Do it: With your feet shoulder-width apart, lift a barbell off the rig, centering it evenly across your shoulders. (This version of the squat targets the core, not the legs, and so you should be using far less weight than you would for a traditional back squat.) Send your glutes back like you’re lowering into a chair, bending at the knees as deeply as possible. Press through your heels to return to the starting position for one rep. Do 12 reps for one set.
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.
But there's science behind this buzzkill. The rectus abdominis — the muscle that makes the stomach look defined as hell — is typically covered by fat (because that's how humans are made) and isn't affected by things like crunches and planks. "You can work your abs all you want, but if you have a layer of fat over them, the 'pack' can’t be seen," Ball says. And FWIW, that's not a bad thing or something to feel bad about. "It’s very unrealistic for most people to have body fat percentages low enough to see the abs."
The crunch is the most popular abs exercise because anyone can do it. But that doesn't mean it's the best exercise for training your middle. "Crunches flex your trunk," says David Jack, owner of ActivPrayer in Phoenix, Arizona and creator of Men's Health MA40 Workout. "But the main function of your core is to prevent movement and resist force through your torso."
The math is simple: keeping your calories down is a surefire way to keep your weight down. But make sure you don’t dip too low. Eating too little can slow down your metabolism, which can have adverse effects on your body. “It doesn’t know when the next meal is,” says Shapiro. Put another way: when it comes time for your body to burn off calories, it may hold on to them instead. Think of your body like a furnace. It constantly needs fuel intake to continue burning.
“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
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So, no, the odds are not in your favor, but you can work toward a more defined midsection by developing core strength and reducing overall body fat. Although everyone responds differently to diet and exercise — and you should consult with a healthcare provider before changing things up — here are the lifestyle tips that have worked for three trainers who have particularly chiseled abs:
Evening Snacks (5.00PM) —1 scoop whey protein, 5 almonds, 3 walnuts. If it’s cardio day I mix a spoonful of peanut butter with my protein shake for some extra fat that satiates my hunger. I also keep a couple of reasonably priced Sugar Free Protein Bars in my bag in the rare cases when my hunger gets really bad or if I couldn’t manage a proper meal. There are some really expensive ones out there and while I’ve indulged in a few of them, the ones I linked to give me the best bang for buck and are also incredibly tasty.
Warm up and cool down for 5 to 10 minutes. Go for a brisk walk or jog, do jumping jacks, run in place, or jump rope at the start of your workouts. Moderate aerobic exercise will increase blood flow to your muscles, which reduces your risk of injuring yourself. When you finish working out, cool down for 5 to 10 minutes to help your muscles recover.
When guys talk about six-packs, they are really talking about one muscle, called the rectus abdominis. “The rectus abdominis runs from our lower ribs down to the top of our pubic bone, and fibrous bands of tissue break up the muscle along the way to give us the six-pack look we all desire,” explains kinesiologist David Cary, C.P.T., a T4 Coach at Equinox in Chicago. So, if you want to sprout six-pack abs, this is the muscle you need to work.