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The Best Exercise for Ripped Abs

author image Joshua Duvauchelle
Joshua Duvauchelle is a certified personal trainer and health journalist, relationships expert and gardening specialist. His articles and advice have appeared in dozens of magazines, including exercise workouts in Shape, relationship guides for Alive and lifestyle tips for Lifehacker. In his spare time, he enjoys yoga and urban patio gardening.
The Best Exercise for Ripped Abs
A man is training his core using a stability ball. Photo Credit MeikePetri/iStock/Getty Images

Ignore those gimmicky ab workout devices you see on late-night television. To get a ripped torso and a shredded six pack, you need to combine two kinds of exercises: ab workouts that make your abs bigger and stronger and interval training to help burn fat. Get enough sleep, follow a healthy diet and keep your stress levels low.

Bicycle Crunches

Leave the traditional crunches in the past. In a fitness study conducted by the Biomechanics Lab at San Diego State University and sponsored by the American Council on Exercise, researchers tested to see what common exercises best targeted the rectus abdominis, which makes up the "six pack." The bicycle crunch was ranked as the best overall exercise for this muscle group. Lie down while facing up and put your hands behind your head. Bring one leg up and pull the knee of that leg toward your opposite elbow as you pull that elbow forward to the knee. Let those two body parts touch before returning to the straight position. Repeat for the other leg and elbow.

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Captain's Chair for the Side Abs

The American Council on Exercise's study not only found the captain's chair the most effective ab exercise for your obliques, it also ranked as the second most effective workout for the rectus abdominis. Sit in a chair with your arms at your sides and grip the side of the chair. While keeping your abs contracted and your torso straight, lift your knees up toward your chest. Pause for a second and then return to the starting position. Avoid twisting your torso or swinging your legs to focus the workout directly on your core.

Vertical Leg Crunch

The American Council on Exercise ranked the vertical leg crunch as the fourth most effective exercise for the rectus abdominis. In fact, compared to the traditional crunch, it was more than twice as effective on the obliques and almost 30 percent more effective for the rectus abdominis. Lie down on your back with your hands behind your head and your legs in the air so they're making a 90-degree angle with your torso. Contract your abs and lift your shoulders and upper back off the ground just like you would in a traditional crunch. Pause for a second and then return to the starting position.

High-Intensity Interval Training

You can make your abs big and strong, but if they're hidden under a layer of fat, you won't achieve the shredded, ripped appearance that you want. Trying to spot reduce fat from the ab area with ab exercises won't work, but high-intensity interval training will help. A research study published in the Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise journal noted that high-intensity cardio helps to reduce subcutaneous fat, which is the fat that lies just under your skin and covers your abs and ACE reports that high-intensity interval training helps to reduce "abdominal and subcutaneous fat." Plus, the American College of Sports Medicine reports that high-intensity interval training helps increase your metabolism all day, helping you to burn more fat in the long run. To do this kind of training, the ACE suggests breaking your standard cardio routine up into periods of high-paced and slow-paced rhythms. For example, if you're biking for half an hour, cycle as fast as you can for two minutes, slow down for a minute and then cycle fast again for two minutes. Alternate back and forth until your workout is over.

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