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.
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.
To do it: Lie on the floor with your arms extended above your head and both legs lifted in the air at about a 45-degree angle. Inhale, roll your head and shoulders off the mat, press your ribs down toward your hip bones and exhale, lifting your entire upper body off the mat (keeping both legs up). At the top of the exercise, "land" your arms so that the arms and legs are parallel to one another. Then, breathe "naturally" while holding the top/up position for two slow counts. Reverse the action by inhaling and then rolling your back, shoulders and head down onto the mat exhaling at the start position.
Aerobic exercise is one of the safest ways to burn lots of calories over a long period of time while you maintain heart health and tone muscles. Simply modifying your diet or reducing your calories without exercise will lead to initial weight loss, but you'll likely reach a plateau and you may also lose muscle. A personal exercise plan that has a solid base of cardiovascular exercise will help you maintain exercise for the long-term, help you get past weight loss plateaus and can help you maintain your muscle mass. So get out for a nice long walk, a hike, a bike ride or a swim on a regular basis. Park the car and walk for most of your errands and just get moving more often.
Core exercises target the same muscles that crunches do — but they also include your hip and lower-back muscles. So what's a true core exercise? One that trains you to keep your spine stable and in its natural alignment. Besides the plank (more on that in a minute), scores of exercises qualify, including the side plank, mountain climber, rollouts, hollow body holds, and even the pushup.
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.
Do it: Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold a dumbbell in your right hand, palm facing inwards towards the torso. Keep your back straight, activate your core, and then bend to the side as far as possible—but only at the waist. Hold for one second at the bottom of your range of motion, and return to start for one rep. Do between 12 and 20 reps for one set.
To do it: Lie down with a small ball (a small pillow will also work if you don’t have a ball) under your heels, both arms extended over your head, palms facing towards each other. Inhale to prepare as you lift your head, neck, and shoulders off the floor and then exhale as you continue to roll up by drawing in your abdominals, reaching up and over towards the feet. Keep your abdominals contracted, with your spine rounded in a ‘C’ curve, and then inhale to prepare and exhale as you roll down through each vertebra in a controlled movement, keeping your heels pressed evenly into the ball the entire way up and down. Do 15 reps as controlled and precise as you can.
Fats —Fats get a bad rep. Fats are actually required for the normal and healthy functioning of your body. They key is to consume healthy fats from sources such as almonds and walnuts without going overboard. If your fat levels are low, it’s going to affect the testosterone levels in your body, affecting your gains. Also, if you completely eliminate fats from your food, your body starts converting all your carbs into fat and we all know where that ends up!
Natural trainers can build up to 20 pounds of muscle in their first year of strength training. Muscle growth slows down with each year of training until it creeps to a crawl in the 4th year. A natural trainer in his 4th year of strength training will build a pittance of 2-3 pounds of muscle in the entire year and that’s when his diet and training are both on point.
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.
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.
“You’ve heard it before, but I’ll say it again—what you put in your mouth matters. It’s crucial to trimming up your core. You can do crunches for days, but if you aren’t fueling properly you’ll never see those abs! My favorite foods to snack on for flat abs are blueberries, apples, sweet potatoes, eggs, lean poultry, and green tea. ” —Amanda Butler, @amandabutlernyc
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.
Attention to workout rest and recovery, as well as nighttime sleep, is also critical to promote muscle growth and hormone balance. You may find much of your time is spent working out or meal prepping — your social life, hobbies and downtime will likely be compromised. Don't forget, you must also keep up these regimens not just to achieve a six-pack — but to keep one.
On hardwood or tiled floor, place feet on two sliders and assume a high plank position (hands under shoulders, soft bend in elbows, butt and core engaged). Pull feet in toward chest, bending knees until you’re in a bear plank, knees below hips, but still lifted off floor. Slowly push feet back to high plank. Continue to repeat. To make it easier, move one leg at a time.
“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
Once your dietary concerns are out of the way, it’s time to train those abs! Abs are just like any other muscle group, but smaller than most. That means you need to train them and let them recover just like any other muscle. So we recommend doing this weighted ab workout no more than every other day making sure to allow your abdominal muscles to recover completely.
Strength training is an essential part of most fitness routines, but if you want a six pack, building more muscle can help. Strength training with weight lifting not only helps build muscle, boost metabolism and increase muscle definition, but it is a great way to burn lots of calories in a short time. Strengthening the muscles, tendons, and ligaments also helps reduce strain on the joints which ultimately can help prevent many sports injuries.
Kneel on a mat on all fours with your hands directly under your shoulders. Stretch your legs back one at a time to come into plank position (the “up” part of a push-up); engage your ab muscles. Your body should be long and straight; don’t let your hips sag or lift your butt too high. Imagine there’s a seat belt tightening around your waist, drawing your lower-ab muscles inward.
Before you launch into the advanced ab workout, you will want to ease into it with some basic core exercises to warm up the abdominal muscles. The Plank is a great way to begin. The plank provides a simple and effective core warm-up because engages all the muscles of the core from your toes up to your head. Holding the plank requires the activation of all the major ab muscles as well as many stabilizer muscles that are often ignored.
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.
Alcohol also hurts you in two other areas: “It is a diuretic, which dehydrates you and reduces energy levels,” he says. “It also can decrease testosterone in our bodies which is critical for creating muscle.” Next time you’re planning guys’ night, stick to one or two light beers or a hard liquor with a diet soda mixer. After that, opt for club soda with a lime—nobody but the bartender will know.
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.
So let's get to it. Here are the experts' choices on the most effective abdominal exercises. These should be performed two to three times weekly (for beginners, two is plenty to start). Each exercise should be executed until the point of momentary muscular failure, which should happen between 30 and 90 seconds. This is considered one set, which should be no more than 15 to 20 repetitions. Rest for 30 to 60 seconds. Concentrate on performing each exercise slowly with good form. Work up to completing two to three sets of each exercise.
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.)
"This exercise is so effective because it teaches you not to rely on your bigger muscle groups (like your thighs) and focuses on using your abdominals correctly in a controlled manner without using momentum. The use of the ball gives you natural feedback of your weaker side so that you can adjust and work on symmetry of your musculature, preventing future injuries."
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.
"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 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.)