Everybody wants a 6-pack. When searching the most commonly Googled fitness related terms, “abs workout” was tops on the list with “Kim K booty exercise” trailing just a few clicks behind. This post is my way of giving the public what they want. I could take a guess at how that famous pair of glutes looks as flawless as it does for the Gram, but I’ll leave that alone and focus on unlocking the great mystery of 6-pack abs. We are all born with abs. If you can pull yourself out of bed and stand up and walk around, congrats! you have abs! Read on to figure out the best ways to reveal them.
First, lets narrow our focus. This article will be discussing abs as they relate to aesthetics (how they look with your shirt off). We aren’t going to discuss how to hold a 2-hour long plank or how to perform banded squat thrusts with pink dumbbells on top of a bosu ball while “holding the core tight”. None of that. While most of the exercises discussed will assist with lifting and life in general, the goal of this post is to provide a road map to visible abdominal definition you are proud to display when the time comes to hit the pool or beach. Shallow? Maybe. But don’t tell me you aren’t interested, Google doesn’t lie!
You Have to Be Lean
This is rule #1. There is literally no way to have a six pack when you are carrying too much fat. This sounds obvious but you would be surprised how often folks that have decades of overeating congregating at their midsection try to display abdominal definition with an infinite number of weighted crunches. It isn’t going to happen. Herniating a disc is a much more likely scenario. If your abs are buried under adipose tissue, even if they are the strongest abs on the planet, they won’t be visible. If you aren’t lean enough to see abs, get lean enough to see abs. This generally happens at 10%-12% body fat for men and 17%-19% for women. If you are hanging out closer to 25%-30%+, crunches are the least of your worries. Choose a comprehensive training program (Ignition Protocol is a great option, click here for details!) and nutrition plan to start getting leaner, stronger, and healthier. Worry more about abdominal definition later.
Having some lean muscle mass is going to make your six pack stand out. If you try to cardio and starve yourself to abs, you’ll wind up looking like Christian Bale in the Machinist, a skinny pre-pubescent teen, or Bieber. Those aren’t the abs we’re looking for. Thick, chunky, abs that show well and provide stability for the rest of your frame under heavy loads in the gym look nothing like the photos below. Again, building muscle mass will require strength training and targeted nutrition. If you focus on heavy compound lifts (squats, rows, deadlifts, presses, etc.) and are lean enough at the midsection, you may not even need to worry about direct ab training to see abs, the following program is to make sure they stand out.
Ab Training Breakdown
This program is split into 2 parts:
1) Ab training for those that are not lean
2) Ab training for those that are lean.
Leanness for our purposes means you can see a hint of abdominal definition in the mirror, 10-12% body fat for males, 17-19% for females, or really, any other metric to show that you are indeed; not carrying too much fat to see abdominal muscle.
Section 1: Not Lean
Ab training in this section will be focused more on stability and transverse abdominis and less on hypertrophy (increasing muscle size) of the rectus abdominis to support fat loss efforts. While I’m focused primarily on aesthetics in this post, if you can’t see them, what’s the point? You need to drop the fat first and focus more on functionality for now until you reach the level of leanness that will show definition.
This is to be ADDED TO A COMPETENT STRENGTH TRAINING PROTOCOL. Doing these exercises alone or paired with 25 minutes on the elliptical will not produce the results you want! After you have finished your strength work, choose 1 exercise from the list below and perform 3 sets. Do this 3 or 4 times per week and cycle through the movements so each one gets the love they deserve.
If you can hold a true plank for :45 with no back pain or pressure, move on to the exercises listed. If you can’t, hit standard planks until you can before you attempt these exercises.
1) Physio ball Roll Out x 10-12 reps
2) Garhammer Raise x 15-20 reps
3) Pallof Press x 10-12 reps
4) Crunches (using ab mat) x 12-15 reps
5) Body Saw x 10-12 reps
Section 2: Kind of Lean
Before you tackle this routine, you should be able to see some definition in your midsection or at least be close. Some folks are luckier than others and lack fat deposits around the stomach enabling them to have visible abs at a higher percentage of fat. Nobody likes these people because they suck. Now is when most of us who didn’t win that lottery need to focus on hypertrophy (muscle growth) of the rectus abdominis to put the six pack on display.
The exercises will be used at a higher frequency and focus less on stability and more on hypertrophy. Use this program for 6-8 weeks along with whatever strength protocol you are following (did i say Ignition Protocol is a good option? click here).
After your strength work, choose 1 exercise and perform 4 sets. These should be done 5 or 6 times per week. Cycle through all of the exercises.
1) Rope Crunches x 10-12 reps
2) Garhammer Raise x 20 reps
3) Body Saw x 10-12 reps
4) Crunches (using ab mat) x 12-15 reps. If necessary, use a weight at the chest to provide resistance.
5) Hanging Knee Raise x 12-15 reps
This regimen is not to be done year-round, it’s to push the extra 2% to look your best. After 6-8 weeks, give your abs a break for a week and go back to a more well-rounded and slightly less frequent abdominal training program similar to the one outlined in section 1.
Traditional strength training with loads that provide the right amount of intensity for growth will do most of the work for the abs, direct ab training is the cherry on top of the sundae. Use this program to ensure they stand out!