5. Engage in resistance training aimed at your abs. In addition to eating right and losing weight, doing certain types of exercises can help you achieve a better-defined abdomen, Singer says. "I'm sure everybody knew somebody in high school who had tremendous abs who ate whatever he or she wanted and had tremendous abs without working out," Singer says. "Most of us aren't that lucky." If developing a six-pack is your goal, doing exercises aimed at your abs can be part of a successful regimen. Such workouts would include weighted crunches and weighted sit-ups, he says. Cardio workouts are helpful for shedding pounds, but won't, on their own, lead to defined abs.
Unless you are on steroids, training 4 times a week is the sweet spot for building muscle. You’ll need resting days for your muscles to grow. One day of training followed by one day of rest is the ideal set up for muscle growth but since there are 7 days in a week, you can train either for 4 days or 3 days a week. Training for 3 days a week is too lazy for a lofty goal like getting six pack abs so it’s best to train 4 days a week and arrange your consecutive days of training to target different muscle groups in your body. Sure, some muscle groups will inevitably be trained for 2 days in a row but that’s a minor issue when you consider that you have 3 whole days of resting in a single week.
"But after having children and maturing, my body image has changed. I don’t run or eat to look a certain way, but instead to feel a certain way—happy. I no longer count calories or restrict what I eat. I focus on real food that’s minimally processed, and most meals include some sort of carbs (I really love potatoes), protein, and lots of veggies. All of that, coupled with higher mileage during more intense marathon training, has led me to how I look today. When I’m not in the middle of marathon training, I’m often five to 10 pounds heavier—and that’s totally okay.” —Michele Gonzalez, @nycrunningmama
If everybody had six-pack abs hiding under their belly fat then all skinny people would already have a visible set of six-pack abs, which clearly is not the case. Although their numbers are dwindling with the rise of obesity, skinny people are still dime a dozen but people with six pack abs remain to be rare. I mean, look at all these skinny men. Do they look like they have six-pack abs?
"Most guys neglect their obliques in favor of their six-pack muscles, and that's a mistake," says Jack. "Your obliques not only support your spine, but they also help your abs work together with the muscles of your hips and lower back to explosively rotate your torso." That means you'll be able to lift heavier loads on every exercise, while adding a ton of rotational power to your tee shot and Hail Mary pass at the same time.
To do it: Start in a plank position with one small towel placed under each ball of your foot, legs together. Bring your left knee in towards the right side of your chest, squeezing your abs. Then, straighten your right leg back out to full plank and bring your right knee in towards the left side of the your chest and back out to full plank. Next, draw both knees into your chest at the same time and then slide your legs back out to full plank. That’s one rep. Build up to 3 sets of 12-15 reps (resting in between).
For training, you need to set a serious pace for when you hit the gym. Standing around your overloaded squat bar that you were going to do quarter reps on every five minutes won’t cut it. Start serious volume short-rest training by laying a smackdown on your muscles. Building mass comes at the price of getting lean, so maintenance and permanent pump will be the strategy—the results will be worth it. For training you’re going to do 4 exercises at 4 sets and 12 reps minimum per body part approach. It’s encouraged to do 5 or even 6 sets, and if you’re not struggling with those, then go further. When it comes to abs, slow and steady wins the race. I know it sounds cliché, but large range-of-motion reps with added weight for your 12 reps will produce far deeper cuts than doing 50 crappy situps. Give yourself at least a 4-count per rep on your abs.
And, since the muscle is designed to bring your lower ribs and pelvis closer together or farther apart, you need to work them that way—with crunches and reverse crunches, Cary says. In fact, research commissioned by the American Council on Exercise shows that the crunch works the rectus abdominis better than other common abs exercises including the plank, sit-up, and boat pose.
Why it made the list: Decline-bench crunches amp up the challenge by increasing the range of motion over standard crunches, and you can dial up (or down) the degree of difficulty by adjusting the angle of the bench. Adding a medicine ball or weight plate against your chest adds a further level of customizable resistance. This also allows you to manipulate where you want to fail: low, medium, or high reps.
Performing a plank on an exercise ball is a challenging core workout for anyone. Holding this position on an unstable surface forces you to dynamically engage more abdominal muscles across the entire core from shoulders to toes. To maintain a solid posture, you will be constantly adjusting your stabilizers and will have much greater muscle activation throughout the abs.
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.
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.
A University of Southern Maine study found that a single set of a weight-training exercise torches as many calories as running at a 6-minute-mile pace for the same amount of time. So for every second you spend lifting weights, your body is expending high amounts of energy. Add high intensity interval training (HIIT) principles to your workout, and you could see even more gains.
Lie face-up and place your lower legs on a Swiss ball. Extend your right arm overhead and bend your left arm at a 90-degree angle; then grasp the upper portion of your right arm so you form a cradle for your head. Flexing your toes and holding the ball in place by contracting your hamstrings, crunch forward to the finish position. In this position, increase the tension on your abs by attempting to pull the ball towards you with your hamstrings. Return to the start and exhale. Your rectus abdominus can flex only about 30 degrees (strictly), so when you perform this exercise it may not be necessary to lift your shoulders off the floor to achieve peak contraction. You can make the exercise more difficult by pulling harder with your hamstrings, maintaining peak contraction longer and by holding a weight in your free hand.
Lie on your back with knees bent to 90-degree angles. Straighten your arms by your sides, and lengthen your fingertips. Press the backs of your shoulders against a mat, and slide them down away from your ears. Focusing on the deep waist muscles, inhale and slowly move your knees to the right, then exhale and return to starting position. Repeat on the left; that’s 1 rep. Do 5–8 reps.
Contrary to what popular culture portrays, one does not need to lift really heavy if muscle hypertrophy, aka “bigger muscles” or aesthetic gains are the primary goal (see bodybuilding vs powerlifting). One needs to ensure that a particular muscle is subjected to enough time under tension and training volume to ensure that muscle fibres are broken down and rebuilt stronger over time. This can be done by following a high-volume, moderately high rep range, moderate weight and low rest period lifting routine. I start off with 5 sets of a heavier compound lift eventually moving to isolation exercises. I started off with the popular ‘3 sets of 10’ for isolation exercises, then to 12 and now hit 4 sets with the rep ranges 15,12,10 and 8. Higher reps would mean a lighter weight and vice versa. My last set is almost invariably a dropset. I hit around 15 -18 working sets per muscle group per week.
“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