“These days, I do a fair amount of Pilates and yoga to focus on the strength of my core. You don’t have to be a crazy cardio bunny to lower your body fat percentage (to get those abs to show)—bodyweight exercises can be really effective. Yoga and Pilates help me focus on overall strength, not just my core, and it helps make sure I work my back, too. Most people forget about that, but you need a strong back to help support a strong core.” —Dorothy Beal, @mileposts
I train 6 times a week with the only goal of getting stronger, lifting heavier and beating my previous records. I aggressively subscribe to the concept of progressive overload where you constantly challenge yourself by increasing volume, intensity, weight or a combination of those 3. This is the only way to continue building lean muscle as someone natural (one who does not consume anabolic steroids or enhancement drugs). I keep notes on how heavy I hit an exercise previously and new exercises I would like to incorporate for each muscle group.
"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."
Before you launch into the advanced ab workout, you will want to ease into it with some basic core exercises to warm up the abdominal muscles. The Plank is a great way to begin. The plank provides a simple and effective core warm-up because engages all the muscles of the core from your toes up to your head. Holding the plank requires the activation of all the major ab muscles as well as many stabilizer muscles that are often ignored.
Dinner (9.15PM) — Vegetables sautéed in different masalas with some tomato curry, paprika seasoning and curd. Add different sauces from time to time for extra flavour. I load up on veggies while trying to get as many different colours on the plate as I can. For me, these usually are Broccoli, Bell Peppers, Beet Root and Zucchini along with regular ones like Spinach, carrots and cucumber. For weight training days, you want to introduce some carbs into your dinner. Initially, I stuck to Sweet Potatoes and Brown Rice but now occasionally have Roti, Rice, Brown Bread and even Pasta. On cardio days, I would add a cube of cheese or some paneer.
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.
To do it: Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Bend your knees slightly (or more if needed) and place both hands flat on the ground. Keeping your legs extended and your feet planted, walk your hands away from your body, as far past your shoulders as you can, until you are in a full plank position. Hold for one count at the furthest point, and then walk your hands back to your feet and slowly return to standing. That’s one rep. Repeat up to 10 times.
The bicycle crunch is fairly easy to do, but many people get it wrong. To do it properly, lay flat on the floor and keep your lower back pressed to the ground. Rest your hands behind your head without pulling on your neck. Bring your knees up to about a 45-degree angle and slowly go through a bicycle pedal motion as pictured. First, touch your left elbow to your right knee, then your right elbow to your left knee. Perform the exercise in a slow, controlled motion. Repeat 10-25 repetitions on each side.
Leg day, arms day, chest-and-shoulders day. You already break up your regular workouts by muscle group; steal a page out of Alicia Vikander’s ab-shredding book and do the same to your core. To get ripped for Tomb Raider, Vikander broke her core workouts into three days: isometric (endurance moves, like planks); strength (sit-ups, hanging leg raises); and oblique-specific (told you so).
Why it made the list: This harder version of the Russian twist works the obliques while requiring the upper abs to contract isometrically. To recruit the obliques, you either need lateral flexion (bending to your side), trunk rotation (twisting), or sucking in your belly. Doing your twists works the trunk-rotation function of the muscle, so really focus on the contraction. Try to get a little crunch on either side after the rotation to up the ante.
Instead of copying the experienced bodybuilders, newbies would be better off if they took advantage of a phenomenon called newbie gains (a.k.a. beginner gains). There’s a brief phase in strength training where building muscle and burning fat at the same time is a better strategy than bulking and cutting. It’s the beginner phase. Thanks to newbie gains, beginners will build muscle fast even in a state of caloric deficit, provided that they train and eat right.
Start lying faceup on the mat. Lift head, shoulder blades, and feet off floor as you extend arms straight out. Neck should be relaxed, not strained. This is your hollow hold. Next, engage abs to lift chest towards legs as you bend knees so that body forms a V shape and shins are parallel to floor. Slowly lower back down to a hollow hold position and repeat.
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."