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."
“There’s no such thing as spot-reducing fat, and a six-pack is indicative of overall health and whole-body fitness, not just the state of the core muscles,” says Kendra Coppey Fitzgerald, founder of Barefoot Tiger in-home personal training services in NYC and LA. “If there’s too much fat on top of the ab muscles, you’ll never see them, no matter how much core work you do.” That means eating healthily and doing cardio plus heavy weight training to lean down and build muscles to lose weight overall. (Bummer, we know.)
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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.
Most men perform the inchworm as a warmup exercise. The move stretches your calves, hamstrings, and thighs, while preparing your muscles for just about any activity. But throw a towel under your feet while you do it, and suddenly the inchworm becomes a grueling core-strengthening move called the inchworm slide. "Sliding the towel to meet your stationary hands activates your abs, hip flexors, and obliques," says Jack. "You'll finish feeling stronger and loose."
Directions: Begin each of these workouts with a five-minute warmup, or go through the moves after you’ve done your usual cardio or strength training when you’re already warm. Each should also begin with 20 reps of what Fitzgerald calls “transverse pullbacks”—where you pull your navel toward your spine, as if bracing yourself against a sucker punch—as a way to activate the muscles for the work you’re about to ask of them. You’ll also need some dumbbells for some of these moves.
Start lying faceup on the mat. Lift head, shoulder blades, and feet off floor as you extend arms straight out. Neck should be relaxed, not strained. This is your hollow hold. Next, engage abs to lift chest towards legs as you bend knees so that body forms a V shape and shins are parallel to floor. Slowly lower back down to a hollow hold position and repeat.
A. Unfortunately, most people don’t have the right notion of what a natural six pack or a lean body looks like. We’re so constantly fed images from magazine covers and movie posters, it’s hard to lose sight. These people use various editing techniques, strategic lighting and poses to get the best shots and convince us that that is what muscular men look like which is not true. Many popular Hollywood/Bollywood actors resort to consuming anabolic steroids and drugs which is the reason they look absolutely shredded for a particular film. The on-screen muscle you see on them is easy 10+ years of hard earned gains for natural individuals. Try comparing an actor’s in-film photos to photos taken a year or two afterwards. You’ll know what I’m talking about. If you want to look big/buff naturally, you need to put on some fat, potentially losing your abs and muscle definition in the process. As for the ‘skinny’ issue, the problem is so many people are overweight these days that that’s become the new ‘normal’ so when they see someone with a healthy, lean body composition they think it’s skinny. This issue should go away over time when one builds more lean muscle.
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.
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.
"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