When it comes to improving core stability, the plank has your back (and your front!). By working your transverse abdominis — the deep core muscles that wrap around your middle — as well as your back, shoulders and glutes (yes, you should activate your butt, too), you get a full body burn in one isometric movement. But the best thing about planks: You can continuously switch them up and make your muscles work even more. Check out these creative twists on a typical plank routine and you’ll see what we mean.
"One of the main jobs of the abdominal or core muscles is to act as stabilizers for the trunk, helping to support while the person is squatting, lifting, or moving about in general. Many studies show that muscle fiber activation rates in the rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, and internal and external obliques are higher during the squat than during many ‘traditional’ crunch type exercises where the performer is lying on their back."
Consuming more fat in your diet will actually help curb cravings after you’ve reduced your carb intake. “Fats help curb hunger because body takes longer to break down, use, or store fats,” he says. Hormones also play a role, especially when it comes to muscle-supporting testosterone. “Fats are needed to create and balance out hormones in our body to function normally,” McComsey adds.
Then, when it comes to sculpting those abs of your dreams, it’s not as simple as doing endless crunches. “Developing a six-pack requires more than just working the ‘pretty’ muscles that you can see,” Fitzgerald says. “The deeper, transverse core muscles must be strengthened first to create a strong, solid base—without that, only doing crunches can actually make your belly stick out more. Nobody wants that.”
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Eat similar meals every day. "I pretty much eat the same thing, or substitutions that are very close to my normal meal plan, every day," Yobe says of her daily food intake, which includes a protein bar before her morning workout, a protein shake afterward, and two meals including chicken or fish, veggies like a green salad or bok choy, and a carb like rice, pasta, or potatoes. She also snacks on rice cakes with peanut butter, carrots, celery, and nuts. Although she admits this can be boring, the approach makes it easier for her to get all the nutrients she needs while remaining satisfied throughout the day.
The next time you're at the gym, take a stroll. "The dumbbell farmer's walk may be one of the most underutilized exercises, and it's also one of the simplest to do," says Jack. Besides making it easier for you to carry heavy things—like luggage or those cases of beer for this weekend's party—the ab exercise challenges your core muscles to endlessly stabilize as the load shifts with each step. Plus, it will strengthen your grip, forearms, deltoids, and trapezoids—areas often neglected during workouts.
Alcohol also hurts you in two other areas: “It is a diuretic, which dehydrates you and reduces energy levels,” he says. “It also can decrease testosterone in our bodies which is critical for creating muscle.” Next time you’re planning guys’ night, stick to one or two light beers or a hard liquor with a diet soda mixer. After that, opt for club soda with a lime—nobody but the bartender will know.
"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."
Why it made the list: Yes, a leg exercise made the top 10 list for abs. Anyone who has ever pushed their potential in the squat knows exactly why! Sure, squat variations work the legs and lower back, but they also crush the abs. Both front and back squats force your abs and spinal erectors to work overtime to maintain a neutral, upright position. If both were not firing at high rates, you'd fold under the weight or drop in a split second.
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“Do I have a secret for building a ripped midsection?” asks Gregg Avedon, a certified personal trainer and former male model. “Yes, I do: hanging leg raises.” Whereas crunches and sit-ups hit the top part of your core, hanging leg raises work that hard-to-hit lower ab section, too. To reap the full effect, Avedon does three sets of 30 at the start of every workout. And for more sage advice from Avedon, learn his Best One-Move, Total-Body Workouts Of All Time.
"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.
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."
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
You may think of power bars as protein-loaded snacks that are perfect pre- or post-workout. And while you’re not entirely wrong, you’re not entirely wrong, either. In addition to high protein levels, many power bars are surreptitiously loaded with sugar, which will bring any ab-seeking efforts of yours screeching to a halt. So, if you’re going to reach for a bar, be sure to check the nutrition facts first. Many bars—like the offerings from ONE or thinkThin—only have 1 gram of sugar for 20 grams of protein (and still taste delicious, to boot).
Yuri Elkaim is one of the world’s most trusted health and fitness experts. A former pro soccer player turned NYT bestselling author of The All-Day Energy Diet and The All-Day Fat Burning Diet, his clear, science-backed advice has transformed the lives of more than 500,000 men and women and he’s on a mission to help 100 million people by 2040. Read his inspiring story, “From Soccer to Bed to No Hair on My Head” that started it all.
Restricting Roti and Rice intake — Rice and Roti, two staple elements of a typical Indian diet are both forms of ‘fast carbs’ — meaning they have a high Glycemic Index. They instantly spike your blood sugar levels and give you energy, which when not used quickly is stored as fat. Fast carbs in general tend to make you feel hungrier which results in overeating and subsequent weight gain (see carb crash). You want to severely restrict eating them and all their derivatives (poha, idli, dosa) in the earlier parts of your day while consuming them only in your pre-workout, post-workout or dinner. Consuming them before workouts gives you the energy to perform and consuming them after means you’re restoring muscle glycogen, refuelling your body and maintaining some sanity. Unfortunately, a typical Indian meal is rather high in carbs and very low in protein. No, lentils (dal/sambar) are not enough protein for you. Infact, they barely qualify. Nearly every other country’s staple food is centred around a source of protein (typically meat) along with some carbs on the side. In India, it’s the other way round. My theory is that this is the reason most folks fall under the ‘skinny fat’ category. It’s all due to imbalanced nutrition.
To do it: Lie on the floor with your arms extended above your head and both legs lifted in the air at about a 45-degree angle. Inhale, roll your head and shoulders off the mat, press your ribs down toward your hip bones and exhale, lifting your entire upper body off the mat (keeping both legs up). At the top of the exercise, "land" your arms so that the arms and legs are parallel to one another. Then, breathe "naturally" while holding the top/up position for two slow counts. Reverse the action by inhaling and then rolling your back, shoulders and head down onto the mat exhaling at the start position.
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.
A common belief in bodybuilding is that a beginner can make progress lifting rocks. This is not to offend the brutally huge strongmen you see on the MET-Rx World’s Strongest Men on ESPN who lift those 350-lb. Atlas Stones but is to emphasize the point that beginners can make progress on just about any program, using just about anything for resistance, even small Flinstone pebbles. But just because beginners can have success with minimal effort and nonspecific workouts, this doesn’t mean that their training protocol will also work for an experienced athlete, or for someone who wants to go even beyond a “slightly visible” 6-Pack!
Leg day, arms day, chest-and-shoulders day. You already break up your regular workouts by muscle group; steal a page out of Alicia Vikander’s ab-shredding book and do the same to your core. To get ripped for Tomb Raider, Vikander broke her core workouts into three days: isometric (endurance moves, like planks); strength (sit-ups, hanging leg raises); and oblique-specific (told you so).
Natural trainers can build up to 20 pounds of muscle in their first year of strength training. Muscle growth slows down with each year of training until it creeps to a crawl in the 4th year. A natural trainer in his 4th year of strength training will build a pittance of 2-3 pounds of muscle in the entire year and that’s when his diet and training are both on point.
Genetically, women have a disadvantage when it comes to that. Their bodies store more fat than men. For good reason, says Calabrese. Women's bodies are designed to bear and nourish babies and fat is the primary energy source to support fetal development. In addition, Calabrese says, men generally lose weight quicker as a result of regular exercise.
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.
Like I mentioned earlier, I never quite knew why I looked a certain way. Body types are determined by your genetics and that’s something you can do very little about. Some people can eat bad foods all the time and get away with it, others can’t (college is the perfect time to observe this phenomenon). The only way I could deal with this was to embrace my features, understand my body tendencies and eat as well as train accordingly.
The optimal caloric deficit when you are training 4 times a week is different than the optimal caloric deficit for merely losing weight. You must eat enough food to fuel your training and feed your muscles but still be in a state of a caloric deficit to keep burning fat. For further information on dieting for six-pack abs, refer to my other article entitled Six Pack Abs Diet: The Ultimate Diet Plan to Get Ripped.
Why it made the list: This increasingly popular movement trains your abs to do what they're supposed to do: stabilize your skeleton. Pallof presses serve as an anti-rotation movement, meaning the body is actively fighting rotation throughout the motion. By utilizing exercises like this, you can increase core stability in various planes of movement and reduce likelihood of injury.