Regular cardiovascular exercise should be an essential part of your plan. I recommend you try and get in three to five cardio workouts per week. If you find you’re not losing as much fat as you’d like then shoot for five sessions a week. If your progress is good then you might be able to get away with just three sessions a week. Adjust appropriately based on your rate of progress.
"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."
If it was possible for the experienced bodybuilders to build muscle without gaining fat or, better, build muscle and lose fat at the same time then they would do it in a heartbeat. Who wants to go through the ordeal of bulking and cutting when it’s possible to build muscle and burn fat at the same time? The answer is hidden in the muscle growth rate. Muscle growth follows a logarithmic pattern (rather than a linear pattern), which means that muscular gains come quickly in the beginning but they decrease over time.
Building muscle and burning fat at the same time is the holy grail of bodybuilding but many people believe that it’s impossible. Here’s how it goes. Experienced bodybuilders first bulk then cut. Bulking is the period where they eat more calories than they burn (caloric surplus) in order to pack on muscle mass. Cutting is the period where they eat fewer calories than they burn (caloric deficit) in order to burn off the fat they inevitably gained during the bulk. The remaining muscle after bulking and cutting is their lean muscle gain.
Genetics is another unchangeable factor that affects your ability to develop a six-pack, says Holly Herrington, a registered dietitian at Northwestern Memorial Hospital's Digestive Health Center in Chicago. "We get things from our families," including our musculature and build, Herrington says. The offspring of volleyball star Gabrielle Reece, who is 6 feet, 3 inches tall and muscularly lean, with well-defined abs, will almost certainly have a different build than someone who is short and stocky, for example. "It doesn't mean you can't strive [for defined abs], but some of it is genetic," Herrington says.
We’ve discussed caloric deficits before, but in case you missed it, let’s start by recapping how the body requires a certain number of calories to sustain its current weight and activity level. That number varies from person to person and is influenced by metabolism, height, weight, age and other factors and is referred to as a “maintenance level” of calories.
Why it made the list: Yes, a leg exercise made the top 10 list for abs. Anyone who has ever pushed their potential in the squat knows exactly why! Sure, squat variations work the legs and lower back, but they also crush the abs. Both front and back squats force your abs and spinal erectors to work overtime to maintain a neutral, upright position. If both were not firing at high rates, you'd fold under the weight or drop in a split second.
Build a strong back and sculpt a rock-solid middle in one shot with the archer row. This ab exercise combines a staggered side plank with a dumbbell row. "As the load moves up and down, your body has to fight to resist rotation," says Gaddour. That means your entire core—lower-back muscles, obliques, rectus abdominis (also known as your six-pack muscles)—is working overtime to keep your spine stable.
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.
“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