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.
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."
Calorie Counting — I count my calories to make sure I’m on track everyday. I highly recommend the HealthifyMe app. They have an excellent database of food and dishes that you can select and track calories for. They also provide the exact macro breakdown for foods with a day-wise and week-wise analysis of your nutrition. I averaged out between 1500–1600 calories on Cardio Days and 1800–1900 calories on Weight Training Days.
Carb cycling — I followed a form of carb cycling where I would have low carbs, moderate fat and high protein on Cardio Days (Tue and Thu) and moderate carbs, low fat, high protein on Weight Training Days (Mon, Wed, Fri, Sat). I’ll explain why. On cardio days, you want your body to utilise as much energy as it can in the form of fat to burn without providing it extra energy from carbs. On weight training days, you need to have enough energy to push hard at the gym, replenish your muscles and providing them the food they need to grow.
Because of its difficulty, it is not recommended for beginners, and it is extremely important to do it correctly. Sloppy or half-baked form won't help your abs, and it just might harm your neck and back. Check out the detailed article about the dragon flag to learn the proper way to do this movement, and a video to learn about progressions before you try it.
Despite the fact that sit-ups been widely rebuked—everyone from Harvard Medical School to the U.S. Army advises against performing them—you shouldn’t discount the classic move just yet. The sit-up’s “primary function is to work your rectus abdominis, which are those six-pack muscles that most people want,” says Katie Barrett, lead instructor at B/SPOKE Cycling Studio in Boston and a certified personal trainer. “But doing that full sit-up is also going to work your hip flexors and other stabilizing core muscles.” The key is making sure you’re doing them correctly. (And here’s how to do just that).
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.
Whey Protein — Yes, it’s completely safe to consume good quality whey protein AND necessary in my opinion because they are quickly digested after a heavy workout, repair your muscles, help them grow stronger and allow you to push even harder at the gym the next day. The Indian market is flooded with fake supplements that contain dangerous chemicals and steroids which is where the fear of consuming them stems from. There have been reports where retailers on popular E-commerce websites have been accused on selling fake supplements. I recommend buying supplements from trusted brands and nutrition stores even if you have to pay a premium. I currently use Ultimate Nutrition ProStar 100% Whey Protein purchased from Nutrabay or Healthkart. If you’re just starting out and looking for a decent, cheaper option, try MuscleBlaze Whey Protein purchased from Healthkart. I used this for my second month of training after which I switched to my present one. I did not consume any whey protein during my first month of training but tried to get in as much protein as I could through food.
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.
Why it made the list: Those infomercials got one thing right! Some EMG data suggests that using an ab wheel may beat out hanging leg raises, sit-ups, and reverse crunches for the top muscle activator. This movement capitalizes on the concept of anti-extension perfectly; as you roll out, your trunk must actively fire (eccentric motion) to maintain a neutral spine without collapsing under your body weight and gravity. Watch that you don't risk your back by allowing it to droop into extension at the bottom, though!
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.
The math is simple: keeping your calories down is a surefire way to keep your weight down. But make sure you don’t dip too low. Eating too little can slow down your metabolism, which can have adverse effects on your body. “It doesn’t know when the next meal is,” says Shapiro. Put another way: when it comes time for your body to burn off calories, it may hold on to them instead. Think of your body like a furnace. It constantly needs fuel intake to continue burning.
Why it made the list: There are many reasons to like leg raise variations, but one is their scalability. You can start doing bent knee raises in the Roman chair or ab straps to focus on the lower core, work up to straight leg raises, and then move to a hanging bar. By the time you can do full straight-leg toes-to-bar raises, your entire core will have strength for days.
Why it made the list: Decline-bench crunches amp up the challenge by increasing the range of motion over standard crunches, and you can dial up (or down) the degree of difficulty by adjusting the angle of the bench. Adding a medicine ball or weight plate against your chest adds a further level of customizable resistance. This also allows you to manipulate where you want to fail: low, medium, or high reps.
That's why Jack recommends doing 360 abs to sculpt a washboard stomach and improve core stability all at once. While in a pushup position, you must keep your torso completely still as your legs create sweeping circles in different directions. Doing smaller loops hit your six-pack muscles, while bigger ones hit your entire midsection including your obliques, hips, and lower back.
Every beer you drink has about 150 calories. And most of those calories are “empty”—or, in other words, nutritionally useless. If you’re a regular beer drinker, you could be consuming hundreds or thousands or entirely useless calories each week. Those add up fast. A good alternative libation would be tequila, which has less than half the calories per alcohol volume—and zero carbs. If you must throw back a bottle or two, though, be sure you’re drinking any of the 30 Best Post-Workout Beers.
Do it: Lay face up on the floor with arms straight above your shoulders. To start, bring your knees directly over your hips and bend at the knee so that your calf forms a 90-degree angle with your thigh. Next, simultaneously lower your left arm above your head while straightening your right leg and sending it towards the floor. Pause, return to the starting position, and then repeat on the opposite side. Do 14 alternating reps to complete one set.
While legs should never be forgotten, this program is designed to concentrate on the abs and upper-body beach muscles. Hit legs on abs/cardio day by isolating each body part at the end of your routine. The idea of isolating muscle groups and upping the volume is predicted by research that backs applied solutions, which we have seen from those with rock-solid physiques.
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!
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.
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.
“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