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.
Performing a plank on an exercise ball is a challenging core workout for anyone. Holding this position on an unstable surface forces you to dynamically engage more abdominal muscles across the entire core from shoulders to toes. To maintain a solid posture, you will be constantly adjusting your stabilizers and will have much greater muscle activation throughout the abs.
“You’ve heard it before, but I’ll say it again—what you put in your mouth matters. It’s crucial to trimming up your core. You can do crunches for days, but if you aren’t fueling properly you’ll never see those abs! My favorite foods to snack on for flat abs are blueberries, apples, sweet potatoes, eggs, lean poultry, and green tea. ” —Amanda Butler, @amandabutlernyc
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.
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.
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.
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."
Warm up and cool down for 5 to 10 minutes. Go for a brisk walk or jog, do jumping jacks, run in place, or jump rope at the start of your workouts. Moderate aerobic exercise will increase blood flow to your muscles, which reduces your risk of injuring yourself. When you finish working out, cool down for 5 to 10 minutes to help your muscles recover.
2. Cut out or greatly curtail your consumption of refined sugar. Not all calories are equal when you're trying to lose weight and develop a six-pack, Herrington says. For example, 200 calories from a robust serving of beans or from a sugary cookie provide vastly different amounts of nutrition. A serving of beans would typically contain good amounts of protein, potassium, magnesium and dietary fiber, while a cookie packed with sugar is mostly empty calories, Herrington says. She advises staying away from foods like white bread, cakes and pies and white crackers that are laden with refined sugar. You should also eschew sugary sports drinks, fruit juices and sodas, in favor of plain water or milk. "The biggest thing I advise people to avoid is added sugars," Herrington says. "If you want to cut out body fat, cut that out. Refined sugar isn't doing you any good. You get a temporary boost of energy, then you crash and crave more. It's like burning money; it's a waste." Eating too much refined sugar is also linked to fatty liver disease, obesity and diabetes, she says.
Elevate your lower body on a low box (preferably padded to protect your knees). This imparts better leverage to your arms and shoulders, an advantage that is especially important for women (usually women are proportionally weaker in the upper body than men). The correct start position is with your shoulders directly over the wheel and your abs pulled in and head down. Keep your shoulders in front of the wheel as long as possible. Inhale while rolling the wheel forward and exhale as you return to the start position. Arching your low back is wrong! This error occurs when the wheel is extended too far for your abdominal strength and performing the exercise like this can cause back injury and pain. You will be able to extend further out, as you get stronger – in fact; I have seen several athletes do this from a standing position!
“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