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.
Core exercises target the same muscles that crunches do — but they also include your hip and lower-back muscles. So what's a true core exercise? One that trains you to keep your spine stable and in its natural alignment. Besides the plank (more on that in a minute), scores of exercises qualify, including the side plank, mountain climber, rollouts, hollow body holds, and even the pushup.
The Torso Track comes out as number 5 for effective ab exercises, but this is one of my least favorite exercises because it can cause lower-back pain, particularly if you roll out too far. In fact, in the ACE study, researchers found that a significant number of subjects reported lower-back pain, so you may want to skip the expense, and discomfort, of this one and choose other exercises that can target the abs with equal effectiveness.
How to use this list: Clayton suggests doing each exercise below for 30 to 45 seconds before every run. “This will fire up your muscles so they’re active when you need them most,” Clayton says. Clayton even demonstrates them herself, so you can nail the perfect form. You will need a mat and a set of sliders. Two hand towels or paper plates will work. too.
As easy as the models and athletes in our magazine make being lean and ripped look, we’ve got to be honest, it couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s hard, it takes time, and it demands an unwavering degree of discipline. In our on-going efforts to assist you in sculpting the body you’ve always wanted, we’ve laid out the gold rules to getting ripped.
Creatine works twofold. It helps your muscles retain water, which means they’ll really pop, and it gives you long-lasting energy, which means you can make it through a grueling core workout, no problem. And taking it is effortless: just drop a scoop into your water bottle next time you head to the gym. (Best Life recommends the fruit punch flavor. It’s far and away the smoothest.) And for more great workout-boosting dietary additions, check out the 50 Best Supplements on the Planet.
Evening Snacks (5.00PM) —1 scoop whey protein, 5 almonds, 3 walnuts. If it’s cardio day I mix a spoonful of peanut butter with my protein shake for some extra fat that satiates my hunger. I also keep a couple of reasonably priced Sugar Free Protein Bars in my bag in the rare cases when my hunger gets really bad or if I couldn’t manage a proper meal. There are some really expensive ones out there and while I’ve indulged in a few of them, the ones I linked to give me the best bang for buck and are also incredibly tasty.
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.)
5. Engage in resistance training aimed at your abs. In addition to eating right and losing weight, doing certain types of exercises can help you achieve a better-defined abdomen, Singer says. "I'm sure everybody knew somebody in high school who had tremendous abs who ate whatever he or she wanted and had tremendous abs without working out," Singer says. "Most of us aren't that lucky." If developing a six-pack is your goal, doing exercises aimed at your abs can be part of a successful regimen. Such workouts would include weighted crunches and weighted sit-ups, he says. Cardio workouts are helpful for shedding pounds, but won't, on their own, lead to defined abs.
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!
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.
"This exercise is so effective because it teaches you not to rely on your bigger muscle groups (like your thighs) and focuses on using your abdominals correctly in a controlled manner without using momentum. The use of the ball gives you natural feedback of your weaker side so that you can adjust and work on symmetry of your musculature, preventing future injuries."
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.
How to: Start on the floor on your hands and knees. Lower your forearms to the floor with elbows positioned under your shoulders and your hands shoulder-width apart. Your arms should form a 90-degree angle. Maintain a straight line from heels through the top of your head, looking down at the floor, with gaze slightly in front of your face. Tighten your abs and hold. Do 15 reps.
"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