“The bird dog forces you to keep your core stiff,” says Jack. “Lifting your knees off the ground just a couple of inches—as you do in this exercise—makes it even more challenging to keep your torso still as you switch arms and legs.” That means your hips and lower-back muscles, obliques, rectus abdominis (also known as the six-pack muscles) are working together to keep your spine stable.
The crunch is the most popular abs exercise because anyone can do it. But that doesn't mean it's the best exercise for training your middle. "Crunches flex your trunk," says David Jack, owner of ActivPrayer in Phoenix, Arizona and creator of Men's Health MA40 Workout. "But the main function of your core is to prevent movement and resist force through your torso."
After having achieved this goal, there’s a seemingly big void in my life. I intend to fill it up with another ambitious goal instead of more training, though the latter is far more tempting! I find that training, staying fit, and eating right fits in very well with my lifestyle. I intend to keep it that way while being content with slow but lean and steady gains over time. I do intend on dabbling in boxing and advanced callisthenics in the future.
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.
Lie faceup with feet flexed in the air so body creates a 90-degree angle and arms are rested palms down at sides. Use core to pulse legs straight up towards ceiling, lifting butt off floor and pushing weight into hands. Think about stamping the bottom of your shoes on the ceiling and avoid using momentum to swing legs forward and up. Lower back to floor and repeat.
During your weight-training workouts try to keep your rest periods to a minimum between each set. Rest periods between sets should be 30 to 60 seconds in length. With shorter rest periods between sets your heart rate will stay elevated throughout the entire workout. Again, this is just another simple strategy you can use to increase caloric expenditure and enhance fat loss!
What's the fastest way to sculpt a rock-solid core like Rocky Balboa's? Slow it down. "Your muscles can handle more weight on the eccentric, or lowering, phase of a lift," says Todd Durkin, C.S.C.S., owner of Fitness Quest 10 in San Diego, California. So decreasing the pace of that phase—like you do with this slo-mo ab exercise from Rocky IV—forces your muscles to work harder, accelerating your gains.
"One of the main jobs of the abdominal or core muscles is to act as stabilizers for the trunk, helping to support while the person is squatting, lifting, or moving about in general. Many studies show that muscle fiber activation rates in the rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, and internal and external obliques are higher during the squat than during many ‘traditional’ crunch type exercises where the performer is lying on their back."
"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
A. Like I said, I personally don’t believe in dieting. It’s about consuming good foods while being smart about consuming the ‘lesser good foods’ by having them in sensible quantities at the right time. I’m all for having an ice-cream once in a while and don’t hesitate in enjoying an entire (small) serving after which I slightly adjust my meals the next couple of days, skip breakfast and do a little more cardio. Really depends but it all finally averages out.
Lie face-up and place your lower legs on a Swiss ball. Extend your right arm overhead and bend your left arm at a 90-degree angle; then grasp the upper portion of your right arm so you form a cradle for your head. Flexing your toes and holding the ball in place by contracting your hamstrings, crunch forward to the finish position. In this position, increase the tension on your abs by attempting to pull the ball towards you with your hamstrings. Return to the start and exhale. Your rectus abdominus can flex only about 30 degrees (strictly), so when you perform this exercise it may not be necessary to lift your shoulders off the floor to achieve peak contraction. You can make the exercise more difficult by pulling harder with your hamstrings, maintaining peak contraction longer and by holding a weight in your free hand.
A. Unfortunately, most people don’t have the right notion of what a natural six pack or a lean body looks like. We’re so constantly fed images from magazine covers and movie posters, it’s hard to lose sight. These people use various editing techniques, strategic lighting and poses to get the best shots and convince us that that is what muscular men look like which is not true. Many popular Hollywood/Bollywood actors resort to consuming anabolic steroids and drugs which is the reason they look absolutely shredded for a particular film. The on-screen muscle you see on them is easy 10+ years of hard earned gains for natural individuals. Try comparing an actor’s in-film photos to photos taken a year or two afterwards. You’ll know what I’m talking about. If you want to look big/buff naturally, you need to put on some fat, potentially losing your abs and muscle definition in the process. As for the ‘skinny’ issue, the problem is so many people are overweight these days that that’s become the new ‘normal’ so when they see someone with a healthy, lean body composition they think it’s skinny. This issue should go away over time when one builds more lean muscle.
I train 6 times a week with the only goal of getting stronger, lifting heavier and beating my previous records. I aggressively subscribe to the concept of progressive overload where you constantly challenge yourself by increasing volume, intensity, weight or a combination of those 3. This is the only way to continue building lean muscle as someone natural (one who does not consume anabolic steroids or enhancement drugs). I keep notes on how heavy I hit an exercise previously and new exercises I would like to incorporate for each muscle group.
To do it: Lie on your back with your hands interlaced behind head, knees bent ,and feet hip-width apart on the floor. Inhale and lift your chest towards your knees, bringing your shoulders and head off the floor, maintaining a neutral pelvis (keeping it parallel to the floor). Exhale and rotate to the right side, and then exhale again rotating even further, lifting a little higher. Next, inhale and lift as you return to the center and repeat to the other side. Do 8-10 reps per side.
"I like a challenge, and someone telling me that it wasn’t possible was just the kick I needed to see if it was possible. So I started eating healthier—really focusing on figuring out what foods I had an intolerance for, were causing me to bloat, or were just notoriously hard on the gut—and learning how to get more out of my workouts. One trainer pointed out to me that I wasn’t doing situps in a way that was as effective as it could be, and to this day I still think of his advice (tilt my pelvis so my back lies flat on the floor!) every time I do core work.” —Dorothy Beal, @mileposts
The recipe for six-pack abs isn’t all that complicated: Crank out an abs workout, eat a nutrient-rich diet, and consume fewer late-night pizzas in a single sitting. The undisputed holy grail of men’s fitness is good for more than just an extra boost of confidence whenever you have cause to peel off your shirt, too. “The best way to avoid injury, whether in the gym, at home, or at the workplace, is by building a strong core,” says Edwin Wealth, NASM-CPT and trainer at Equinox. Want to do yoga better? Run faster? Squat heavier? Carry the groceries without wincing? It all begins with your core.
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.)
Abdominal muscles consist of three layers. The very deepest layer is the transversus abdominis, which acts as the body's girdle, providing support and stability and plays a critical role in exhalation. Next is the rectus abdominis, which flexes the spine. Closest to the surface are the internal and external obliques, which turn the trunk and provide the body with rotation and lateral movement.