundation for your six-pack. “You would not build a mansion on a weak foundation, so don’t try to build a six-pack on a weak core,” Cary says. This is when you’ll want to try out some more creative core workouts like planks, dead bugs, core twists, and farmer’s walks, he says. All of these tap your core’s ability to stabilize, rather than crunch, your core.
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.
Why it made the list: Yes, a leg exercise made the top 10 list for abs. Anyone who has ever pushed their potential in the squat knows exactly why! Sure, squat variations work the legs and lower back, but they also crush the abs. Both front and back squats force your abs and spinal erectors to work overtime to maintain a neutral, upright position. If both were not firing at high rates, you'd fold under the weight or drop in a split second.
Lie face-up and place your lower legs on a Swiss ball. Extend your right arm overhead and bend your left arm at a 90-degree angle; then grasp the upper portion of your right arm so you form a cradle for your head. Flexing your toes and holding the ball in place by contracting your hamstrings, crunch forward to the finish position. In this position, increase the tension on your abs by attempting to pull the ball towards you with your hamstrings. Return to the start and exhale. Your rectus abdominus can flex only about 30 degrees (strictly), so when you perform this exercise it may not be necessary to lift your shoulders off the floor to achieve peak contraction. You can make the exercise more difficult by pulling harder with your hamstrings, maintaining peak contraction longer and by holding a weight in your free hand.
Once you've reduced the layer of body fat to the point where you can find your six pack, performing specific ab and core strengthening exercises will make them much more visible. Once you understand how to safely exercise your abs, you'll find core exercises are most effective when the torso works as a solid unit and both front and back muscles contract at the same time, and you perform multi-joint movements.
Start on your back, bend your knees up with shins parallel to the floor and extend your arms to the ceiling. Straighten your left leg and extend your right arm back to about 6 inches off of the floor, and then come back to the original position. Then, repeat the exercise on the opposite side. Just be sure to keep your abs engaged throughout this move to really work your muscles!
In regards to weight training, use mainly compound exercises in your routine. Compound exercises involve movement at more than one joint and involve mainly major muscle groups. Bench press, squats, and dumbbell rows are all examples of compound exercises. These types of exercises stimulate more muscle fibers than isolation exercises and are more metabolically demanding.
“You will not make more muscle by trying this route,” says McComsey. When you do cardio you’re burning calories, but you’re not stimulating your muscles to grow as you would with weight training. “The more muscle you have, the more calories and fat you’ll be burning,” he says. McComsey recommends hitting the weight room three or four days per week, with one of those days being a circuit with a variety of exercises. If you need to do cardio, try one day of 20-minutes of fast-slow intervals.
But if you’re searching for lower abs exercises, we need to get one thing out of the way first: “Lower abs exercises” aren’t really a thing. “Your core is comprised of the rectus abdominis, which runs down the front of your body and creates that ‘six-pack’ effect; your obliques (side abs); your erector spinae, which runs up your back; and your transverse abdominis (the deep core located under those six-pack muscles),” says Lindsay Clayton, a certified run coach and trainer at Barry’s Bootcamp in New York City. “When people point to the lower part of their stomach and say their ‘lower abs’, they're really just referring to their rectus abdominis, and you can’t only work the lower part in isolation.”
A. Like I said, I personally don’t believe in dieting. It’s about consuming good foods while being smart about consuming the ‘lesser good foods’ by having them in sensible quantities at the right time. I’m all for having an ice-cream once in a while and don’t hesitate in enjoying an entire (small) serving after which I slightly adjust my meals the next couple of days, skip breakfast and do a little more cardio. Really depends but it all finally averages out.
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.”
5. Engage in resistance training aimed at your abs. In addition to eating right and losing weight, doing certain types of exercises can help you achieve a better-defined abdomen, Singer says. "I'm sure everybody knew somebody in high school who had tremendous abs who ate whatever he or she wanted and had tremendous abs without working out," Singer says. "Most of us aren't that lucky." If developing a six-pack is your goal, doing exercises aimed at your abs can be part of a successful regimen. Such workouts would include weighted crunches and weighted sit-ups, he says. Cardio workouts are helpful for shedding pounds, but won't, on their own, lead to defined abs.
Yuri Elkaim is one of the world’s most trusted health and fitness experts. A former pro soccer player turned NYT bestselling author of The All-Day Energy Diet and The All-Day Fat Burning Diet, his clear, science-backed advice has transformed the lives of more than 500,000 men and women and he’s on a mission to help 100 million people by 2040. Read his inspiring story, “From Soccer to Bed to No Hair on My Head” that started it all.
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.
To do it:Get into pushup position with both hands on the stability ball directly below your shoulders (your feet can be slightly wider than shoulder-width apart to give you extra stability). Contract your abdominals and try to bring your body into a straight line from your neck all the way to you toes (your butt should not be sticking out, so contract your glutes and keep your hips down). Once you are stable, lift your right leg a few inches off the ground and hold for 10 seconds. Repeat on the other side. Try to do three sets of a 10-second hold, and then advance to a 30-second hold.