The reality isn't that simple, experts say. The answer to whether it's possible for someone to develop abs without adhering to a diet or by simply cutting back on calories is "maybe," says Evan M. Chait, a clinical nutritionist, physical therapist and acupuncturist based in Ramsey, New Jersey. He's a co-founder of the Kinetic PT and AcuWellness America centers. Anyone can cut calories and lose weight, Chait says. Dropping fatty pounds from your midsection can reveal the abdominal muscles that everyone has. "Six-pack" isn't a physiological term; rather, it's a shorthand way to refer to the rectus abdominus, the outer band of stomach muscle connecting the rib cage to the pelvis.
To do it: Lie down with a small ball (a small pillow will also work if you don’t have a ball) under your heels, both arms extended over your head, palms facing towards each other. Inhale to prepare as you lift your head, neck, and shoulders off the floor and then exhale as you continue to roll up by drawing in your abdominals, reaching up and over towards the feet. Keep your abdominals contracted, with your spine rounded in a ‘C’ curve, and then inhale to prepare and exhale as you roll down through each vertebra in a controlled movement, keeping your heels pressed evenly into the ball the entire way up and down. Do 15 reps as controlled and precise as you can.
First off, it's easy to sit back while doing this move, letting your hip flexors do much of the work. Second, if you keep a flat back, it limits the degree to which you can hit the upper abdominals—your back has to round! And finally, your hands should stay in the same relative position next to your head for the duration of the set. Letting them drift away on the eccentric and then pulling them back again beside your head brings a lot of shoulder and upper body into the move.
World-renowned spine specialist Stuart McGill recently referred to the Swiss-Ball Stir-the-Pot as the best core exercise you can do. Try it once, and you’ll start to see why: It’s hard. Make that really hard. That’s because it combines two elements that leave your abs screaming: instability and dynamic movement. This combo allows you to work your rectus abdominis (a.k.a. six-pack muscles), obliques, and all of the muscles that help stabilize your spine from just about every direction. The upshot: an ab workout like you’ve never done.
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The starting position has you sitting at about a 45-degree angle and holding a medicine ball firmly with both hands in front of you. Start the movement by contracting your abs and slowly twisting from your torso to your right and tap the medicine ball on the floor beside you. Then quickly, but with a controlled motion, contract your abs and twist your torso and touch the medicine ball to the other side. Repeat 10-20 reps and rest.
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.
That's why Jack recommends doing 360 abs to sculpt a washboard stomach and improve core stability all at once. While in a pushup position, you must keep your torso completely still as your legs create sweeping circles in different directions. Doing smaller loops hit your six-pack muscles, while bigger ones hit your entire midsection including your obliques, hips, and lower back.
Supplementation — It’s hard to get all your macros from food, especially while staying in a caloric deficit. More food means more calories, buying more ingredients, more cooking and lot many issues that you don’t really want to deal with on a daily basis. Supplements are called so because they are meant to supplement your nutrition and lifestyle, not act as a substitute. It’s imperative to find a fine line between the two for yourself and use them judiciously. I use the following supplements and have linked them to the exact brand, product and place I purchased them from. I am not paid to promote anything I’ve mentioned here. My sole motive is to tell you what I used and how it could possibly help you too.
But alas, this process doesn’t happen overnight. And by now, the washboard abs industrial complex has produced such a dizzying volume of exercises, tricks, and gizmos promising to transform your midsection into a Hemsworth brother’s midsection that even after you’ve settled on a strategy, it’s hard not to wonder whether all that diligence and discipline is really making a difference.
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.
To do it: Lie on your stomach with your upper body propped up on your elbows and a dumbbell upright on the floor about six inches in front of your chest. Tuck your toes under and lift your body into a full elbow plank, making a straight line from your head to your heels, drawing in your abdominals. To start the move, lift your right arm off the floor and use your best freestyle stroke to reach over and past the dumbbell—as far as you can—allowing your hips to rotate into the stroke and turning through the balls of your feet. Finish the full stroke before returning to elbow plank position. Repeat with the left arm. That's one rep. Do 10 reps total, alternating sides each time.
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.
Go beyond crunches. Sims prefers exercises that challenge you to stabilize your core against imbalance or gravity, like a hands plank with dumbbell pull-through and ab roll-outs using a core-training wheel. "They challenge the entire core by resisting movement instead of creating it," she says of these moves, which she recommends doing in sets of 10 three times. You can repeat the series several times a week.
Thankfully, if you’re already reasonably fit, just a few tweaks to your routine here, a few modifications to your diet there, and you’ll be well on your way to shredded stomach glory. To that end, we’ve gathered up the best tips and tricks—expert-approved advice to ensure that, in no time, you’ll have the sculpted abs of your dreams. And for some core-specific moves, check out The Best Workouts For Getting That Summer Six-Pack.