Let's come clean from the start: We're not here to sell you on the single "best ab exercise ever." Too many organizations and authors have tried that, and the profusion of "winners" out there can make it confusing—especially because the studies backing them are always limited in one way or another. A few years ago, it was the bicycle crunch. Then it was the traditional crunch. Then it was the pike, the plank, the roll-out... We could go on.
Unless you are on steroids, training 4 times a week is the sweet spot for building muscle. You’ll need resting days for your muscles to grow. One day of training followed by one day of rest is the ideal set up for muscle growth but since there are 7 days in a week, you can train either for 4 days or 3 days a week. Training for 3 days a week is too lazy for a lofty goal like getting six pack abs so it’s best to train 4 days a week and arrange your consecutive days of training to target different muscle groups in your body. Sure, some muscle groups will inevitably be trained for 2 days in a row but that’s a minor issue when you consider that you have 3 whole days of resting in a single week.
In addition to this, you must also avoid sugary products (pastry, candy bars, coke etc), as sugar has a series of negative effects on your health, and it also contributes to belly fat which is the most difficult to get rid of! Of course you will be tempted now and again so have a cheat day once a week when you can have your favourite “bad foods” but don’t go too crazy!
To make sure you stay safe, put one hand underneath the small of your back, crunch your head and shoulders up just a handful of inches, hold for about 10 seconds, and release back down, advises Stuart M. McGill, Ph.D., director of the spine biomechanics laboratory at the University of Waterloo. This move basically ensures that you aren’t rounding your back so that your weight doesn’t drop into your low spine, per McGill.
Leg day, arms day, chest-and-shoulders day. You already break up your regular workouts by muscle group; steal a page out of Alicia Vikander’s ab-shredding book and do the same to your core. To get ripped for Tomb Raider, Vikander broke her core workouts into three days: isometric (endurance moves, like planks); strength (sit-ups, hanging leg raises); and oblique-specific (told you so).
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."
We live in an age where rock-hard, six-pack abdominal muscles are the goal of many workout enthusiasts. We all want that washboard look, but which ab exercises actually work? There are two sets of muscles to target: the rectus abdominis muscles (the ones you engage during regular situps, that run from your sternum to your pelvis) and the transverse abdominis (the deepest ab muscles that wrap around the spine and help stabilize your core).
How to: Lie on your left side with your legs straight and your right leg stacked on your left. Position yourself so your weight is resting on your left forearm and the outside edge of your left foot. Your elbow should be directly beneath your shoulder, and your upper arm should be perpendicular to the floor. Align your body so it forms a straight line from your neck to your ankles, and place your right hand on your hip. Lower your hips toward the ground a couple inches, then come back up to start. That’s one rep. Do 15 reps on each side.
That's why Jack recommends doing 360 abs to sculpt a washboard stomach and improve core stability all at once. While in a pushup position, you must keep your torso completely still as your legs create sweeping circles in different directions. Doing smaller loops hit your six-pack muscles, while bigger ones hit your entire midsection including your obliques, hips, and lower back.
Calorie Counting — I count my calories to make sure I’m on track everyday. I highly recommend the HealthifyMe app. They have an excellent database of food and dishes that you can select and track calories for. They also provide the exact macro breakdown for foods with a day-wise and week-wise analysis of your nutrition. I averaged out between 1500–1600 calories on Cardio Days and 1800–1900 calories on Weight Training Days.
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!
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Creatine works twofold. It helps your muscles retain water, which means they’ll really pop, and it gives you long-lasting energy, which means you can make it through a grueling core workout, no problem. And taking it is effortless: just drop a scoop into your water bottle next time you head to the gym. (Best Life recommends the fruit punch flavor. It’s far and away the smoothest.) And for more great workout-boosting dietary additions, check out the 50 Best Supplements on the Planet.
“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 optimal caloric deficit when you are training 4 times a week is different than the optimal caloric deficit for merely losing weight. You must eat enough food to fuel your training and feed your muscles but still be in a state of a caloric deficit to keep burning fat. For further information on dieting for six-pack abs, refer to my other article entitled Six Pack Abs Diet: The Ultimate Diet Plan to Get Ripped.
Caffeine Pills — I bought into the fad and purchased fat burners. Don’t use them if you workout in the evening because you wont be able to sleep all night and that’s going to cost you some gains. I barely used these in the first 3 months and then regularly for the next 2 (with the sole motive of finishing them). I didn’t really notice any significant difference as far as fat loss was concerned but I’ve noticed more intensity and focus in my workouts thanks to the high caffeine content. While I don’t wholeheartedly recommend them, use them alternately and only for morning workouts if you purchase them. A cup of black coffee is a far more natural and preferable alternative.
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.
A. If you’re someone who just can’t do without eating something, by all means don’t give it up. I personally find it very hard to let go of bread completely so it’s a part of my daily meals. A rule of thumb to follow is “IIFYM-If It Fits Your Macros”. This allows you to be flexible with the food you eat while making sure it doesn’t impact your overall nutrition requirements.
We all want a solid core for different reasons: sports performance, pain prevention, that finish line photo—but strengthening your midsection is particularly important for runners. That’s because your core is the stabilizing center of your body (it keeps you standing, least of all sprinting), and it can make or break your speed goals, prevent (or contribute to!) an injury, and yes, make you feel pretty badass in a sports bra.