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!
Everyone has six pack abs. They’re there, whether you believe it or not. The problem is that not everyone’s body composition is such that their abs are actually visible. These muscles don’t need to be created – they need to be revealed. Remember our “strongman” example – powerful upper body, mighty arms, and a layer of soft flab around their midsection? Believe me, Mr. Strongman is packing some serious stomach muscles, but like on a lot of us, they’re hidden under layers of adipose tissue. That’s why they’re not visible.
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.
6. Seek guidance from experts. As with many health issues, getting assistance from experts can be enormously helpful. If you want to lose weight, particularly fat, seeking guidance from a registered dietitian or a nutritionist can be very beneficial, Herrington says. Similarly, if you want to build on weight loss to achieve more defined abs, consulting with a certified sports trainer can aid you in developing a workout regimen that will help you achieve your goals, Singer says.
Nothing says fit like a washboard stomach. But scoring high-definition abs isn't as easy as cranking out crunch after crunch. To sculpt a stronger, more chiseled core, you need the best ab workout to work the two dozen muscles between your hips and your shoulders in the many ways they function. After all, your abs do more than flex on a daily basis—they stabilize and rotate, too.
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.
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.
“If you need a small treat and indulgence per day, to keep you from overdoing it on the weekends,” says Shapiro, go for it. Just be sure to “stick to about 150 calories or less.” It’s a small trick to help you stay on-track. For a good sweet treat, consider dark chocolate (that’s a bar with a 70 percent or higher cacao rating). According to a study in Circulation Heart Failure, the flavanols within can slash your risk of heart disease by more than 30 percent.
The starting position has you sitting at about a 45-degree angle and holding a medicine ball firmly with both hands in front of you. Start the movement by contracting your abs and slowly twisting from your torso to your right and tap the medicine ball on the floor beside you. Then quickly, but with a controlled motion, contract your abs and twist your torso and touch the medicine ball to the other side. Repeat 10-20 reps and rest.
When you allow carbs post-exercise your body rapidly absorbs the carbs directly into the muscle tissue, advancing growth. Post-exercise carbs additionally enable your muscles to recover speedily, which will give you better result quicker. Furthermore dietary fat in your diet will keep insulin levels stable, which will help you to bar from getting extra body fat.
Bodyweight training builds an excellent muscular foundation. After I built my six pack abs with bodyweight training, I wanted to build more muscle so I started lifting weights. 4 months after I started weightlifting, I was deadlifting 460 pounds, bench pressing 275 pounds, squatting 365 pounds and military pressing 175 pounds. I owe this incredibly fast progress to the foundation I built with bodyweight training. (If you don’t believe me, read Arnold Schwarzenegger’s biography that documents his bodybuilding career (which I reviewed here) and you’ll see that he also recommends newbies to start building muscle with bodyweight training.)
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.
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.
I use the ab machines at the gym. I do a couple variations on crunches (sitting up and lying down both on machines with weights. I can crunch 55lbs on the one that’s sitting position, 40 on the other), hanging leg lifts (which kill my shoulders), the oblique twist machine, as well as full body workouts. I just started the gym about 2 months ago and have really upped the weight since then so my body is definitely progressing.
If you’re wondering what my motivation was, here goes — About 2 years ago, I came across this article — Debarghya Das-My Transformation: How I lost 66 pounds and gained a 6 pack in 8 months. Oh boy, I was zapped. I told myself this is what I’m going to do, but in my own way and the best way I can. Looking back, I think I managed to stay true to myself. I’ve been incredibly lucky to connect with him today and tell him how much his journey inspired me everyday. I probably wouldn’t be writing this today if it wasn’t for him. Thank you deedy!
Another important tip that you should take into account when you try to get a six pack is the daily calorie intake. The ideal number of calories a person should consume also varies from one person to another. For instance, the average male with a normal body mass index, who works out three times a week should consume between 2000-2500 calories per day in order to stick to the actual weight.
“The bird dog forces you to keep your core stiff,” says Jack. “Lifting your knees off the ground just a couple of inches—as you do in this exercise—makes it even more challenging to keep your torso still as you switch arms and legs.” That means your hips and lower-back muscles, obliques, rectus abdominis (also known as the six-pack muscles) are working together to keep your spine stable.
Alcohol also hurts you in two other areas: “It is a diuretic, which dehydrates you and reduces energy levels,” he says. “It also can decrease testosterone in our bodies which is critical for creating muscle.” Next time you’re planning guys’ night, stick to one or two light beers or a hard liquor with a diet soda mixer. After that, opt for club soda with a lime—nobody but the bartender will know.
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.
Eat similar meals every day. "I pretty much eat the same thing, or substitutions that are very close to my normal meal plan, every day," Yobe says of her daily food intake, which includes a protein bar before her morning workout, a protein shake afterward, and two meals including chicken or fish, veggies like a green salad or bok choy, and a carb like rice, pasta, or potatoes. She also snacks on rice cakes with peanut butter, carrots, celery, and nuts. Although she admits this can be boring, the approach makes it easier for her to get all the nutrients she needs while remaining satisfied throughout the day.
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.
A regular pushup works your core. A reverse pushup will work it so hard your abs will want to form a labor union. “When your legs fire your body forward, your core has to work extremely hard to decelerate your body,” says B.J. Gaddour, C.S.C.S., director of Men's Health StreamFIT. So this ab exercise not only works your shoulders and arms, but gives you a killer core workout at the same time.
Try adding four or five to the end of your workout to challenge your core a little more, or turn them into a standalone workout—try doing 12-15 reps of each exercise and then repeating the circuit (of four or five exercises) three to four times, to start. If you feel tension in your lower back during any of these exercises, stop and reset, making sure your abs are really engaged and that your back is not arched. You can also try starting with fewer reps. If you still feel discomfort, skip that exercise and try a different that allows you to keep your spine in a safer position. (It's also helpful to read up on which abs exercises tend to be irritating for lower-back issues beforehand if that's a concern for you.)
Common knowledge will tell you that, to get six-pack abs, carbs are verboten. Common knowledge is right—kind of. The key is to avoid the wrong carbs, like French fries, and eat the right carbs, like sweet potatoes. These orange goodies are full of carotenoids, which prevent calories from turning into fat; fiber, which helps you stay sated, and ultimately eat less; and Vitamin C, which’ll give you energy (for working out). And for more ab-shredding foods, check out the 10 Healthy Carbs That Won’t Derail Your Six-Pack.
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.
Eat carbs. "There's this notion that carbs are bad and that you need crazy amounts of protein to be lean and fit," says Alcantara, who disagrees, and eats just as much carbs as protein, although the ideal ratio varies based on your goals. "Whatever you eat to get the results you want has to be sustainable, otherwise you're going to end up right back where you started with the same habits that got you there."