When you think about getting abs, you probably think about the misery of doing hundreds of sit-ups and crunches. However, not only do sit-ups only target a small portion of your abs, but they can also cause injury. I've struggled through my fair share of crunches, but I've found more effective ways to get abs of steel. These four exercises, some of my favorites, will help you develop a stronger, more defined core, but exercise number five will really make your six-pack pop.
1. The Plank
Start off your ab workout by engaging a large portion of your core. Planks work the rectus abdominis (aka the six-pack), and also help improve your posture, back strength, and stability.
Form: Lay flat on the ground with your legs extended behind you. Raise yourself up onto your toes and forearms and hold the position with a straight back for as long as possible.
Recommended Sets: Three planks held for 45 seconds. As you get stronger, increase the length of the plank by fifteen seconds.
2. Russian Twists
After heating up your abs with planks, it's time to move to the obliques. While not directly part of the six-pack, having defined obliques makes you look shredded and strong.
Form: Place yourself in the sit-up position. Keep your feet on the ground, and sit up until your torso and knees are in the shape of a "V." Clasp your hands in front of you and twist to the side until your hands touch the ground beside you. Twist back to the start position, and repeat on the other side. This is one rep.
Recommended Sets: Three sets of fifteen reps. As you get stronger, increase the difficulty by twisting with a medicine ball or with your feet elevated off the ground.
3. Decline Bench Leg Raises
Now that your core is all warmed up from planks and twists, bring on some lower ab work. This exercise will help you get those stubborn bottom two ab muscles to show. Leg raises on the decline bench are a great modification to traditional leg raises that require more upper body and core strength.
Form: Lay against the decline bench with your head on the knee rest. Grasp the handles above your head and lift your feet off the ground. Lift your legs as high as you can (shout out to my volunteer in the background for showing how flexible people do this exercise) and then return to the starting position with your feet off of the ground. If you don't have access to a decline bench, this exercise can also be performed on the floor.
Recommended Sets: Three sets of twenty reps. As you get stronger, move to a pull-up bar to increase the difficulty of the exercise.
4. Ab Roll-outs
Roll-outs are one of my favorite exercises because they engage all parts of the core, but especially the upper part of the six-pack.
Form: Sit on your knees with the ab roller in front of you. Grasp the handles of the roller so you are in the kneeling push-up position. Roll your arms out as far as possible while keeping your back straight (and without falling on your face. I've done it, it hurts). Hold the extended position for one second and then roll back to the starting position, once again while keeping your back straight.
Recommended sets: three sets of 15 reps. To increase the challenge, increase the length of time spent holding the extended position.
These four exercises will put you well on your way to developing a killer core for your spring break trip. If you really want your six-pack to show, exercise five is both the hardest and most important.
5. Clean Up Your Diet
The most difficult part of getting a six-pack is cutting out the six-packs you go through on the weekends. It's true, to have visible abs you probably need to change some things in your diet. You don't have to eliminate all of your favorite snacks and drinks, but you probably should start saving them for special occasions.
There are many different ways you can go about changing your nutrition for your abs. I've personally found the ketogenic diet to be extremely effective in fat-loss. If It Fits Your Macros, or IIFYM, and clean eating are also popular and effective methods for trimming up. Do some research and find what works best with the time and money you have, and what fits your bodily needs.
No matter your reason for pursuing abs or a certain physique, make sure you're not sacrificing the important things in life, like time with your friends and family, because of your meal plan. A cut physique is cool, but ranks low on the list of things that truly matter.
Achieving your dream six-pack isn't as torturous as your middle school gym coach made it seem, but it does require hard work. Adding these exercises into your workout routine will improve your performance in all of your exercise, improve your stability, and have you well on your way to getting washboard abs.