Regular cardiovascular exercise should be an essential part of your plan. I recommend you try and get in three to five cardio workouts per week. If you find you’re not losing as much fat as you’d like then shoot for five sessions a week. If your progress is good then you might be able to get away with just three sessions a week. Adjust appropriately based on your rate of progress.
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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.
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.
Do it: Think of this as an upside-down dead bug. Start in a tabletop position, with your shoulders over wrists and hips over knees. Engage your core while simultaneously lifting your right arm and left leg. Your foot should be flexed as you kick back, and your palm should face in towards your body. Pause for one second when your arm and leg are at the same height as your torso, and then bring your elbow and knee to touch underneath the body. Repeat on the other side for one rep, and do five reps for one set.
In order to get a ripped abdomen, you will have to focus on foods rich in high-quality proteins, antioxidants and Omega-3 and Omega-6. Having said that, increase your intake of seeds, chicken, nuts, fish (especially salmon and tuna), olive oil and eggs, which are particularly rich in proteins. Proteins are absolutely essential when you try to build muscle.
We put this on the list because of how easy it is to manipulate the degree of difficulty. If a regular plank is too easy for you, lift an arm, or a leg—or an arm and a leg. Put your feet into a TRX and give that a whirl. Still too easy? Take your feet out, and put your forearms in. Each one of these progressions leads to a greater training stimulus to the abs.
“A silly thing I do on a daily basis is focus on sitting or standing tall with good posture and then ‘sucking it in,’ for lack of a better term. Basically, I tighten my core and hold onto it for as long as I can, and I keep doing that throughout the day. It’s a great way to not feel like a lump while sitting in front of a computer for a long period of time, and it’s like a bonus workout for my abs.” —Dorothy Beal, @mileposts
If it was possible for the experienced bodybuilders to build muscle without gaining fat or, better, build muscle and lose fat at the same time then they would do it in a heartbeat. Who wants to go through the ordeal of bulking and cutting when it’s possible to build muscle and burn fat at the same time? The answer is hidden in the muscle growth rate. Muscle growth follows a logarithmic pattern (rather than a linear pattern), which means that muscular gains come quickly in the beginning but they decrease over time.
Experienced bodybuilders are better off with bulking and cutting because muscle gains are slow to come by after the first year of strength training. Newbies make the mistake of copying the strategy of experienced bodybuilders by starting their strength training journey with a bulk, only to end up gaining more fat than muscle (if any). The problem is, the body fat percentage of the average man is already at around 18–24% which is considered to be fat by bodybuilding standards. If you start bulking at an already high body fat percentage of 18–24% then you are guaranteed to get fat no matter how much muscle you end up building. To add insult to the injury, the most efficient weightlifting exercises such as deadlifts and squats have a learning curve to master, which usually leaves the newbies with gaining too much fat and little to no muscle gains to speak of.
Try adding four or five to the end of your workout to challenge your core a little more, or turn them into a standalone workout—try doing 12-15 reps of each exercise and then repeating the circuit (of four or five exercises) three to four times, to start. If you feel tension in your lower back during any of these exercises, stop and reset, making sure your abs are really engaged and that your back is not arched. You can also try starting with fewer reps. If you still feel discomfort, skip that exercise and try a different that allows you to keep your spine in a safer position. (It's also helpful to read up on which abs exercises tend to be irritating for lower-back issues beforehand if that's a concern for you.)
Why it made the list: Those infomercials got one thing right! Some EMG data suggests that using an ab wheel may beat out hanging leg raises, sit-ups, and reverse crunches for the top muscle activator. This movement capitalizes on the concept of anti-extension perfectly; as you roll out, your trunk must actively fire (eccentric motion) to maintain a neutral spine without collapsing under your body weight and gravity. Watch that you don't risk your back by allowing it to droop into extension at the bottom, though!
Everyone has six pack abs. They’re there, whether you believe it or not. The problem is that not everyone’s body composition is such that their abs are actually visible. These muscles don’t need to be created – they need to be revealed. Remember our “strongman” example – powerful upper body, mighty arms, and a layer of soft flab around their midsection? Believe me, Mr. Strongman is packing some serious stomach muscles, but like on a lot of us, they’re hidden under layers of adipose tissue. That’s why they’re not visible.
“You will not make more muscle by trying this route,” says McComsey. When you do cardio you’re burning calories, but you’re not stimulating your muscles to grow as you would with weight training. “The more muscle you have, the more calories and fat you’ll be burning,” he says. McComsey recommends hitting the weight room three or four days per week, with one of those days being a circuit with a variety of exercises. If you need to do cardio, try one day of 20-minutes of fast-slow intervals.
Reverse Crunch: Lie flat on the floor with a neutral spine, with knees at a 90-degree angle, feet a few inches off the floor and legs together, hands by your sides (behind your ears if you're more experienced). Focus on contracting your abdominals to lift your hips up and in toward your rib case. Exhale as you contract; inhale to return to starting position. Done correctly, this exercise isolates the lower half of the rectus abdominis and the transverus.
“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
After completing one to two minutes of the basic plank, you can move on to the side plank. The Side Plank is important for completing a full warm-up because it targets the lateral core stabilizers, including the obliques and transverse abdominis, but it can help improve the lateral stability of knee and hip joint as well. This is helpful for preventing and reducing knee pain in athletes who don't do a lot of lateral movements in their sports. For example, if you only run (forward), bike or do things like elliptical trainers, you will rarely work your lateral stabilizers. This exercise can help keep them strong and balanced.
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.
1. Consume fewer calories than you're burning every day. Job one when trying to achieve a six-pack is to lose weight, which means expending more calories than you take in on a daily basis, says Dani Singer, a certified fitness nutrition specialist and certified personal trainer in Baltimore. He's the director of Fit2Go Personal Training. To optimize losing fat and not muscle, you need to be in a caloric deficit, eat adequate protein and strength train, he says. "The source of your food will affect health, but will have zero effect on your body composition," Singer says. "It's the total calories and macronutrients [protein, fat and carbs] from your foods that will determine how your body looks."
But there's science behind this buzzkill. The rectus abdominis — the muscle that makes the stomach look defined as hell — is typically covered by fat (because that's how humans are made) and isn't affected by things like crunches and planks. "You can work your abs all you want, but if you have a layer of fat over them, the 'pack' can’t be seen," Ball says. And FWIW, that's not a bad thing or something to feel bad about. "It’s very unrealistic for most people to have body fat percentages low enough to see the abs."