As they do, you should try to include at least one of the exercises described herein into your personal training program two times a week. These exercises can be made more difficult, but I seldom advise more than 10 – 20 slow reps on any of them. You should increase the resistance with these exercises rather than the reps; and if you’re working hard enough, you should only perform 2-3 sets per exercise. I would also suggest that you not perform any single exercise for more than three weeks in a row, since well-conditioned muscles adapt quickly to any exercise, and this adaptation must be minimized.
Instead, we've put together a full slate of top-level choices in no particular order, along with some explanation about what make each one great and the research backing them up, when available. When building this list, we considered bodyweight and loaded exercises, EMG studies, anti-rotation movements, and much more so that no ab exercise was left behind. That said, it's time to meet the crème de la crème of the core!
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.
“A silly thing I do on a daily basis is focus on sitting or standing tall with good posture and then ‘sucking it in,’ for lack of a better term. Basically, I tighten my core and hold onto it for as long as I can, and I keep doing that throughout the day. It’s a great way to not feel like a lump while sitting in front of a computer for a long period of time, and it’s like a bonus workout for my abs.” —Dorothy Beal, @mileposts
Core exercises target the same muscles that crunches do — but they also include your hip and lower-back muscles. So what's a true core exercise? One that trains you to keep your spine stable and in its natural alignment. Besides the plank (more on that in a minute), scores of exercises qualify, including the side plank, mountain climber, rollouts, hollow body holds, and even the pushup.
I use the ab machines at the gym. I do a couple variations on crunches (sitting up and lying down both on machines with weights. I can crunch 55lbs on the one that’s sitting position, 40 on the other), hanging leg lifts (which kill my shoulders), the oblique twist machine, as well as full body workouts. I just started the gym about 2 months ago and have really upped the weight since then so my body is definitely progressing.
No matter how strong your core is, you aren’t going to see a six-pack if your muscles are hiding behind a big layer of fat, says Jim White, R.D., owner of Jim White Fitness & Nutrition Studios in Virginia. “Each individual is going to be slightly different, but the ideal range of body fat in men is eight to 20 percent,” he says. Get below six percent and you could compromise your health.