Having a six pack is the goal for many of you. Everyone has a 6 pack but for many it is hidden under a layer of fat or the muscles are not developed enough to show. This is great news though because it means that everyone can achieve their goal. Have a feel of your Abs, tense your stomach can you feel them? The advice I will be giving here is how to get rid of that fat and build up those muscles with various different exercises.
Why you want a strong core/abs
Other than looking great at the beach or anytime you don’t have a top on, hey even when you do have a top on. The Abdominal muscles (Rectus Abdominus) are responsible for keeping you upright and stable when you move, they assist your spine in flexing and also supporting the spine through stabilising the pelvis. They also play a big role in breathing and protect your internal organs.
If you are going to isolate your Abs when working out then you should exercise the Abs last, this is because most of the movements you do when working out, especially with free weights will involve you using your core, which are all the muscles around your mid section including your lower back and includes all the Abs (upper, lower and internal and external obliques), to keep you stable. If you work out your Abs first you will have fatigued the muscles and if you then go to do a squat or deadlift you may not be Able to perform the exercise to the best of your Ability and could risk injury.
Ok so on to getting that 6 pack:
Burn off that layer of fat that is covering the muscles
A lot of the time people have a great 6 pack already it is just waiting to be uncovered. No matter how many Ab exercises you do it wont get you the definition you are after and you cannot spot reduce fat. You will need to do fat burning activities and this will reduce your body fat over all of your body, some areas can take longer than other areas so just because you don’t see it come off your Abs straight away doesn’t mean it is not working so don’t give up. So what do you need to do?
To lose fat you need to lose calories, so burn off more than you are taking in with some Cardio – yes cardio is the main fat burning exercise but it is not the only way to burn off the fat you can also burn fat when doing weight lifting as increasing your muscle mass you will be increasing your metabolism as well. That does not mean you can just do weights, you will need to do some cardio but it will be worth it as it will speed up the time it takes for you to reveal that 6 pack. I am sure you have seen guys working hard at the gym and building their chest, biceps etc but how often do you see them working on their cardio? If they did cardio they would see the results of their hard work a lot quicker as the fat will be burning off and you will see a greater definition of the muscles that they have been working out.
So the cardio you should be aiming for high intensity interval training, even better reasons for doing this type of cardio is that you wont have to do the session for so long. A 25 minute high intensity interval session will burn a similar amount of calories as a 50 min jog at one pace.
You don’t have to just hit the treadmill either you can do any of the following:
- Spinning class
- Play a sport- tennis, basketball, football, squash
Just remember that you need to work on alternating between moderate intensity and high intensity. Go jogging for 1 min and run for 1 min, or if outdoors run for a set distance then sprint for a set distance then back to running – you can use trees, lamp posts or buildings to help you judge distances. Just remember it is all About intensity you want push yourself during those high intensity intervals.
Abs and core exercises
Now that you have a plan for burning of that extra fat you can look at getting that 6 pack ready for the revealing. You don’t have to always work your Abs in isolation you can be working them out at the same time you are working out other muscles. Here are some great exercises both compound and isolation that will give you a great Ab workout. You will find that with nearly all compound movements using free weights will have you using your core so opt for free weights over machines.
The Squat – this is the best exercise there is in my opinion not only does it work your legs and butt the movement relies heavily on activating your core to stabilise you through the movement.
Push Ups – when your body is prone gravity will be trying to pull your spine into an arched position so your Abs will have to work to maintain stability and keep a neutral spine alignment.
Woodchop – this can be done using a cable machine or medicine ball. There are a variety of differnt ways to do the woodchop, it can be either horizontal or diagonal, with the cable either in the horizontal position or from the high position. This exercise uses a twisting motion of the trunk so you will get a great Ab work out. Here is one of the ways you can perform the exercise.
When isolating your Abs, stay away from the ab curl and obliques machines at the gym, these don’t work that well and you would benefit far more from doing the following instead, aim to do 2/3 sets of 12 reps of the Ab exercises and you will see great results:
The Captain’s Chair
There are a couple of different moves you can perform in this chair, rest your arms on the pads, hold the handles and bring your knees up towards your chest, or for a more intense workout do a straight leg raise so bring both legs up together keeping them horizontally out in front of you. You can make the knee raises harder by adding weight ie a medicine ball between your knees, or you can use dumbbell between your feet. To increase the intensity try hanging leg raises by using the top handles (if the chair has them otherwise hang from the pull up bar) and doing either the knee or straight leg raises. Keep the movement slow and controlled. Your core will be working to stabilise your body and the exercise will be working out your lower section of your Abs.
A great way of working the obliques using the same piece of equipment can be achieved by raising your knees/straight legs to the side.
This exercise will be targeting the upper Abs. Lie with your back flat on the ground, bend your knees and put your hands behind your head. Contract your Abs and bring your shoulders up off the ground and bring your chest to your knees by rounding the back and curling the spine, keep your lower back on the floor. Remember you want to be contracting your Abs to form the movement. Lower yourself back down and repeat.
Why not work out with a partner and have them throw a medicine ball to you. So as you are crunching up you throw the ball and they throw it back to you as you are retuning to your starting position this is great for doing on a stability ball.
Sit on the floor with you knees together and slightly bent as though in a sit up position, your torso should be at a 45 degree angle from the floor and your back should be straight. Hold a medicine ball or weight in front of you, now slowly twist as far to the left as you can then return to the middle and twist as far as you can to the right, that would be 1 rep. Repeat. To make the exercise harder you can raise your feet off the ground slightly.
Jackknife using a stability ball
Start by standing behind the ball, put your mid section on the ball and roll forwards until your hands are able to reach the floor, walk out with your hands until your feet are supported on the ball and you are in a push up position. Once in position, keeping your back straight contract your abs and bring your knees towards your chest, so that the ball rolls towards your chest, pause and then roll the ball back to the starting position and repeat.
Aim to do 2/3 sets of 12 reps of the Ab exercises and you will get see great results.
You only need to do this once there are no sets and reps involved as you hold the position until you cannot hold it any longer. Like the push ups gravity will be pulling your spine into an arched position so you will need to uses your Abs and core to maintain neutral spine. This is a great exercise for your Abs and core. Lie face down on the floor and then lift yourself on to your forearms and toes (hands and forearms will be flat on the floor with you elbows directly under your shoulders), keeping a straight line from your head to heels, you need to stay looking down in order to keep the spine in neutral position. Now hold that position for as long as you can. If you want to make the work out harder grab a stability ball and place your chest and forearms on the ball, when ready lift your chest of the ball so your are supported with your forearms on the ball and your toes on the ground. Remember you want to keep a straight line from your head down to your heels.
You can also do side planks that will target your obliques. Lie on the floor on your side and raise yourself up onto your forearm and allow your upper leg to rest on your lower leg, hold that pose for as long as you can.
And to end I will give you not an exercise to burn fat or gain muscle but a good tip – A great way to get a flat stomach is to do stomach vacuums. Stomach vacuums are an isolated exercise that will help give you a slimmer waistline and may help to prevent you from getting that distended look, the aim is to build a stronger inner abdominal wall. You can do these anywhere, sitting standing, kneeling, laying down. Try them standing to begin with, so standing up breathe out and expel all the air from your lungs, now draw your belly button in towards your spine as far as you can and hold it for as long as you can, don’t forget to keep breathing though.