Instead, we've put together a full slate of top-level choices in no particular order, along with some explanation about what make each one great and the research backing them up, when available. When building this list, we considered bodyweight and loaded exercises, EMG studies, anti-rotation movements, and much more so that no ab exercise was left behind. That said, it's time to meet the crème de la crème of the core!
To make sure you stay safe, put one hand underneath the small of your back, crunch your head and shoulders up just a handful of inches, hold for about 10 seconds, and release back down, advises Stuart M. McGill, Ph.D., director of the spine biomechanics laboratory at the University of Waterloo. This move basically ensures that you aren’t rounding your back so that your weight doesn’t drop into your low spine, per McGill.
Why it made the list: It turns out the ball is good for more than just sitting and waiting for your partner to finish his set! A research team from California State, Sacramento demonstrated that the pike movement is one of the most effective total-ab workouts. It topped their EMG list for upper abs, lower abs, and obliques. This movement may be the heavy hitter that's been missing from your daily routine. While not exactly the same, the pike can also be done using a TRX system with similar results expected.
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.
Your core muscles allow you to stabilize your spine when you do pushups, shovel snow, walk up stairs, pick up your kids from the floor, and otherwise go about the motions of everyday life. "That's why the best ab exercises don't flex your spine, they keep your spine straight," says Durkin. The hip-up does exactly that while also sculpting your obliques and increasing your rotational control and stability.
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.
Start in a side plank with left forearm on floor, elbow under shoulder, feet stacked, and hips lifted so body forms one long, straight line. Stretch right arm up to ceiling. This is your starting position. Draw the right hand down and reach it below left underarm as you curl upper body forward so shoulders are parallel to floor. Return to starting position. Repeat for 30 seconds on each side.
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 in the air. Engage your core, and slowly twist your chest left, until it’s parallel to the ground. As you do this, thread your right arm through the space between your body and the floor. Raise back to start. That’s one rep. Do 15 reps on each side.
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.
My Cardio and Callisthenics circuits really helped me increase my stamina and perform like an athlete. Some of my favourite ones are Burpees, Crab Walk, Jumping Jacks, Jumping Squats, Kettle bell runs and in general, circuits variations that really push me to the limit. I followed an HIIT program on the treadmill where I would run for 2 minutes and walk for 1 for a total of 12 minutes. I used the preprogrammed interval training option on the elliptical and stepper machine. I also went to the park sometimes for my workouts. You’ll be surprised at how different and relatively harder it is to train in the open.
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.
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.
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 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."
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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.
But you can still go wrong. Because your feet are hooked, it's all too easy to pull through your thighs. Nor do you want to go all the way down to rest on the bench between reps; stay well off it. If you're not feeling a wicked burn, drop all the weight, put your hands on your belly, and really focus on the contraction at a slower pace. You can also introduce a cross-body movement, angling your elbow to the opposite-side thigh, to better engage the obliques.
On hardwood or tiled floor, place feet on two sliders and assume a high plank position (hands under shoulders, soft bend in elbows, butt and core engaged). Pull feet in toward chest, bending knees until you’re in a bear plank, knees below hips, but still lifted off floor. Slowly push feet back to high plank. Continue to repeat. To make it easier, move one leg at a time.
Hi. My name is Luel. 20 years old. From 154 to 127. I’ve been working out for about 6 weeks and I’m still a bit confused about the food that I SHOULD eat. All I know is to lessen the food that I eat. I eat only once a day because of my work. But I want to build up some muscle! Can you please give me some tips? I’m a filipino and a bit short in budget. lol. But i know there still some way to reach my goal.
The long arm crunch is ranked the 6th most effective ab exercise, changing the traditional floor crunch by straightening the arms behind you. This adds a longer lever to the move, adding a bit more challenge and difficulty. This move also emphasizes the upper part of the abs, although it's important to remember that your rectus abdominis is actually one long muscle that travels from your lower chest to your pelvis. While you can emphasize one part, any exercise you do will work the entire muscle.