Washboard abs aren't just for impressing people at the beach or pool. Strong abdominal muscles work with your back and pelvic muscles to improve your overall range of motion, core strength and trunk flexibility. Getting a "six pack" requires a healthy diet, a rigorous workout routine and a balanced lifestyle.
Guzzle Your Goals
As soon as you roll out of bed, stroll to your fridge and guzzle 16.9 ounces of cold water. Then, continue to drink water throughout the day — aim for 90 to 128 ounces of water daily — to stay well hydrated. Researchers have found that starting your day with a few glasses of cold water boosts your metabolism to help you burn excess body fat, a key component in revealing washboard abs. Additionally, staying hydrated reduces abdominal bloating, which could disguise your six pack and make you appear fatter than you actually are.
Make Your Abs in the Kitchen
No amount of exercise can undo the poor effects of bad nutrition. Your six pack is crafted in the kitchen as much as it is in the gym. In general, most people benefit from eating "clean." That means cutting out refined carbohydrates, such as white breads, sweetened beverages and sugary desserts, and focusing on lean proteins, such as fish and chicken, and eating lots of colorful vegetables. Also, limit salty foods, which create water retention and cut out wine, beer and other forms of alcohol, as they may contribute to abdominal fat. Talk to your doctor for more specific nutrition advice.
Feel the Burn
You don't have to bother with buying expensive "As Seen on TV" ab workout gadgets. One of the most well-known ab exercises is the humble ab crunch, but a San Diego State University study sponsored by the American Council on Exercise actually ranks the bicycle maneuver and the captain's chair as the two most effective ab exercises. To do the bicycle maneuver, lie on your back with your hands behind your head and your knees in the air. In this position, your thighs should make a 90-degree angle with your hips and torso. Suck in and contract your abs and then bring your left knee up and toward your left armpit. Simultaneously straighten your right leg while bringing your right elbow toward your left knee, twisting your torso slightly. Pause, then return to the starting position and repeat for the other side. This creates a "pedaling" movement from which this exercise gets its name.
For the captain's chair exercise at the gym, climb into a captain's chair, also known as a power tower. Grasp the side handles while resting your elbows on the machine's pads and extending your legs. While keeping your upper torso firm and solid, straighten your legs and stretch them up and forward until your legs create a 90-degree angle with your torso. Pause and then lower your legs back down until your body is straight again.
For the best results, work your abs three times per week and rest at least 24 hours between workout days to let your abdominal region rebuild and get stronger.
Catch Some Zs
Surprisingly, sleeping will actually help you develop your abs. While researchers have long known that sleep deprivation is linked with overall weight gain, a study in the American Academy of Sleep Medicine's "Sleep Journal" discovered that not getting enough sleep is actually linked specifically to abdominal fat. Aim for seven to eight hours of sleep every night. Sleep doesn't just help reduce abdominal fat. It also helps your abs get bigger and stronger after a workout through the natural repair process, in part because sleep helps with the release of your body's natural growth hormones. This may help in boosting your six pack's size and definition.
- Harvard Medical School: Core Exercises
- Men's Fitness: 5 Things to Know About Boosting Your Metabolism
- West Virginia University Student Recreational Center: Get a Six Pack, Not a Keg
- Muscle & Fitness: The Ab Factors
- Shannon Clark Fitness: 5 Hurdles You WILL Face On The Way To Six Pack Abs
- Rensselaer Union Mueller Center: Working Your Abs
- American Council on Exercise: Supine Bicycle Crunches
- ABC News: Starved for Sleep? Watch Your Waistline
- American Academy of Sleep Medicine: Sleep Duration and Five-Year Abdominal Fat Accumulation in a Minority Cohort
- American Council on Exercise: American Council on Exercise (ACE)-Sponsored Study Reveals Best and Worst Abdominal Exercises