"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.
Build a strong back and sculpt a rock-solid middle in one shot with the archer row. This ab exercise combines a staggered side plank with a dumbbell row. "As the load moves up and down, your body has to fight to resist rotation," says Gaddour. That means your entire core—lower-back muscles, obliques, rectus abdominis (also known as your six-pack muscles)—is working overtime to keep your spine stable.
To do it: Start in a plank position with one small towel placed under each ball of your foot, legs together. Bring your left knee in towards the right side of your chest, squeezing your abs. Then, straighten your right leg back out to full plank and bring your right knee in towards the left side of the your chest and back out to full plank. Next, draw both knees into your chest at the same time and then slide your legs back out to full plank. That’s one rep. Build up to 3 sets of 12-15 reps (resting in between).
So why so much chest, back, and arms work? Ironically, showcasing your newfound six-pack won't be just about the abs. By building up your entire upper body, you’ll create more shape that will help define the midsection. Your volume of muscle building will also increase your metabolic rate, helping you burn more calories in the process. Remember, it’s all connected. You'll thrash your abs three days a week along with some interval cardio activity for 30 minutes, and bang out some other muscle groups or hit a second helping of arms with whatever time you have left. Your other three days per week will be dedicated to chest, back, and arms exercises, so that your upper-body mass grows—increasing the V-angle and minimizing the chance of having a belly.
Trainer tip: You know planks, right? It’s easy to go through the motions here. Don’t do it. “The key is to squeeze your entire body—quads, glutes, core, back, and fists—as tight as possible while taking diaphoretic breathes throughout the hold,” says Wealth. No matter how many times you’ve done it, this exercise is as difficult as you’re willing to make it.
“The bird dog forces you to keep your core stiff,” says Jack. “Lifting your knees off the ground just a couple of inches—as you do in this exercise—makes it even more challenging to keep your torso still as you switch arms and legs.” That means your hips and lower-back muscles, obliques, rectus abdominis (also known as the six-pack muscles) are working together to keep your spine stable.
When it comes to building a six-pack, many guys don’t think to work any muscles outside of their core. But, to uncover your abs, you need to train your whole body, especially your legs. “Some of the largest and most metabolically consuming muscles in our body are in our hips and legs,” Cary says. “Work your lower body by doing squats, lunges, and dead lifts.” If you can work to engage your core during all of these exercises, even better.
To make sure you stay safe, put one hand underneath the small of your back, crunch your head and shoulders up just a handful of inches, hold for about 10 seconds, and release back down, advises Stuart M. McGill, Ph.D., director of the spine biomechanics laboratory at the University of Waterloo. This move basically ensures that you aren’t rounding your back so that your weight doesn’t drop into your low spine, per McGill.
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."
I try to ensure my form and posture is correct and verify the same by heading over to YouTube and clearly looking at the way every exercise is performed, taking screenshots. While I do cheat towards the end with heavy reps, I make sure I nail the first 4–5 perfectly. I also made it a point to not skip leg day. Exercising legs has incredible benefits like making you stronger on your compound lifts and releasing the maximum amount of testosterone.
To do it: Lie on your back with your hands interlaced behind head, knees bent ,and feet hip-width apart on the floor. Inhale and lift your chest towards your knees, bringing your shoulders and head off the floor, maintaining a neutral pelvis (keeping it parallel to the floor). Exhale and rotate to the right side, and then exhale again rotating even further, lifting a little higher. Next, inhale and lift as you return to the center and repeat to the other side. Do 8-10 reps per side.
One of the hardest parts of getting a six-pack is to maintain your training and diet discipline until you achieve your goal. There will be days when you will want to skip your training because you feel tired or you don’t feel like training. There will be days when you will want to devour a large pizza, abs be damned. Giving in to your impulsions will prolong the time to get ripped or worse, quit altogether before you reach your goal. You must persevere when the going gets tough and get tough it will.
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.)
Start on the floor with your feet outstretched (more difficult) or your knees slightly bend with your heels on the floor (a bit easier). Contract your core, lift your upper body from the hips so your lower back and shoulders are about 10 inches off the floor. Stretch your arms out along your sides with palms up, and simply hold that position for up to a minute at a time. Ouch. It's a good one.
Every beer you drink has about 150 calories. And most of those calories are “empty”—or, in other words, nutritionally useless. If you’re a regular beer drinker, you could be consuming hundreds or thousands or entirely useless calories each week. Those add up fast. A good alternative libation would be tequila, which has less than half the calories per alcohol volume—and zero carbs. If you must throw back a bottle or two, though, be sure you’re drinking any of the 30 Best Post-Workout Beers.
But instead of just trying to perform as many reps as possible, slow down and really focus on the quality of the movement—especially the eccentric, or downward motion, of the exercise, he says. “The eccentric contraction is the most important phase when sculpting any muscle.” Plus, focusing on quality over quantity will help protect your back (some experts say crunches can be potentially troublesome for guys with back issues.)