Tighten your abdominal muscles and protect your spine with the most effective ab exercises from the American Council on Exercise (ACE). Learn proper techniques and step-by-step instruction from America's Authority on Fitness. This large collection of exercises is also featured in complete workout routines that include full-body and at-home workouts. Whether you?re looking for beginner level training or advanced fitness programs, we have something here for everyone to target core muscle groups. Choose from a wide variety of lower ab exercises, standing trunk rotations, reverse crunches and more.
Better news: By doing the types of routines here that strengthen from all angles and focus on function (how your body moves in real life) rather than flexion (crunches), you’ll look good and have a stronger core and less risk of lower back injury. “Not only will you see better gains faster, it’s also the quickest way to take inches off your waistline,” says Fitzgerald.
The first step to finding your six pack is to clean up your diet. If you want to see your ab muscles, you need to decrease your overall body fat. Get rid of processed "junk" foods, sugars and processed carbs. Eat more vegetables, nuts, and fruits, organic lean protein and healthy fats, such as olive oil, fish oils, and avocados. Try eating several small meals each day and avoid late night snacking. Eat some protein for breakfast, lots of vegetables, fruits, and fiber and drink water rather than calorie-laden beverages. Don't cut calories drastically or you could inadvertently lower your ​metabolism. Bottom line: eat more high quality, nutrient-rich foods and eat fewer empty, processed calories.
We put this on the list because of how easy it is to manipulate the degree of difficulty. If a regular plank is too easy for you, lift an arm, or a leg—or an arm and a leg. Put your feet into a TRX and give that a whirl. Still too easy? Take your feet out, and put your forearms in. Each one of these progressions leads to a greater training stimulus to the abs.

"My goals six years ago was to 'get abs' and I used to think cardio and crunches would get me there. But it wasn’t until I started lifting weights and varying my abdominal exercises that I started to see a major change. You don’t realize how much you use your core muscles in order to perform powerful rapid movements like deadlifts!" — Shante Franca, @shantefranca
Your core muscles allow you to stabilize your spine when you do pushups, shovel snow, walk up stairs, pick up your kids from the floor, and otherwise go about the motions of everyday life. "That's why the best ab exercises don't flex your spine, they keep your spine straight," says Durkin. The hip-up does exactly that while also sculpting your obliques and increasing your rotational control and stability.
Start on your back, bend your knees up with shins parallel to the floor and extend your arms to the ceiling. Straighten your left leg and extend your right arm back to about 6 inches off of the floor, and then come back to the original position. Then, repeat the exercise on the opposite side. Just be sure to keep your abs engaged throughout this move to really work your muscles!
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.
The reverse crunch comes in 7th place for effective ab exercises, with a focus on the rectus abdominis. With this move, you're curling the hips off the floor, so you'll feel this in the lower part of the abs. The key to this move is to avoid swinging the legs to raise the hips. This is a small, subtle move, so you only need to lift your hips a few inches off the floor.
2. Cut out or greatly curtail your consumption of refined sugar. Not all calories are equal when you're trying to lose weight and develop a six-pack, Herrington says. For example, 200 calories from a robust serving of beans or from a sugary cookie provide vastly different amounts of nutrition. A serving of beans would typically contain good amounts of protein, potassium, magnesium and dietary fiber, while a cookie packed with sugar is mostly empty calories, Herrington says. She advises staying away from foods like white bread, cakes and pies and white crackers that are laden with refined sugar. You should also eschew sugary sports drinks, fruit juices and sodas, in favor of plain water or milk. "The biggest thing I advise people to avoid is added sugars," Herrington says. "If you want to cut out body fat, cut that out. Refined sugar isn't doing you any good. You get a temporary boost of energy, then you crash and crave more. It's like burning money; it's a waste." Eating too much refined sugar is also linked to fatty liver disease, obesity and diabetes, she says.

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.


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I use the ab machines at the gym. I do a couple variations on crunches (sitting up and lying down both on machines with weights. I can crunch 55lbs on the one that’s sitting position, 40 on the other), hanging leg lifts (which kill my shoulders), the oblique twist machine, as well as full body workouts. I just started the gym about 2 months ago and have really upped the weight since then so my body is definitely progressing.
We put this on the list because of how easy it is to manipulate the degree of difficulty. If a regular plank is too easy for you, lift an arm, or a leg—or an arm and a leg. Put your feet into a TRX and give that a whirl. Still too easy? Take your feet out, and put your forearms in. Each one of these progressions leads to a greater training stimulus to the abs.
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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.
The Ab Roller is number 9 for targeting the rectus abdominis, and you've probably seen this around the gym (or under your bed) for the last several years. What's nice about this that it provides neck and arm support, something that might be helpful for people who feel strain in the neck when doing regular crunches. If you don't have an Ab Roller, you can still get a great workout with a variety of core exercises.
Start on the floor with your feet outstretched (more difficult) or your knees slightly bend with your heels on the floor (a bit easier). Contract your core, lift your upper body from the hips so your lower back and shoulders are about 10 inches off the floor. Stretch your arms out along your sides with palms up, and simply hold that position for up to a minute at a time. Ouch. It's a good one.
1. Consume fewer calories than you're burning every day. Job one when trying to achieve a six-pack is to lose weight, which means expending more calories than you take in on a daily basis, says Dani Singer, a certified fitness nutrition specialist and certified personal trainer in Baltimore. He's the director of Fit2Go Personal Training. To optimize losing fat and not muscle, you need to be in a caloric deficit, eat adequate protein and strength train, he says. "The source of your food will affect health, but will have zero effect on your body composition," Singer says. "It's the total calories and macronutrients [protein, fat and carbs] from your foods that will determine how your body looks."
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."
Amazingly, exercising the abdominal muscles is far less important than shedding the fat which hides them. Lots of people attain incredible six packs simply by becoming leaner, though sometimes, compound exercises which recruit lots of muscle fibers (which I’m a big fan of), such as deadlifts or squats, may help improve the appearance of the abdominal muscles.
To do it: Kneel with your elbows bent under your shoulders on top of a stability ball. Draw your abs in tight, keep your weight in your arms (chest lifted off the ball), and extend both legs out straight behind you, feet about hip-width apart. Maintain a straight line from your head, shoulders, hips, knees, and feet. Once you are stabilized on the ball, slowly roll the ball away from your body to increase the lever length and add stress on the abdominal region. For safety, go slowly and start with short movements in and out for 10-15 reps. When you feel ready, you can progress how far away you reach and your number of reps, Richey says.

Start in a side plank with left forearm on floor, elbow under shoulder, feet stacked, and hips lifted so body forms one long, straight line. Stretch right arm up to ceiling. This is your starting position. Draw the right hand down and reach it below left underarm as you curl upper body forward so shoulders are parallel to floor. Return to starting position. Repeat for 30 seconds on each side.


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