Common knowledge will tell you that, to get six-pack abs, carbs are verboten. Common knowledge is right—kind of. The key is to avoid the wrong carbs, like French fries, and eat the right carbs, like sweet potatoes. These orange goodies are full of carotenoids, which prevent calories from turning into fat; fiber, which helps you stay sated, and ultimately eat less; and Vitamin C, which’ll give you energy (for working out). And for more ab-shredding foods, check out the 10 Healthy Carbs That Won’t Derail Your Six-Pack.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If you want to get fit faster and burn more calories in less time, don't spend all your time in the so-called fat-burning zone. Instead, add some High Intensity Training (HIT) to your workouts a couple times each week. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, you can burn more calories in less time with short, high intensity exercise. You can also boost your overall cardiovascular fitness with this type of training. Be sure to slowly ramp up your intensity, however, or you could wind up with an injury.
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!
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.”
Stability moves like the plank are a great way to strengthen a weak core and prevent lower back pain. But if you want to kick things up a notch, then start dancing. When you perform the breakdancer, you'll quickly move your feet from side to side and across your body. However, you must maintain the same rigid, straight torso that you would when performing a plank.
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.
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.
As the kettlebell shifts from hand to hand in front of your body, your core has to stabilize to fight against the movement of your arms, and your biceps, shoulders, and back muscles need to work together to control the pace at which you are catching and releasing the kettlebell. Your lower-body will get a workout, too. You can perform this abs exercise with a bent waist to hammer your hamstrings and glutes or try it in a squat position to target your quadriceps. No matter which way you try it, you'll see bigger strength gains and a smaller waistline in less time.