You may think of power bars as protein-loaded snacks that are perfect pre- or post-workout. And while you’re not entirely wrong, you’re not entirely wrong, either. In addition to high protein levels, many power bars are surreptitiously loaded with sugar, which will bring any ab-seeking efforts of yours screeching to a halt. So, if you’re going to reach for a bar, be sure to check the nutrition facts first. Many bars—like the offerings from ONE or thinkThin—only have 1 gram of sugar for 20 grams of protein (and still taste delicious, to boot).
In your workout: Regularly implement both back and front squats into your program. To keep it from becoming mundane, you can rotate through them in four-week waves, or alternate weeks between back and fronts. It's best to do your focused ab training on a day after your heavy training days for the week. The last thing you want is residual soreness that forces you to decrease the weight on the bar.
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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.
To do it: Start seated, then lean back, resting your weight on your forearms (bending your elbows behind your body, fingers facing forward). Extend both legs straight out in front of you. Bend your right knee into a ‘passé position’ by pointing your right foot and pressing the inside edge of your right foot along the inside of your left knee. Draw your abs in tight and lift your legs off the mat and towards the chest (maintaining passé position). Bring your right knee all the way up to the right side of your chest and then lower your legs (still in passé) back down, about two inches from the floor (or as low as you can). Repeat 8 times and then switch legs. Try to do 8 reps on each side, for up to 2 sets.
Why it made the list: Yes, a leg exercise made the top 10 list for abs. Anyone who has ever pushed their potential in the squat knows exactly why! Sure, squat variations work the legs and lower back, but they also crush the abs. Both front and back squats force your abs and spinal erectors to work overtime to maintain a neutral, upright position. If both were not firing at high rates, you'd fold under the weight or drop in a split second.
Do it: Lay face up on the floor with arms straight above your shoulders. To start, bring your knees directly over your hips and bend at the knee so that your calf forms a 90-degree angle with your thigh. Next, simultaneously lower your left arm above your head while straightening your right leg and sending it towards the floor. Pause, return to the starting position, and then repeat on the opposite side. Do 14 alternating reps to complete one set.
Bicycle: This exercise works your obliques as well as your rectus abdominis. Lie on your back, hips and knees bent at 90-degrees, chest curled over ribs, hands behind your head. Extend the left leg out while bringing the right knee in towards the chest and rotating the left shoulder toward the right knee. Keep the arm from crossing the face. Rotate from the trunk through the center to the other side without dropping your chest. Move in slow, controlled movements without shifting your hips.
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.
Contrary to what popular culture portrays, one does not need to lift really heavy if muscle hypertrophy, aka “bigger muscles” or aesthetic gains are the primary goal (see bodybuilding vs powerlifting). One needs to ensure that a particular muscle is subjected to enough time under tension and training volume to ensure that muscle fibres are broken down and rebuilt stronger over time. This can be done by following a high-volume, moderately high rep range, moderate weight and low rest period lifting routine. I start off with 5 sets of a heavier compound lift eventually moving to isolation exercises. I started off with the popular ‘3 sets of 10’ for isolation exercises, then to 12 and now hit 4 sets with the rep ranges 15,12,10 and 8. Higher reps would mean a lighter weight and vice versa. My last set is almost invariably a dropset. I hit around 15 -18 working sets per muscle group per week.
When guys talk about six-packs, they are really talking about one muscle, called the rectus abdominis. “The rectus abdominis runs from our lower ribs down to the top of our pubic bone, and fibrous bands of tissue break up the muscle along the way to give us the six-pack look we all desire,” explains kinesiologist David Cary, C.P.T., a T4 Coach at Equinox in Chicago. So, if you want to sprout six-pack abs, this is the muscle you need to work.