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!
When you're doing exercises to strengthen these muscles, think of the abs and core as one unit. Even when you do exercises that recruit more of one muscle than the others (for example, side planks that really fire up the obliques), you'll notice that you still have to engage your entire midsection to do them right, which is proof that these muscles are never working completely alone. It's important to show equal love to all of the muscles of the core so that this unit can power itself properly from all angles.
“You will not make more muscle by trying this route,” says McComsey. When you do cardio you’re burning calories, but you’re not stimulating your muscles to grow as you would with weight training. “The more muscle you have, the more calories and fat you’ll be burning,” he says. McComsey recommends hitting the weight room three or four days per week, with one of those days being a circuit with a variety of exercises. If you need to do cardio, try one day of 20-minutes of fast-slow intervals.
Be content with slow but definite progress — It’s near obvious your meals are going to contain more fat, more carbs and lesser protein than a meal which has meat. However, if you think you can make this work long term and are willing to commit yourself, you will definitely see amazing progress. Just make sure you’re in a slight caloric deficit (or surplus, if you’re underweight), consume sufficient protein (atleast 0.5gms of protein per pound of bodyweight) and hit the weights hard.
Bodyweight training builds an excellent muscular foundation. After I built my six pack abs with bodyweight training, I wanted to build more muscle so I started lifting weights. 4 months after I started weightlifting, I was deadlifting 460 pounds, bench pressing 275 pounds, squatting 365 pounds and military pressing 175 pounds. I owe this incredibly fast progress to the foundation I built with bodyweight training. (If you don’t believe me, read Arnold Schwarzenegger’s biography that documents his bodybuilding career (which I reviewed here) and you’ll see that he also recommends newbies to start building muscle with bodyweight training.)
Lay flat on your back again for this one but this time, place a dumbbell between your feet with your knees completely bent and thighs pointing straight up. Hold on to the dumbbell with your feet and bring your legs up toward your chest making sure your lower back gets off the ground. Focus on using your abs to pull your legs up and not getting momentum from your knees or feet.
Pre-Workout [Morning — 6.30AM, Evening — 6.30PM] — ½ scoop of Whey. This ensures you don’t lose muscle mass during your workout. On Cardio days, I consume nothing else but on Weight Training days, I have 1 slice of brown bread spread with Unsweetened, Natural Peanut Butter topped with 1 banana. It’s a solid combination of complex carbs and fruit sugar to fuel your workout.
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.
Now you can shred your abs like a skier shreds the slopes, with the dumbbell skier swing. Gaddour took the typical form a downhill skier uses when flying down the face of a mountain, and combined it with the action of a kettlebell swing. The combination results in a superfast exercise that simultaneously torches fat, builds explosive strength, and works your entire core from your shoulders to your hips.
"But after having children and maturing, my body image has changed. I don’t run or eat to look a certain way, but instead to feel a certain way—happy. I no longer count calories or restrict what I eat. I focus on real food that’s minimally processed, and most meals include some sort of carbs (I really love potatoes), protein, and lots of veggies. All of that, coupled with higher mileage during more intense marathon training, has led me to how I look today. When I’m not in the middle of marathon training, I’m often five to 10 pounds heavier—and that’s totally okay.” —Michele Gonzalez, @nycrunningmama
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.
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.
“I’m a sous chef at Sac-a-lait in New Orleans, and I average 12-hour days where I’m tasting a lot of food in the kitchen—including desserts, as part of my job is to develop new treats to put on the menu. That’s why my husband and I meal prep every Sunday. I’ll bring meals that are high in protein and full of green veggies, so that when I’m tempted to really dig in to the high-calorie food, I can quickly eat that instead. It allows me to really enjoy and savor the small bites of everything else I eat, too.” —Rocko Payne, @rockopayne
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.
Dinner (9.15PM) — Vegetables sautéed in different masalas with some tomato curry, paprika seasoning and curd. Add different sauces from time to time for extra flavour. I load up on veggies while trying to get as many different colours on the plate as I can. For me, these usually are Broccoli, Bell Peppers, Beet Root and Zucchini along with regular ones like Spinach, carrots and cucumber. For weight training days, you want to introduce some carbs into your dinner. Initially, I stuck to Sweet Potatoes and Brown Rice but now occasionally have Roti, Rice, Brown Bread and even Pasta. On cardio days, I would add a cube of cheese or some paneer.
4. Be sure to eat enough protein. As you lower your calorie intake and cut down on processed foods and refined sugar, be sure to get enough protein, Singer says. "Prioritizing protein will help you maintain muscle mass," he says. Lean meats, skinless chicken and turkey, beans and lentils, tofu and soy-based foods, eggs, nuts and low-fat dairy products are good sources of protein. Your body breaks down protein into amino acids, which it uses to build muscle, according to Harvard Health. Research published in 2015 in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that for all adults, consuming high-quality protein (from eggs, beef and dairy products, for instance) in combination with physical activity "represents a promising strategy to delay the onset of sarcopenia [a disease characterized by loss of muscle mass and strength]."
For training, you need to set a serious pace for when you hit the gym. Standing around your overloaded squat bar that you were going to do quarter reps on every five minutes won’t cut it. Start serious volume short-rest training by laying a smackdown on your muscles. Building mass comes at the price of getting lean, so maintenance and permanent pump will be the strategy—the results will be worth it. For training you’re going to do 4 exercises at 4 sets and 12 reps minimum per body part approach. It’s encouraged to do 5 or even 6 sets, and if you’re not struggling with those, then go further. When it comes to abs, slow and steady wins the race. I know it sounds cliché, but large range-of-motion reps with added weight for your 12 reps will produce far deeper cuts than doing 50 crappy situps. Give yourself at least a 4-count per rep on your abs.
Let’s say it took you 15 minutes to do 100 push-ups in today’s training session. In order to achieve progressive overload, it’s enough for you to do 100 push-ups in less than 15-minutes in your next training session. This is why your training sessions will get shorter as you improve. The faster you complete your reps, the quicker you’ll wrap your training up and move on with your day. When I got my six-pack abs, people couldn’t believe that I was training for less than a total of 2 hours a week. (Actually, it was closer to 1,5 hours).
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.
Muscles exert higher EMG tension when they are contracting eccentrically (lowering the resistance) versus raising it; but the problem with most exercises is that the amount of weight you can lower is limited by how much you can lift positively (concentric work). This exercise compensates for the problem by changing the leverage during the lowering (eccentric) phase of the exercise.
To do it: Stand with your feet hip-width apart and pressed firmly into the floor and hold a medicine ball (or other similar weighted object). Brace your abs in tight (as if preparing for someone to punch your stomach) and use your lower body to start the movement by bending your knees, sitting back into your hips, and reaching the ball down across the outside of your left leg. Stand up, swinging your arms across your body and up to the right while pressing your hips forward. Do 10-12 reps going from left hip to right shoulder, and then repeat on the other side.
Why it made the list: Those infomercials got one thing right! Some EMG data suggests that using an ab wheel may beat out hanging leg raises, sit-ups, and reverse crunches for the top muscle activator. This movement capitalizes on the concept of anti-extension perfectly; as you roll out, your trunk must actively fire (eccentric motion) to maintain a neutral spine without collapsing under your body weight and gravity. Watch that you don't risk your back by allowing it to droop into extension at the bottom, though!
Getting ripped is more about your attitude and overall approach than it is about finding the perfect exercise or perfect food. Keep in mind, you're human and seeing any signs of abs are better than none. Don’t worry if you have a bad day at the gym or eating, you'll be fine as long as you get back on track the next day. For those just looking to trim down, this program still works by providing a beneficial guide for future cutting needs.
For example, believing that you should eat your pre-workout meal is a great way to procrastinate with your training. What if you worked overtime and you don’t have enough time to eat your pre-workout meal? What if you don’t have enough money to buy supplements? All the items in the above list have the potential to evolve into excuses for procrastinating, or worse, quitting. Just forget about them and only do what matters. This will save you enormous time and willpower that should be spared for the things that actually matter in your quest to get abs.
Spend a lot of money on expensive supplements and food — There are plenty of (rather expensive) supplements like plant protein powders and vegetarian meal replacement shakes. You might have to substitute more of solid food for these supplements to hit your ideal macro goals. As a vegetarian, you’re also not going to get in a lot of BCAAs through food so you might have to supplement with them separately. I’m not the one to tell you whether this is a good idea or not. If you can afford purchasing fancy food and supplements frequently, up to you.
Intermittent Fasting(IF) — Basically, skip breakfast and have only water/black coffee till lunch. In IF, you don’t eat for a period of 16 hours, typically skipping one major meal. You avoid spiking your insulin levels, your HGH is elevated and allow your body to tap into fat for energy. It also allows you to have a larger lunch and dinner, keeping you full longer for the rest of the day. IF is also shown to have various health benefits and is completely safe. Fun fact, even Terry Crews from the TV show ‘Brooklyn nine nine’ follows IF to stay ripped at 49. I followed IF for the first 3 months when I worked out in the evening. I also skip breakfast on treat days so I can eat a whole lot of food that evening!
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.
The starting position has you sitting at about a 45-degree angle and holding a medicine ball firmly with both hands in front of you. Start the movement by contracting your abs and slowly twisting from your torso to your right and tap the medicine ball on the floor beside you. Then quickly, but with a controlled motion, contract your abs and twist your torso and touch the medicine ball to the other side. Repeat 10-20 reps and rest.
But alas, this process doesn’t happen overnight. And by now, the washboard abs industrial complex has produced such a dizzying volume of exercises, tricks, and gizmos promising to transform your midsection into a Hemsworth brother’s midsection that even after you’ve settled on a strategy, it’s hard not to wonder whether all that diligence and discipline is really making a difference.
I absolutely despise the idea of a ketogenic diet because that’s something most of us can’t subscribe to for life. There are other popular diets besides keto like paleo and atkins that also demonize carbs and tell you that they make you fat. In my opinion, more food in general (which will invariably have more carbs) makes you fat, not carbs. Carbs are the basic fuel your body needs to function.