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We live in an age where rock-hard, six-pack abdominal muscles are the goal of many workout enthusiasts. We all want that washboard look, but which ab exercises actually work? There are two sets of muscles to target: the rectus abdominis muscles (the ones you engage during regular situps, that run from your sternum to your pelvis) and the transverse abdominis (the deepest ab muscles that wrap around the spine and help stabilize your core).
Maintaining a six pack is not hard when you’ve spent half a year’s worth of resources sculpting them while learning about what’s good for your body and what’s not. I don’t really feel an urge to consume junk food anymore, subconsciously make good food choices and enjoy training more than ever before. The entire fitness industry seems to have been built on convincing us that getting a six pack is the hardest thing ever but at the end of the day, it all boils down to your consistency at making good decisions.

"My goals six years ago was to 'get abs' and I used to think cardio and crunches would get me there. But it wasn’t until I started lifting weights and varying my abdominal exercises that I started to see a major change. You don’t realize how much you use your core muscles in order to perform powerful rapid movements like deadlifts!" — Shante Franca, @shantefranca

The reality isn't that simple, experts say. The answer to whether it's possible for someone to develop abs without adhering to a diet or by simply cutting back on calories is "maybe," says Evan M. Chait, a clinical nutritionist, physical therapist and acupuncturist based in Ramsey, New Jersey. He's a co-founder of the Kinetic PT and AcuWellness America centers. Anyone can cut calories and lose weight, Chait says. Dropping fatty pounds from your midsection can reveal the abdominal muscles that everyone has. "Six-pack" isn't a physiological term; rather, it's a shorthand way to refer to the rectus abdominus, the outer band of stomach muscle connecting the rib cage to the pelvis.

Leg day, arms day, chest-and-shoulders day. You already break up your regular workouts by muscle group; steal a page out of Alicia Vikander’s ab-shredding book and do the same to your core. To get ripped for Tomb Raider, Vikander broke her core workouts into three days: isometric (endurance moves, like planks); strength (sit-ups, hanging leg raises); and oblique-specific (told you so).


If you're taking on healthy fitness and eating habits with the dream of achieving a six-pack, some real talk for you: "Very few people can achieve this look, regardless of what they do," says Stephen Ball, professor of nutrition and exercise physiology at the University of Missouri. "Most women who make this their goal will fail and ultimately give up on exercise all together." Way harsh, Tai.
To do it: Lie down with a small ball (a small pillow will also work if you don’t have a ball) under your heels, both arms extended over your head, palms facing towards each other. Inhale to prepare as you lift your head, neck, and shoulders off the floor and then exhale as you continue to roll up by drawing in your abdominals, reaching up and over towards the feet. Keep your abdominals contracted, with your spine rounded in a ‘C’ curve, and then inhale to prepare and exhale as you roll down through each vertebra in a controlled movement, keeping your heels pressed evenly into the ball the entire way up and down. Do 15 reps as controlled and precise as you can.

Muscles exert higher EMG tension when they are contracting eccentrically (lowering the resistance) versus raising it; but the problem with most exercises is that the amount of weight you can lower is limited by how much you can lift positively (concentric work). This exercise compensates for the problem by changing the leverage during the lowering (eccentric) phase of the exercise.
"My goals six years ago was to 'get abs' and I used to think cardio and crunches would get me there. But it wasn’t until I started lifting weights and varying my abdominal exercises that I started to see a major change. You don’t realize how much you use your core muscles in order to perform powerful rapid movements like deadlifts!" — Shante Franca, @shantefranca
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