Why it made the list: This harder version of the Russian twist works the obliques while requiring the upper abs to contract isometrically. To recruit the obliques, you either need lateral flexion (bending to your side), trunk rotation (twisting), or sucking in your belly. Doing your twists works the trunk-rotation function of the muscle, so really focus on the contraction. Try to get a little crunch on either side after the rotation to up the ante.
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]."
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.
Many people ask themselves how lean should they be. The ideal body fat percentage varies based on gender and on how active you are. For instance, the average body fat for a woman is between 25-31%, while for a man it is between 18-24%. On the other hand, the ideal body fat percentage for a woman who works out is between 24-21%, while for men it should be between 14-17%. To get a clearly defined six pack, a man needs to get to under 10%.
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.
Ah the six-pack. The goal of most every fitness enthusiast. A tight, lean, shredded stomach not only looks great, but also feels great and builds more confidence. Let's face it, a chiseled midsection is something we all strive to strut. Unfortunately, not everyone is willing to put in the time and effort to build this work of art. For those that do however, the rewards are well worth the struggle.
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 on your hip. Lower your hips toward the ground a couple inches, then come back up to start. That’s one rep. Do 15 reps on each side.
Bicycle: This exercise works your obliques as well as your rectus abdominis. Lie on your back, hips and knees bent at 90-degrees, chest curled over ribs, hands behind your head. Extend the left leg out while bringing the right knee in towards the chest and rotating the left shoulder toward the right knee. Keep the arm from crossing the face. Rotate from the trunk through the center to the other side without dropping your chest. Move in slow, controlled movements without shifting your hips.
“I alternate between all-out effort sprints (30 to 60 seconds) and walk/jog as a recovery until I feel fatigued. Intensity is key. Abs work as stabilizing muscles during a sprint, so the harder I push myself the harder my abs will work! Plus, there’s no equipment required, and I get a high calorie burn and full-body workout done in very little time. (I tell myself I can do anything for 30 seconds.) Depending on how I feel, I’ll either add this to the end of a routine or make it my entire workout, two to three times a week.” —Suzanne Cover, @suzannecover
3. Remember that there is a difference between healthy fat and unhealthy fat. Therefore, you need not give up fats altogether. Nuts, olive oil, etc. can be added to your diet as they come in the healthy fat list. Healthy fat is important because it helps control the level of insulin in your body. Note that insulin level is related to belly fat directly. Hence, healthy fats are actually a blessing in disguise. You will have to maintain a certain level of it, though, as too much of anything is bad.
“These days, I do a fair amount of Pilates and yoga to focus on the strength of my core. You don’t have to be a crazy cardio bunny to lower your body fat percentage (to get those abs to show)—bodyweight exercises can be really effective. Yoga and Pilates help me focus on overall strength, not just my core, and it helps make sure I work my back, too. Most people forget about that, but you need a strong back to help support a strong core.” —Dorothy Beal, @mileposts
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.
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.
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
The inspiration for this exercise might come from skiing, but it's also an effective way to prepare your midsection for many sports, including tennis, softball, and golf. The reason: "It trains your abs, lower back, and hips to work together to rotate your body from side to side," says Durkin. And the more powerfully you can rotate, the faster you can swing and the harder you can throw.
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.
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.
To do it: Kneel with your elbows bent under your shoulders on top of a stability ball. Draw your abs in tight, keep your weight in your arms (chest lifted off the ball), and extend both legs out straight behind you, feet about hip-width apart. Maintain a straight line from your head, shoulders, hips, knees, and feet. Once you are stabilized on the ball, slowly roll the ball away from your body to increase the lever length and add stress on the abdominal region. For safety, go slowly and start with short movements in and out for 10-15 reps. When you feel ready, you can progress how far away you reach and your number of reps, Richey says.
“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