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.
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.)
Before you launch into the advanced ab workout, you will want to ease into it with some basic core exercises to warm up the abdominal muscles. The Plank is a great way to begin. The plank provides a simple and effective core warm-up because engages all the muscles of the core from your toes up to your head. Holding the plank requires the activation of all the major ab muscles as well as many stabilizer muscles that are often ignored.
Good news: Thanks to some of the best trainers in the country, we’re going to help you out. Below are their favorite abs exercises, along with a few pro tips to ensure that you’re executing each one perfectly. Incorporate them à la carte into your existing routine—or, if you’re feeling ambitious, turn all six into an abs workout circuit. Try two sets of each movement, resting for 30 seconds between each set.
Do it: Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold a dumbbell in your right hand, palm facing inwards towards the torso. Keep your back straight, activate your core, and then bend to the side as far as possible—but only at the waist. Hold for one second at the bottom of your range of motion, and return to start for one rep. Do between 12 and 20 reps for one set.
Breakfast (9.30AM) — If you workout in the evening, nothing (IF). If you workout in the morning and it’s your cardio day, still nothing. On weight training days, 1 serving of Steel Cut Oats (why they’re better than regular oats) and skimmed milk, topped with some nuts and cinnamon powder. It’s imperative you replenish your muscle glycogen with some carbs post workout. I would usually cook 5–6 servings of oats on the weekend and store them in the refrigerator, using them through the week.
“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
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.
A University of Southern Maine study found that a single set of a weight-training exercise torches as many calories as running at a 6-minute-mile pace for the same amount of time. So for every second you spend lifting weights, your body is expending high amounts of energy. Add high intensity interval training (HIIT) principles to your workout, and you could see even more gains.
Strength training is an essential part of most fitness routines, but if you want a six pack, building more muscle can help. Strength training with weight lifting not only helps build muscle, boost metabolism and increase muscle definition, but it is a great way to burn lots of calories in a short time. Strengthening the muscles, tendons, and ligaments also helps reduce strain on the joints which ultimately can help prevent many sports injuries.
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."
When you allow carbs post-exercise your body rapidly absorbs the carbs directly into the muscle tissue, advancing growth. Post-exercise carbs additionally enable your muscles to recover speedily, which will give you better result quicker. Furthermore dietary fat in your diet will keep insulin levels stable, which will help you to bar from getting extra body fat.
While staying hydrated is important no matter your fitness goals, you absolutely have to drink up if you want to see the abs you’ve been working so hard to sculpt. Your body is two thirds water, and you want to make sure it stays that way, Delbridge says. Keeping your water levels up prevents water retention and helps your body rid itself of toxins and excess salt to reduce boat. And if you’re puffy, your abs aren’t going to look as chiseled as they could. When you hit the urinals, your pee should be pretty much clear.
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.
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!
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.