When it comes to physical perfection, most people agree that a great washboard stomach comprised of carefully sculpted abdominal muscles, is considered the absolute pinnacle of physical conditioning and perfection.
With the summer months fast approaching, more and more people are trying their best to build themselves a six pack to be proud of, but many of them are lacking due to the fact that they don’t quite know exactly what it is that they should be doing.
Some of them are doing too much, some doing too little, and some just aren’t focusing on their diets in the slightest. Remember, the clue’s in the name, abdominal muscles, and as they’re muscles, they need to be treated as such.
It’s all well and good heading to the gym, doing sit up after sit up, and then complaining that your six pack isn’t showing up, despite the fact that you drink beer and eat junk food every night.
The abdominal muscles are present in all of us, they’re just hidden under a layer of fat in most of us. In order to see these muscles, the fat needs to be stripped away. Once the fat is gone, then the muscles will be visible, providing of course that they’ve been trained and built up enough in the first place.
For a truly great six pack, you need to strip away the fat covering the muscles, and actually work the muscles in the first place.
Here are some tried and tested ab exercises designed to build and tone the abdominal muscles, as well as burn away stubborn belly fat at the same time.
1) The Plank
The plank is an extremely effective core strengthening exercise, that involves very little activity indeed. Don’t let that fool you however, because it’s also one of the most brutal ab and core strengthening exercises you’ll ever endure. Here’s how to do it.
How To Do The Plank
- Begin by starting off on a mat in the push-up position
- Next, carefully and slowly lower both of your forearms down to the ground, so that your fists and elbows now touch the floor. Your palms should be placed directly underneath your shoulders.
- Tilt your pelvis, pull your belly button down as if aiming it towards your spine, and engage and tense your abs.
- You should next slowly straighten out your body, but keep your neck and spine neutral. The idea is to keep yourself as straight and as stiff as possible, just like a plank of wood.
- Hold this position for as long as you can, until you feel the burn. Once you do, hold it some more until absolute failure. It may sound easy, but it isn’t so don’t get cocky.
- From your heels all the way to the back of your head, your body should remain straight.
2) Bicycle crunches
These crunches are great for really working your core and your obliques, and they’re actually very easy to perform too.
How To Do Bicycle crunches
- Start off by laying down on your back with your hands behind your head, your knees bent, and your feet placed firmly on the floor.
- Next, slowly lift your head and you should feel your abs begin to tighten.
- Lift your shoulders, head, and back up off the ground, simultaneously move your left elbow and right knee towards each other, before repeating with the exact opposites, mimicking a pedalling motion. Continue for a further 3 sets of 15 – 20 reps.
These are also great for really hitting the upper and lower abs, and are very similar to a simple sit-up, instead, as the name suggests, you raise your legs straight into the air, and try to touch your toes, making a v shape as you do so.
How To Do V-ups:
- Start off by laying down flat on a mat.
- Begin with your legs straight, then slowly raise them up into the air.
- Sit up by bringing your back and shoulders off the mat, and try to touch your toes in the air.
- Hold for a second, then slowly lower your legs and your torso back down.
- Repeat the process all over again for a further 3 sets of 15 – 20 reps.
4) Leg raises
Another fantastic core strengthening exercise is the leg raise. It’s easy to do, and will leave your abs feeling like they’re on fire when you’ve finished. Here’s what you need to do.
How To Do Leg Raises
- Begin by laying down flat on your back on a flat surface or an exercise mat.
- Next, hook your hands behind your head, slightly lift your head and neck up from the ground an inch or so.
- Make sure your legs are pressed firmly against one another, and then slowly lift them up into the air so that the soles of your feet are now pointing at the ceiling.
- Slowly lower them back down to the ground, but stop them around a cm or so before they touch the ground. Never let them bounce off the floor.
- Bring your legs back into the air, and repeat until you feel the burn in your abs, and you can’t go on any further.
5) Leg climb crunch
The leg climb crunch is another great core strengthening exercise that looks easier than it is. It’s fantastic for burning fat, toning the muscles, and working on your core strength and functionality. Here’s what you need to do.
How To Do Leg Climb Crunches
- Start off by laying on your back, preferably on an exercise mat, with your right leg pointing straight up into the air.
- Next, place both of your hands on the thigh of your right leg, which should still be pointing in the air.
- Lift yourself up off the ground by using your ab muscles, and help to pull yourself further up from the ground by lightly using your hands and pulling them higher up your leg as if you were climbing.
- Slowly lower yourself back down to the starting position, repeat until failure, and then switch legs and go again.
6) Ab wheels
If you’re looking for a core exercise that really works the upper and lower abdominal muscles, as well as your obliques, then this is the exercise for you.
Before going any further however, it is worth noting that this exercise is not for beginners and not for people with a weak lower back. If you do suffer with back problems, you may want to seek an alternative. If not however, here’s how this exercise is performed:
- As you probably guessed from the name of the exercise, you will need a simple ab wheel (also called an Ab Roller Wheel) to perform this exercise.
- Place an exercise mat or towel down under your knees to help protect them, and then get down on them.
- Take the wheel and firmly hold it on the ground in front of you, making sure that your elbows are ever so slightly extended.
- Next, let the wheel do all of the work and allow it to roll out in front of you, going as far forward as possible without causing pain or too much discomfort.
- To draw the wheel back in to your body, focus on using your abs and your stomach muscles to bring it back, making sure not to use your arms.
Repeat for as many reps as required, and after a few reps you should feel a tightness and slight burning sensation in your abs.
It may sound like the name of some laundry accessory or another, but clothespins are in actual fact an extremely efficient ab exercise.
They are pretty complex and therefore should not really be performed by beginners. Here’s how they’re done:
- Start off by laying down on your back and straightening both of your legs.
- Sit up in a semi-seated type of position, focusing on contracting and flexing your abdominal muscles as you do so.
- Lift both of your legs upwards to form a 45 degree angle and then reach out and grasp your shins, holding this position whilst you squeeze and contract your abdominal muscles.
- Slowly return back to the starting position and repeat as necessary.
Just note that the higher you can raise and hold your legs, the stronger your core will become.
8) Flutter kicks
Although the word flutter may sound elegant, graceful, and peaceful, there’s little peaceful about this ab exercise as it is one of the most taxing on our list so far. It may be taxing, but it’s also incredibly effective as well. Here’s what to do:
- Start off by laying down on your back and placing both of your hands by your sides.
- With your palms facing downwards, you should now lift both of your legs up and off the ground by a couple of inches.
- Making sure you don’t let either leg touch the floor, try to raise each of your legs little by little and turn by turn.
- Make sure both knees are straight and continue until either one of your heels actually touches the floor.
9) Captain’s chair leg raises
These are great for working on your stabilising muscles and really isolating your core.
You will need access to what is known as a “captain’s chair” at a gym, but most gyms will have one.
- Begin by standing on the chair, gripping the handholds in order to keep your body stable.
- Next, pressing your back firmly against the pad and keeping your shoulders well relaxed, bend at both knees and tense and contract your abs in order to bring your knees up to around hip level.
- Hold for a second or two and then slowly lower your legs back down and repeat for as many reps as required.
- Make sure that you don’t swing your legs or arch your back during this exercise.