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.
Like beer, each soda has about 150 calories. What’s worse, however, is that soda is generally loaded with processed sugars, which will surely derail any attempts at toning your core. And if you think that drinking diet or zero-cal stuff is fine, think again. According to a study in the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, folks who drank diet soda regularly actually end up gaining more weight than those who drink regular soda. In other words, if abs are your goal, steer clear of the stuff entirely.
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."
Why it made the list: Those infomercials got one thing right! Some EMG data suggests that using an ab wheel may beat out hanging leg raises, sit-ups, and reverse crunches for the top muscle activator. This movement capitalizes on the concept of anti-extension perfectly; as you roll out, your trunk must actively fire (eccentric motion) to maintain a neutral spine without collapsing under your body weight and gravity. Watch that you don't risk your back by allowing it to droop into extension at the bottom, though!
"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
First up is the diet. This will become your most important component because it takes the most discipline, and if you’re not getting rid of the fat and water, then your abs are going to seem more like a two-pack. With the diet, don’t drastically cut carbs—instead burn them. Keep carbs constant until your abs are truly ready to be seen, then a quick cut will rip out the final drops of water. This is the biggest mistake I’ve seen, dropping carbs too fast and too much, which reduces energy and forces “skinny fat” syndrome instead of good fat burning. Increase your protein to an additional 50-60g per day and amino acid intake to 10-20g per day of supplementation; do this while increasing your veggie intake, so that you can get your calorie count where it needs to be to shed the excess poundage. To reduce excess water weight, add natural diuretic-based products that have dandelion and green tea extract and uva ursi and cranberry. Also, make sure to hit a fat burner that cooperates with your gut, and keep tabs on your indulgences. When you’re out, resist the urge to consume heavy or sugary drinks and fatty foods. Lastly, eat several smaller meals each day to maintain fuel and curb appetite.
“I alternate between all-out effort sprints (30 to 60 seconds) and walk/jog as a recovery until I feel fatigued. Intensity is key. Abs work as stabilizing muscles during a sprint, so the harder I push myself the harder my abs will work! Plus, there’s no equipment required, and I get a high calorie burn and full-body workout done in very little time. (I tell myself I can do anything for 30 seconds.) Depending on how I feel, I’ll either add this to the end of a routine or make it my entire workout, two to three times a week.” —Suzanne Cover, @suzannecover
Everyone has six pack abs. They’re there, whether you believe it or not. The problem is that not everyone’s body composition is such that their abs are actually visible. These muscles don’t need to be created – they need to be revealed. Remember our “strongman” example – powerful upper body, mighty arms, and a layer of soft flab around their midsection? Believe me, Mr. Strongman is packing some serious stomach muscles, but like on a lot of us, they’re hidden under layers of adipose tissue. That’s why they’re not visible.
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.
To do it: Stand with your feet hip-width apart and pressed firmly into the floor and hold a medicine ball (or other similar weighted object). Brace your abs in tight (as if preparing for someone to punch your stomach) and use your lower body to start the movement by bending your knees, sitting back into your hips, and reaching the ball down across the outside of your left leg. Stand up, swinging your arms across your body and up to the right while pressing your hips forward. Do 10-12 reps going from left hip to right shoulder, and then repeat on the other side.