Bodyweight exercises always recruit more than one muscle group for each exercise so it is impossible to isolate and work one muscle group specifically by doing one type of exercise. It is however possible to increase the load targeting specific muscle groups with specific exercises so that they respond the most to the challenge. The following chart helps you find the exercise that helps focus more on specific abdominal muscle groups for best results.
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.
I have about 2 treat meals a week. ‘Treat’ sounds better than ‘cheat’ because after all, you’ve earned it! This is when I occasionally indulge in some beer, a slice of pizza, creamy pasta, something fried or maybe ice-cream. I’m a huge fan of Middle-Eastern cuisine so one of my meals over a weekend would definitely be a shawarma, a hummus platter and some kebabs on the side. I have a diet coke sometimes but mostly avoid all other soft-drinks including fruit juice (too much sugar, even the ‘natural’ variants). It’s imperative you make a conscious attempt to stay away from all of this on regular days.
Do it: With your feet shoulder-width apart, lift a barbell off the rig, centering it evenly across your shoulders. (This version of the squat targets the core, not the legs, and so you should be using far less weight than you would for a traditional back squat.) Send your glutes back like you’re lowering into a chair, bending at the knees as deeply as possible. Press through your heels to return to the starting position for one rep. Do 12 reps for one set.
Lie face-up on a mat grasping something overhead or your arms flat at your sides. Pull your legs up so that they are at a right angle with your torso. (Theresa Hessler demonstrates at top of page.) This is your start position. Keep the position of your legs as consistent as possible. Now curl your hips up to the position shown in the second photo while exhaling. Your weight should be concentrated on your shoulders, not your neck. Slowly return to the start position while inhaling.
Experienced bodybuilders are better off with bulking and cutting because muscle gains are slow to come by after the first year of strength training. Newbies make the mistake of copying the strategy of experienced bodybuilders by starting their strength training journey with a bulk, only to end up gaining more fat than muscle (if any). The problem is, the body fat percentage of the average man is already at around 18–24% which is considered to be fat by bodybuilding standards. If you start bulking at an already high body fat percentage of 18–24% then you are guaranteed to get fat no matter how much muscle you end up building. To add insult to the injury, the most efficient weightlifting exercises such as deadlifts and squats have a learning curve to master, which usually leaves the newbies with gaining too much fat and little to no muscle gains to speak of.
Why it made the list: Decline-bench crunches amp up the challenge by increasing the range of motion over standard crunches, and you can dial up (or down) the degree of difficulty by adjusting the angle of the bench. Adding a medicine ball or weight plate against your chest adds a further level of customizable resistance. This also allows you to manipulate where you want to fail: low, medium, or high reps.
Regular cardiovascular exercise should be an essential part of your plan. I recommend you try and get in three to five cardio workouts per week. If you find you’re not losing as much fat as you’d like then shoot for five sessions a week. If your progress is good then you might be able to get away with just three sessions a week. Adjust appropriately based on your rate of progress.
This exercise will stretch many of the muscles responsible for posture that are sometimes tight and it strengthens those same muscles if they are weak. You may discover that when you first perform it, one side of your body is significantly stronger or tighter. For instance, a long-time discus thrower who has turned to his left for years, to initiate his throw, may have significantly stronger obliques on his left side.
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.
To do it: Start with feet in a wide stance, knees bent, arms up on guard. Keeping your lower body still, quickly lean your upper body to the right, then come back through the center and lean to the left. Repeat lean back to the right. Next, lower your upper body, from the right around to the left side, making a half circle with your torso. Return to start position. That’s one rep. (Tip: it helps to keep a steady rhythm with this move, think—or say aloud—1, 2, 3, weave to help you keep your tempo). Repeat 10 times total, alternating starting on the right and left sides.