Having a well-chiseled six pack is the ultimate fitness goal for many people. And it’s okay if you want some as well.
Having a strong core is of vital importance – not just for aesthetics, but also for improved strength and overall health.
But there’s a problem – many people never succeed in carving out the core of their dreams! For some people, the problem lies in their approach to working out, while others have got their feeding wrong. Either way, there’s a remedy and you can commence your journey to an impressive six pack – starting today!
In this article, we’ll go over the role nutrition plays in carving out the body of your dreams, as well as non-sexy reasons for having a strong core.
I’ll also be sharing some proven stomach workouts and core exercises that’ll help you carve out an impressive ab and then I’ll cap it up by revealing the fool-proof formula for carving out that magazine-worthy core that you desire. So, be sure to stick around to the end, okay?
Table of Contents
Why you need rock-solid abs
Believe it or not, there’s actually more to having a strong core than just good looks. Core muscles are required for just about everything we do on daily basis, from sitting, to walking, running and throwing things around.
Before we go any further, though, you should probably know that there’s more to core muscles than just the abdominals (abs), it also includes hip and pelvic muscles, as well as mid and lower back muscles. All these muscles work synergistically to support movement and maintain stability. Here are some benefits of having strong core:
1. It helps your posture.
When you engage in core-strengthening exercises, the thorough working of the torso helps to maintain a balanced posture. The posture balance in turn helps to reduce the risk of vertebrae degeneration and disc herniation…in other words, bad conditions for your spinal cord.
2. It reduces back pain.
Having a strong core also helps to alleviate back pain by providing adequate support for the spine. Research has also revealed that having strong core muscles reduces the risk of back injury during workouts.
3. It improves athletic performance.
You’re going to have a hard time finding a sport that doesn’t rely heavily on core muscles for effective performance. From running, to rowing, baseball, football and tennis, every sport you could possible think of engages the core in one way or the other.
So, if you’re planning to become an athlete, then strengthening your core is absolutely indispensable.
4. It makes life easier on-the-job.
Life will become a whole lot easier for you on the job if you can manage to strengthen your core. And the reason is simple – just about every activity you engage in at work engages your core…from standing to lifting, twisting and even sitting.
So, if you’d like to be a bit more comfortable and energetic at work, then strengthening your abs and back muscles would be a great place to start.
Nutritions you need for impressive abs
Alright, before we dive into which exercises you should start focusing on, let’s talk about the most important factor in building an impressive figure – what you eat.
If you’re a frequent gym goer, then chances are that you’ve overheard this common saying among gym rats – “abs are made in the kitchen.” Well…they’re not wrong!
Doing 1,000 crunches per day won’t give you magazine-worthy six packs if you’ve got your nutrition wrong. Okay, here’s how it works:
Ab exercises are aimed at strengthening your core muscles, not revealing them.
In other words, you may have a strong core, but until the fat layer above it is torched, it will stay hidden.
This is why your first course of action should be weight loss…which begins with a proper diet. Your daily diet should contain the right amount of macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein and fat) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals).
So, in order to save yourself a whole lot of frustration and headache down the line, you need to ditch junk foods and start eating clean foods.
5 Amazing stomach workouts for rock-solid abs
Before diving into the specific workouts that will finally send your abs out of hiding, there are a couple of anatomical jargon you need to be familiar with. These are just fancy names for the muscles that make up the abs and they are:
- Rectus abdominis (front abs commonly known as six-packs)
- Internal and external obliques (side abs found around the waist).
Got it? Great! Keep those in mind because I’ll be mentioning them a lot in the coming paragraphs.
Now, let’s move on to the actual workouts:
Regardless of the negative media crunches may have received over the years, one thing is for certain – it works…when done correctly!
Crunches are great for eliciting muscle activity in the rectus abdominis and this helps greatly in strengthening those muscles.
How to do the traditional crunch
- Lie on your back, bend your knees and place your feet closely together and flat on the floor. You may want to hold on to something with your toes to make it easier.
- Place your hands behind your head (without interlocking them) or place them across your chest.
- Keep your elbows open to the sides.
- Gently tighten and pull in your abs.
- Curl forward lifting your head and shoulder blades off the floor towards your knee.
- Hold it for a moment and lower back down slowly.
Several variations of the traditional crunch have been developed to focus on other core muscles ignored by regular crunches. One of these is the bicycle crunch or bicycle kicks. The bicycle crunch impacts the external obliques (on the side of the waist) in addition to the rectus abdominis and this helps to work the torso.
How to do the bicycle crunch
- Lie on your back, bend your knees and place your feet wide apart on the floor.
- Place your hands behind your head without interlocking them and avoid pulling your head with your hands to avoid neck pain.
- Lift your right knee off the floor, toward the left side of your chest and simultaneously lift your left elbow to meet your right knee.
- Repeat this process for the left knee and right elbow and keep up this cycle until your abs are thoroughly worked.
- Be sure to completely lift your shoulder blades off the floor to keep the action concentrated on your core.
Check out this video for how to do the bicycle crunch:
There’s a good reason why plank has gained so much attention in the fitness industry – it works. Not only does it crush the rectus abdominis, it also greatly impacts the external obliques and transverse abdominis.
In simple terms, it rocks your abs in a way regular crunches don’t and also doesn’t give you back pain no matter how long you hold out doing it.
Planks aren’t just a great workout for abs, though, it also does a great job strengthening the arms, shoulders and glutes.
Just like the crunch, there are several variations of the plank, each adapted to focus on specific muscle groups which may have been ignored by others. Here I’ll be discussing just two of them – the front plank and the side plank.
How to do the front plank
The front plank is the basic plank position and it targets your rectus abdominis. Here’s how to do it.
- Start in the pushup position with your arms placed as far apart as your shoulders and place your feet together.
- Rest your weight on your forearms, with your palms facing the ground and maintain a 90-degree angle between your shoulders and fore arm.
- Raise your hip slightly and maintain a straight line from your head to your feet.
- Hold the position for as long as you can before your form collapses.
- Rest for a few minutes and repeat.
- Aim for 3-5, 30-120 seconds sets per workout and it should get you shaking!
- If this isn’t challenging enough, raise an arm and a leg to increase the difficulty level.
How to do the side plank
Apart from strengthening the front abs, the side plank also comes with an added advantage of working the external obliques and transverse abdominis, thus helping you to carve out that dreamy physique you’ve always desired in your midsection. Here’s how to do it:
- Lie on your right side, supporting your body by placing your right forearm on the floor.
- Place your left leg on the right leg while maintaining this position
- Lift your hip off the ground maintaining a straight line from your shoulder to your feet.
- Lift your left arm into the air to maintain balance.
- Hold this position for as long as you can (one – two minutes is fine).
- Rest for a few minutes and repeat for the other side.
- Aim for 3-5 reps per workout.
- To increase the difficulty level, you can raise the leg on top.
3. Russian twists
The Russian twist is an amazing workout that works just about every muscle in your core as you twist from side to side. The obliques are the more obvious beneficiaries, though, as the side-to-side motion really impacts the torso and helps to carve out an impressive side.
And just like the other workouts listed so far, no serious gym equipment is required. All you need is some space on the floor and the will to keep going!
How to do the Russian twist
- Sit on the ground and bend your knees such that there’s a 90-degree angle between your upper and lower legs.
- You may place your feet under something immovable or lift them slightly off the floor.
- Tilt your back towards the ground at an approximate angle of 45-degrees with the ground.
- Hold your arms straight before you and twist as far as possible to one side before doing the same thing for the other side.
- To kick things up a notch, hold a mildly heady object in your hands as you twist from side to side.
- Aim for 10-12 reps on each side, rest and repeat the process 3-5 times.
4. Hanging leg raise or knee raise
This is another exercise that will rev up your core and leave your abs strengthened for days. The most beautiful thing about this workout is its scalability. You can start off with bent knee raises, then you can move on to straight leg raises and ultimately to toe-to-bar raises.
How to do the hanging leg raise or knee raise
- Grab the pull-up bar, ensuring that your arms are straight and your feet are totally off the ground.
- Straighten your legs and keep them firmly together all the while.
- Tighten your abs and use your core to raise your straightened legs forward until they form an angle of 90-degrees with your midsection.
- Hold this position for a few seconds and slowly return your legs back to their normal position.
- For the knee raise, bend your knees before raising them to an angle of 90-degrees with your midsection.
- For either movement, make sure you get your legs up using only your core. Avoid swinging them up with momentum.
- To make things a bit more challenging, try placing a medicine ball between your ankles or knees.
- Aim for 3-5 sets in the 10-15 rep range and you midsection should be burning for days to come.
5. Ab-wheel roll-out
Alright, this one may require a trip to the gym but trust me, it’ll be worth every minute of your time.
If there’s one thing those infomercials got right, it’s the fact that ab wheels produces better muscle activation than crunches and leg raises.
As you roll out on the wheel, your trunk is forced to fire actively in order to maintain the neutrality of the spine and prevent collapsing due to gravity and your body weight. In order words, it does a great job of crushing your abs and carving out those much-desired six packs.
How to do the ab-wheel roll out
- Get into a tabletop position and place some pads under your knees for protection.
- Place your hands on the ab wheel and take a deep breath.
- Push your belly backward to prevent it from sagging as you roll out.
- Roll out the wheel as far as you comfortably can and keep your core tight all the way.
- Hold the position for a few seconds and roll back in, fully engaging your abs as you do so.
- To kick things up a notch, strap on a backpack containing some weight as you roll in and out.
- Aim for 2-5 sets in the 10-15 rep range and you’ll definitely feel it in your abs for days to come.
Bonus Tip: Your other muscle groups
Before you dash off, don’t ignore other muscle groups!
Here’s a little fact you need to wrap your head around – doing only ab exercises won’t give you six pack! Here’s why:
Your abs are invisible because it’s covered by a heavy layer of abdominal fat.
Excessive body fat results from calorie surplus, which means you take in more calories than you burn. And the abdomen is just one of the several fat-storage spots in the body.
So, lowering your total body fat should be the first course of action and that requires a full body workout.
Contrary to what some marketers would have you believe, you can’t directly target abdominal fat for elimination, there’s simply no scientific evidence behind this hocus pocus.
Although research has revealed that training a particular muscle group does increase lipolysis (conversion of fat into energy) and blood flow in that area, the effect is usually too negligible to matter.
So, training a particular muscle group doesn’t make them cannibalize the fat covering them, although it does help those muscles to consume more energy as they get bigger.
You may do hundreds of crunches and leg raises until your abs almost explode, but you still won’t see those abs if you don’t reduce the percentage of your total body fat 15% or less. Fat loss is a full-body process and that means you need to stick to a calorie deficit and train all muscle groups to achieve it.
The bottom line
There are no magic tricks to carving out an impressive core! If you want great abs, you need to do three things – eat right, train right and burn fat!
And no, this isn’t going to happen overnight, so you’ll have to commit months to the stomach workouts listed above, as well as full-body exercises to achieve your goal.
Here’s the thing, though – you can do it!
Start today, take it one day at a time and a few months from now you’ll look in the mirror and love what you see. Stop sitting around, get out there and get it done!
Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com
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|||^||SciELO: Muscle Activation Pattern During Isometric Ab Wheel Rollout Exercise in Different Shoulder Angle-Positions|
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