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!
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).
Exercise also can't erase a couple factors beyond your control, experts say. "I think age plays a critical role in how easy or hard it is to get 'six-pack abs.' It's all about hormones – when we are younger, we have more circulating androgen hormones, which affords us the ability to not eat clean and yet continue to be shredded," Chait says. Our androgen hormone levels decline after we reach age 27, he says. (Testosterone is an androgen hormone in men. In women, a primary purpose of androgens is to be converted into female hormones known as estrogen.) After that age, "we need to focus more on dietary adjustments to maintain a lean body," Chait says.
Let’s take push-ups for example. The maximum number of push-ups you can do in a training session will increase quickly from, say, 20 to 30, 30 to 50, 50 to 100 in a matter of weeks. What will you do next to achieve progressive overload? You can’t increase your reps of push-ups forever. Who wants to do 300, 400, or 500 pushups in a single training session? That would take too much time. Luckily, you don’t have to do that. Once you hit a reasonably high number of reps, you will stop adding reps and start shortening the time it takes to complete those reps.
After having achieved this goal, there’s a seemingly big void in my life. I intend to fill it up with another ambitious goal instead of more training, though the latter is far more tempting! I find that training, staying fit, and eating right fits in very well with my lifestyle. I intend to keep it that way while being content with slow but lean and steady gains over time. I do intend on dabbling in boxing and advanced callisthenics in the future.
Do it: With your feet shoulder-width apart, lift a barbell off the rig, centering it evenly across your shoulders. (This version of the squat targets the core, not the legs, and so you should be using far less weight than you would for a traditional back squat.) Send your glutes back like you’re lowering into a chair, bending at the knees as deeply as possible. Press through your heels to return to the starting position for one rep. Do 12 reps for one set.


“The bird dog forces you to keep your core stiff,” says Jack. “Lifting your knees off the ground just a couple of inches—as you do in this exercise—makes it even more challenging to keep your torso still as you switch arms and legs.” That means your hips and lower-back muscles, obliques, rectus abdominis (also known as the six-pack muscles) are working together to keep your spine stable.
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.
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%.
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
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.
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).
Lie faceup with feet flexed in the air so body creates a 90-degree angle and arms are rested palms down at sides. Use core to pulse legs straight up towards ceiling, lifting butt off floor and pushing weight into hands. Think about stamping the bottom of your shoes on the ceiling and avoid using momentum to swing legs forward and up. Lower back to floor and repeat.
I absolutely despise the idea of a ketogenic diet because that’s something most of us can’t subscribe to for life. There are other popular diets besides keto like paleo and atkins that also demonize carbs and tell you that they make you fat. In my opinion, more food in general (which will invariably have more carbs) makes you fat, not carbs. Carbs are the basic fuel your body needs to function.

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.
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“If you need a small treat and indulgence per day, to keep you from overdoing it on the weekends,” says Shapiro, go for it. Just be sure to “stick to about 150 calories or less.” It’s a small trick to help you stay on-track. For a good sweet treat, consider dark chocolate (that’s a bar with a 70 percent or higher cacao rating). According to a study in Circulation Heart Failure, the flavanols within can slash your risk of heart disease by more than 30 percent.

During your weight-training workouts try to keep your rest periods to a minimum between each set. Rest periods between sets should be 30 to 60 seconds in length. With shorter rest periods between sets your heart rate will stay elevated throughout the entire workout. Again, this is just another simple strategy you can use to increase caloric expenditure and enhance fat loss!
"Most guys neglect their obliques in favor of their six-pack muscles, and that's a mistake," says Jack. "Your obliques not only support your spine, but they also help your abs work together with the muscles of your hips and lower back to explosively rotate your torso." That means you'll be able to lift heavier loads on every exercise, while adding a ton of rotational power to your tee shot and Hail Mary pass at the same time.
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.
To do it:Get into pushup position with both hands on the stability ball directly below your shoulders (your feet can be slightly wider than shoulder-width apart to give you extra stability). Contract your abdominals and try to bring your body into a straight line from your neck all the way to you toes (your butt should not be sticking out, so contract your glutes and keep your hips down). Once you are stable, lift your right leg a few inches off the ground and hold for 10 seconds. Repeat on the other side. Try to do three sets of a 10-second hold, and then advance to a 30-second hold.
"Most guys neglect their obliques in favor of their six-pack muscles, and that's a mistake," says Jack. "Your obliques not only support your spine, but they also help your abs work together with the muscles of your hips and lower back to explosively rotate your torso." That means you'll be able to lift heavier loads on every exercise, while adding a ton of rotational power to your tee shot and Hail Mary pass at the same time.
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