Tighten your abdominal muscles and protect your spine with the most effective ab exercises from the American Council on Exercise (ACE). Learn proper techniques and step-by-step instruction from America's Authority on Fitness. This large collection of exercises is also featured in complete workout routines that include full-body and at-home workouts. Whether you?re looking for beginner level training or advanced fitness programs, we have something here for everyone to target core muscle groups. Choose from a wide variety of lower ab exercises, standing trunk rotations, reverse crunches and more.
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.
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!
To do it: Start with feet in a wide stance, knees bent, arms up on guard. Keeping your lower body still, quickly lean your upper body to the right, then come back through the center and lean to the left. Repeat lean back to the right. Next, lower your upper body, from the right around to the left side, making a half circle with your torso. Return to start position. That’s one rep. (Tip: it helps to keep a steady rhythm with this move, think—or say aloud—1, 2, 3, weave to help you keep your tempo). Repeat 10 times total, alternating starting on the right and left sides.
We put this on the list because of how easy it is to manipulate the degree of difficulty. If a regular plank is too easy for you, lift an arm, or a leg—or an arm and a leg. Put your feet into a TRX and give that a whirl. Still too easy? Take your feet out, and put your forearms in. Each one of these progressions leads to a greater training stimulus to the abs.

To do it: Start in a plank position with one small towel placed under each ball of your foot, legs together. Bring your left knee in towards the right side of your chest, squeezing your abs. Then, straighten your right leg back out to full plank and bring your right knee in towards the left side of the your chest and back out to full plank. Next, draw both knees into your chest at the same time and then slide your legs back out to full plank. That’s one rep. Build up to 3 sets of 12-15 reps (resting in between). 

Here’s a how a standard HIIT routine goes: one minute of strenuous exercise followed by 30 seconds of rest, repeated four to six times. You can do it for anything: sprinting followed by walking; biking full-steam followed by a casual pace; butterfly strokes followed by a doggy paddle. Or, if you really want to turn up the heat on HIIT, try out The Single Best HIIT Workout For Turning Back the Clock.
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!
Stability moves like the plank are a great way to strengthen a weak core and prevent lower back pain. But if you want to kick things up a notch, then start dancing. When you perform the breakdancer, you'll quickly move your feet from side to side and across your body. However, you must maintain the same rigid, straight torso that you would when performing a plank.

Abdominal muscles consist of three layers. The very deepest layer is the transversus abdominis, which acts as the body's girdle, providing support and stability and plays a critical role in exhalation. Next is the rectus abdominis, which flexes the spine. Closest to the surface are the internal and external obliques, which turn the trunk and provide the body with rotation and lateral movement.


How to use this list: Clayton suggests doing each exercise below for 30 to 45 seconds before every run. “This will fire up your muscles so they’re active when you need them most,” Clayton says. Clayton even demonstrates them herself, so you can nail the perfect form. You will need a mat and a set of sliders. Two hand towels or paper plates will work. too.
Protein — The building block of muscle and that mystical term for most beginners. If you don’t consume enough protein while staying in a caloric deficit, you’re going to lose a lot of muscle mass along with that fat, drastically reducing your TDEE. More muscle means you can get away with eating more because muscles store glycogen which in turn give you energy. Also, more muscle makes you look more fab. Ever wondered why those people who go on a crash diet and lose a lot of weight gain it all back when they return to their old eating habits? Now you know!
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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.
Do it: Think of this as an upside-down dead bug. Start in a tabletop position, with your shoulders over wrists and hips over knees. Engage your core while simultaneously lifting your right arm and left leg. Your foot should be flexed as you kick back, and your palm should face in towards your body. Pause for one second when your arm and leg are at the same height as your torso, and then bring your elbow and knee to touch underneath the body. Repeat on the other side for one rep, and do five reps for one set.
Intermittent Fasting(IF) — Basically, skip breakfast and have only water/black coffee till lunch. In IF, you don’t eat for a period of 16 hours, typically skipping one major meal. You avoid spiking your insulin levels, your HGH is elevated and allow your body to tap into fat for energy. It also allows you to have a larger lunch and dinner, keeping you full longer for the rest of the day. IF is also shown to have various health benefits and is completely safe. Fun fact, even Terry Crews from the TV show ‘Brooklyn nine nine’ follows IF to stay ripped at 49. I followed IF for the first 3 months when I worked out in the evening. I also skip breakfast on treat days so I can eat a whole lot of food that evening!

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.

Here’s what my meals look liked. I worked out in the evening for the first 3 months, morning for the next 2 (as I moved to a different city) and then back to evening again. It’s only the timing of the meals that changes, the macros and daily calories remained pretty much the same.If you’re based out of Mumbai, I highly recommend HealthOnPlate’s services.


“A silly thing I do on a daily basis is focus on sitting or standing tall with good posture and then ‘sucking it in,’ for lack of a better term. Basically, I tighten my core and hold onto it for as long as I can, and I keep doing that throughout the day. It’s a great way to not feel like a lump while sitting in front of a computer for a long period of time, and it’s like a bonus workout for my abs.” —Dorothy Beal, @mileposts
But alas, this process doesn’t happen overnight. And by now, the washboard abs industrial complex has produced such a dizzying volume of exercises, tricks, and gizmos promising to transform your midsection into a Hemsworth brother’s midsection that even after you’ve settled on a strategy, it’s hard not to wonder whether all that diligence and discipline is really making a difference.
We all want a solid core for different reasons: sports performance, pain prevention, that finish line photo—but strengthening your midsection is particularly important for runners. That’s because your core is the stabilizing center of your body (it keeps you standing, least of all sprinting), and it can make or break your speed goals, prevent (or contribute to!) an injury, and yes, make you feel pretty badass in a sports bra.

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.
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.
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!
Plank poses are very effective at tightening your tummy, whether you do these types of exercises in a yoga class or as part of your gym workout. The classic plank pose involves lying down on your stomach, then raising all your body weight up on your toes and forearms or hands in a “plank” position. You then hold the pose for as long as you can. You can change it up by doing a side plank (put all your weight on one forearm or hand and the sides of your feet), or by doing back leg lifts while in the traditional plank pose.
Supplementation — It’s hard to get all your macros from food, especially while staying in a caloric deficit. More food means more calories, buying more ingredients, more cooking and lot many issues that you don’t really want to deal with on a daily basis. Supplements are called so because they are meant to supplement your nutrition and lifestyle, not act as a substitute. It’s imperative to find a fine line between the two for yourself and use them judiciously. I use the following supplements and have linked them to the exact brand, product and place I purchased them from. I am not paid to promote anything I’ve mentioned here. My sole motive is to tell you what I used and how it could possibly help you too.
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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.
“I’m a sous chef at Sac-a-lait in New Orleans, and I average 12-hour days where I’m tasting a lot of food in the kitchen—including desserts, as part of my job is to develop new treats to put on the menu. That’s why my husband and I meal prep every Sunday. I’ll bring meals that are high in protein and full of green veggies, so that when I’m tempted to really dig in to the high-calorie food, I can quickly eat that instead. It allows me to really enjoy and savor the small bites of everything else I eat, too.” —Rocko Payne, @rockopayne
While staying hydrated is important no matter your fitness goals, you absolutely have to drink up if you want to see the abs you’ve been working so hard to sculpt. Your body is two thirds water, and you want to make sure it stays that way, Delbridge says. Keeping your water levels up prevents water retention and helps your body rid itself of toxins and excess salt to reduce boat. And if you’re puffy, your abs aren’t going to look as chiseled as they could. When you hit the urinals, your pee should be pretty much clear.
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.
Begin in the basic plank position. Your torso will be in a straight line from head to toe and avoid any drooping or sagging of the hips or shoulders. Also, avoid arching your back, or hanging your head. Warm up by maintaining the plank for at least 60 seconds while maintaining control. If you start shaking or losing form, drop to your knees and rest a few seconds and continue until you've completed a full minute

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.


How to: Lie faceup on floor with arms and legs in the air, knees bent 90 degrees. Maintaining contact between low back and floor, brace core, then slowly and simultaneously lower right leg until heel nearly touches floor and left arm until hand nearly touches floor overhead. Pause, then return to start and repeat on the opposite side. That’s one rep. Do 15 reps.
Try starting your day off eating heavier, and ending on a light dinner. Instead of waking up and running out of the door with a banana, eating a small lunch, and then eating a hefty dinner, try making your breakfast your heaviest meal and your dinner the lightest. For carb intake at dinner time, try to ingest the wet types of carbs that are in high-water, medium-fiber foods.
I have about 2 treat meals a week. ‘Treat’ sounds better than ‘cheat’ because after all, you’ve earned it! This is when I occasionally indulge in some beer, a slice of pizza, creamy pasta, something fried or maybe ice-cream. I’m a huge fan of Middle-Eastern cuisine so one of my meals over a weekend would definitely be a shawarma, a hummus platter and some kebabs on the side. I have a diet coke sometimes but mostly avoid all other soft-drinks including fruit juice (too much sugar, even the ‘natural’ variants). It’s imperative you make a conscious attempt to stay away from all of this on regular days.
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.
This athletic move takes the plank to an all-new level. "It not only improves your core stability, but it targets muscles in your hips, groin, lower back, and often-neglected lower abs," says Durkin. Get your heart pumping by speeding up the movement, or hammer your core muscles by slowing it down. Either way, the exercise will boost your athleticism and will give you something to bare at the beach.
4. Be sure to eat enough protein. As you lower your calorie intake and cut down on processed foods and refined sugar, be sure to get enough protein, Singer says. "Prioritizing protein will help you maintain muscle mass," he says. Lean meats, skinless chicken and turkey, beans and lentils, tofu and soy-based foods, eggs, nuts and low-fat dairy products are good sources of protein. Your body breaks down protein into amino acids, which it uses to build muscle, according to Harvard Health. Research published in 2015 in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that for all adults, consuming high-quality protein (from eggs, beef and dairy products, for instance) in combination with physical activity "represents a promising strategy to delay the onset of sarcopenia [a disease characterized by loss of muscle mass and strength]."
To do it: Lie on your stomach with your upper body propped up on your elbows and a dumbbell upright on the floor about six inches in front of your chest. Tuck your toes under and lift your body into a full elbow plank, making a straight line from your head to your heels, drawing in your abdominals. To start the move, lift your right arm off the floor and use your best freestyle stroke to reach over and past the dumbbell—as far as you can—allowing your hips to rotate into the stroke and turning through the balls of your feet. Finish the full stroke before returning to elbow plank position. Repeat with the left arm. That's one rep. Do 10 reps total, alternating sides each time.
To do it: Stand with your feet hip-width apart, shoulders down, and your abs drawn in. Hinge forward at your waist and inch forward, walking with your hands into a top-of-the-pushup (or plank) position. Hold plank for three seconds, being sure to keep your chest lifted and your belly button drawn into your spine. Your body should form a straight line from your ears to your ankles. Then, perform one pushup by bending your elbows to the sides and lowering your body towards (but not touching) the floor, maintaining a straight spine.
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 on your back and bend your knees, placing a Swiss ball across your hips. With your hands on top of the ball and your body crunched forward as demonstrated, push your arms down as hard as possible for six seconds. The harder you push, the more the ball will resist you, giving your abs an intense stimulus. Exhale, relax for a few seconds, and then repeat.
There are thousands of trainers and infomercials hawking quick, effortless programs that are guaranteed to give users abs in mere minutes a day — as long as they buy an expensive piece of equipment or DVD set, of course. For some people with impeccable genetics or bulletproof diets, that might just be enough to make their core ripple with muscle. But most bodies just aren’t built that way.

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.)
Directions: Begin each of these workouts with a five-minute warmup, or go through the moves after you’ve done your usual cardio or strength training when you’re already warm. Each should also begin with 20 reps of what Fitzgerald calls “transverse pullbacks”—where you pull your navel toward your spine, as if bracing yourself against a sucker punch—as a way to activate the muscles for the work you’re about to ask of them. You’ll also need some dumbbells for some of these moves.
Some experts recommend eating six small meals a day, instead of the more conventional three, cutting out added sugars and processed foods, and loading up on dependable sources of protein to help build new muscle in your midsection. Before you commit to any new diet, though, speak to your doctor and/or a nutritionist to see what they believe will work best for you.
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.
This is exactly the type of article I was looking for. I’m female 5’1” and a runner. I weighed 115 until I started at the gym and now I’m about 118 but like the way I look better now because everything is tightening and I can already see some definition. I don’t have a lot of body fat but particularly I have a very thin midsection. I don’t eat clean but I do keep track of my calories and keep a balance. Honestly I don’t want to be any thinner and don’t want to lose my curves by losing any weight but I want abs! Any extra weight I carry on my lower body (which is why I run!). But I want abs without having to cut out my iced coffee! So as long as I keep up with my calories and keep a low body fat I can still get abs? I am ab training about 3 times a week. Sorry for the book! Lol! Just blindly trying to reach my goals on my own!
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.
A. Unfortunately, most people don’t have the right notion of what a natural six pack or a lean body looks like. We’re so constantly fed images from magazine covers and movie posters, it’s hard to lose sight. These people use various editing techniques, strategic lighting and poses to get the best shots and convince us that that is what muscular men look like which is not true. Many popular Hollywood/Bollywood actors resort to consuming anabolic steroids and drugs which is the reason they look absolutely shredded for a particular film. The on-screen muscle you see on them is easy 10+ years of hard earned gains for natural individuals. Try comparing an actor’s in-film photos to photos taken a year or two afterwards. You’ll know what I’m talking about. If you want to look big/buff naturally, you need to put on some fat, potentially losing your abs and muscle definition in the process. As for the ‘skinny’ issue, the problem is so many people are overweight these days that that’s become the new ‘normal’ so when they see someone with a healthy, lean body composition they think it’s skinny. This issue should go away over time when one builds more lean muscle.

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.”

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