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: Assume a push up position, making sure your body forms a straight line from your shoulders down to your toes. Raise your right hand and left leg out to form a straight line with your body, hold for two counts, then return to plank position and repeat with the other arm and leg. That’s one rep. Holland recommends doing 2-3 sets of 10-20 reps, several times per week for best results.
This means exercises such as squats, deadlifts, and virtually any exercise done standing (including things like dumbbell curls when done standing up). So the next time you do deadlifts or even dumbbell curls, really squeeze and contract your abs. Not only will doing so allow you to lift more weight, but it’ll also help you develop a strong and badass six pack.
“If you need a small treat and indulgence per day, to keep you from overdoing it on the weekends,” says Shapiro, go for it. Just be sure to “stick to about 150 calories or less.” It’s a small trick to help you stay on-track. For a good sweet treat, consider dark chocolate (that’s a bar with a 70 percent or higher cacao rating). According to a study in Circulation Heart Failure, the flavanols within can slash your risk of heart disease by more than 30 percent.
“For me, getting a six-pack was about paying attention to what I was eating and lifting heavy weights at CrossFit. I do have a semi-strict diet, and I loosely count macros (focusing on daily carbs, protein, and fat intake rather than blindly counting calories) to stay balanced and on track. It sounds like a lot of work, but it really isn’t. Eventually, it just became a part of my lifestyle, and it’s something I enjoy doing. I even started a custom meal-plan business based on macros because I had such great results!” —Tina Haupert, @carrotsncake