Common knowledge will tell you that, to get six-pack abs, carbs are verboten. Common knowledge is right—kind of. The key is to avoid the wrong carbs, like French fries, and eat the right carbs, like sweet potatoes. These orange goodies are full of carotenoids, which prevent calories from turning into fat; fiber, which helps you stay sated, and ultimately eat less; and Vitamin C, which’ll give you energy (for working out). And for more ab-shredding foods, check out the 10 Healthy Carbs That Won’t Derail Your Six-Pack.
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.
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.
Lie face-up on a mat grasping something overhead or your arms flat at your sides. Pull your legs up so that they are at a right angle with your torso. (Theresa Hessler demonstrates at top of page.) This is your start position. Keep the position of your legs as consistent as possible. Now curl your hips up to the position shown in the second photo while exhaling. Your weight should be concentrated on your shoulders, not your neck. Slowly return to the start position while inhaling.
But instead of just trying to perform as many reps as possible, slow down and really focus on the quality of the movement—especially the eccentric, or downward motion, of the exercise, he says. “The eccentric contraction is the most important phase when sculpting any muscle.” Plus, focusing on quality over quantity will help protect your back (some experts say crunches can be potentially troublesome for guys with back issues.)