“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
But if you’re searching for lower abs exercises, we need to get one thing out of the way first: “Lower abs exercises” aren’t really a thing. “Your core is comprised of the rectus abdominis, which runs down the front of your body and creates that ‘six-pack’ effect; your obliques (side abs); your erector spinae, which runs up your back; and your transverse abdominis (the deep core located under those six-pack muscles),” says Lindsay Clayton, a certified run coach and trainer at Barry’s Bootcamp in New York City. “When people point to the lower part of their stomach and say their ‘lower abs’, they're really just referring to their rectus abdominis, and you can’t only work the lower part in isolation.”
Good news: Thanks to some of the best trainers in the country, we’re going to help you out. Below are their favorite abs exercises, along with a few pro tips to ensure that you’re executing each one perfectly. Incorporate them à la carte into your existing routine—or, if you’re feeling ambitious, turn all six into an abs workout circuit. Try two sets of each movement, resting for 30 seconds between each set.
When you allow carbs post-exercise your body rapidly absorbs the carbs directly into the muscle tissue, advancing growth. Post-exercise carbs additionally enable your muscles to recover speedily, which will give you better result quicker. Furthermore dietary fat in your diet will keep insulin levels stable, which will help you to bar from getting extra body fat.
A. Like I said, I personally don’t believe in dieting. It’s about consuming good foods while being smart about consuming the ‘lesser good foods’ by having them in sensible quantities at the right time. I’m all for having an ice-cream once in a while and don’t hesitate in enjoying an entire (small) serving after which I slightly adjust my meals the next couple of days, skip breakfast and do a little more cardio. Really depends but it all finally averages out.
Track your macros. "Your diet plays just as big of a role in abs definition as the workouts do, if not more," says Victoria. The key to getting hella ripped, she says, is by eating the a certain proportion of macronutrients, as in carbohydrates, protein, and fat specific to her activity level and goals. Some research suggests this eating strategy can lead to weight loss, but that's likely because survey participants are watching what they eat, not just following a certain diet. Victoria says she gets about 30 percent of her total calories from protein, 30 percent from fat, and 40 percent from carbs. That said, everyone's nutritional needs are different, so be sure to speak with a registered dietitian before making major changes to your diet.
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!
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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.
To do it: Stand with your feet planted 3-4 feet apart, toes slightly turned out, hands on your hips. Lower into a plie by bending your knees out over your toes and lowering your hips directly underneath your shoulders. Then, as your straighten back up, slowly lift the right knee up towards the right shoulder. As you go back into the plie, slowly return the foot to the floor. Be sure to move at a very controlled pace to really engage the obliques the entire time—on the way up and on the way down. Do 10 repetitions on the right side, then another 10 repetitions on the left side for a total of 20.
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 in the air. Engage your core, and slowly twist your chest left, until it’s parallel to the ground. As you do this, thread your right arm through the space between your body and the floor. Raise back to start. That’s one rep. Do 15 reps on each side.
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).
How to: Start on the floor on your hands and knees. Lower your forearms to the floor with elbows positioned under your shoulders and your hands shoulder-width apart. Your arms should form a 90-degree angle. Maintain a straight line from heels through the top of your head, looking down at the floor, with gaze slightly in front of your face. Tighten your abs and hold. Do 15 reps.
Thankfully, if you’re already reasonably fit, just a few tweaks to your routine here, a few modifications to your diet there, and you’ll be well on your way to shredded stomach glory. To that end, we’ve gathered up the best tips and tricks—expert-approved advice to ensure that, in no time, you’ll have the sculpted abs of your dreams. And for some core-specific moves, check out The Best Workouts For Getting That Summer Six-Pack.
Why it made the list: It turns out the ball is good for more than just sitting and waiting for your partner to finish his set! A research team from California State, Sacramento demonstrated that the pike movement is one of the most effective total-ab workouts. It topped their EMG list for upper abs, lower abs, and obliques. This movement may be the heavy hitter that's been missing from your daily routine. While not exactly the same, the pike can also be done using a TRX system with similar results expected.
When it comes to working the core, many people focus on abdominal muscles, and neglect their obliques (or what you may know as “side abs”). But, says Barrett, these clandestine muscles are just as important: they “keep everything tucked in.” To get a good oblique workout in, head to the pulley machine and start doing some Paloff presses. If you don’t know how to perform the exercise, read our comprehensive guide on mastering the move.
Eat carbs. "There's this notion that carbs are bad and that you need crazy amounts of protein to be lean and fit," says Alcantara, who disagrees, and eats just as much carbs as protein, although the ideal ratio varies based on your goals. "Whatever you eat to get the results you want has to be sustainable, otherwise you're going to end up right back where you started with the same habits that got you there."