My only goal from day 1 was to “get a six pack in 6 months, no matter what it takes”. Achieving this in such a short time pushed me to the limit and it took everything I had in me to overcome the doubt and succeed. There have been a lot of times when I would genuinely doubt my genetics (do I even have abs?) and confidence, struggle with weight loss plateaus and battle with waves of depression. All of this while juggling a couple of the most challenging professional jobs and projects I had encountered yet.
Go beyond crunches. Sims prefers exercises that challenge you to stabilize your core against imbalance or gravity, like a hands plank with dumbbell pull-through and ab roll-outs using a core-training wheel. "They challenge the entire core by resisting movement instead of creating it," she says of these moves, which she recommends doing in sets of 10 three times. You can repeat the series several times a week.
I’d stand outside restaurants pretending to stare at my phone while my family and friends munched on dessert. There would be days when I would be completely broken from the inside-out after training with weights in the morning and running a 2k in the evening on no fuel. I’d find excuses to stay at home on the weekends and give up meeting friends only to stay away from food and drinks which didn’t align with my goal. I got used to awkward situations while placing ‘weird’ food orders at restaurants and stares from coworkers while shaking up my protein mix.
When it comes to working the core, many people focus on abdominal muscles, and neglect their obliques (or what you may know as “side abs”). But, says Barrett, these clandestine muscles are just as important: they “keep everything tucked in.” To get a good oblique workout in, head to the pulley machine and start doing some Paloff presses. If you don’t know how to perform the exercise, read our comprehensive guide on mastering the move.
1. Consume fewer calories than you're burning every day. Job one when trying to achieve a six-pack is to lose weight, which means expending more calories than you take in on a daily basis, says Dani Singer, a certified fitness nutrition specialist and certified personal trainer in Baltimore. He's the director of Fit2Go Personal Training. To optimize losing fat and not muscle, you need to be in a caloric deficit, eat adequate protein and strength train, he says. "The source of your food will affect health, but will have zero effect on your body composition," Singer says. "It's the total calories and macronutrients [protein, fat and carbs] from your foods that will determine how your body looks."
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So let's get to it. Here are the experts' choices on the most effective abdominal exercises. These should be performed two to three times weekly (for beginners, two is plenty to start). Each exercise should be executed until the point of momentary muscular failure, which should happen between 30 and 90 seconds. This is considered one set, which should be no more than 15 to 20 repetitions. Rest for 30 to 60 seconds. Concentrate on performing each exercise slowly with good form. Work up to completing two to three sets of each 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.
First off, it's easy to sit back while doing this move, letting your hip flexors do much of the work. Second, if you keep a flat back, it limits the degree to which you can hit the upper abdominals—your back has to round! And finally, your hands should stay in the same relative position next to your head for the duration of the set. Letting them drift away on the eccentric and then pulling them back again beside your head brings a lot of shoulder and upper body into the move.
Build a strong back and sculpt a rock-solid middle in one shot with the archer row. This ab exercise combines a staggered side plank with a dumbbell row. "As the load moves up and down, your body has to fight to resist rotation," says Gaddour. That means your entire core—lower-back muscles, obliques, rectus abdominis (also known as your six-pack muscles)—is working overtime to keep your spine stable.
The reason: Classic ab moves like crunches and situps work the muscles that allow you to flex (that is, round) your lower spine. True core exercises, on the other hand, train the muscles that prevent your spine from rounding. They also allow you to transfer force from your lower body to your upper body (in a golf swing, for example), and vice versa.
When guys talk about six-packs, they are really talking about one muscle, called the rectus abdominis. “The rectus abdominis runs from our lower ribs down to the top of our pubic bone, and fibrous bands of tissue break up the muscle along the way to give us the six-pack look we all desire,” explains kinesiologist David Cary, C.P.T., a T4 Coach at Equinox in Chicago. So, if you want to sprout six-pack abs, this is the muscle you need to work.