For some people, the word “abs” stirs up memories that make them cringe—grade-school sit-ups, planks-‘til-you-shake, “you mean I can’t have a seventh cookie?” For others, the word represents the ultimate goal—the sign that your body is lean, your core is strong, and your bathing suit has become your favorite article of clothing.
No matter what camp you’re in, the entire abdominal region is difficult to train. But it’s not because the exercises are impossible to perform. It’s because we either a) treat abs like an afterthought by saving a few quick core exercises for the end of our workouts or b) we figure there’s so much extra luggage around the middle that it makes more sense to spend time pumping up our biceps than trying to find our muscular middles.
What I’d like to do is clear up some misconceptions about abdominal training—and give you two things that should be a part of every workout: fun and results.
For starters, understand these four fundamental rules that will help you get there.
Your Six-Pack Will Hide In The Fridge
What’s the quickest way to get defined abs? Lose fat. The most effective way to do that? A proper diet. Eat fewer calories, increase your water intake, and consume lean meats, fruits and vegetables.
You Will Not Reduce The Spot
For decades, people have attempted to address their trouble spots with isolated exercises. If we’re talking about your arms, sure, doing bicep curls may help you add some size. But when it comes to your abdominals, crunches aren’t going to remove unwanted belly fat. Instead, use complex exercises that work more of your body while also challenging the abdominal region. Exercises like the push-up and chin-up may be considered upper body exercises, but both of them also stimulate the abdominal muscles.
You Will Skip What You Save For Last
Instead of devoting only a couple of sets to the abdominals at the end of your workout, design entire sessions that address this area. This way, you’ll no longer be able to replace your last few sets of sit-ups with a 500-calorie protein shake.
You Will Need To Work the Abdominals Like Any Other Muscle
For some reason, the fitness industry has worked to convince us that the abdominal muscles respond differently to intensity, frequency, and duration than the other muscles of the body. Do you think working chin-ups or squats for 30 minutes every day would be a good idea? Of course not, but many people don’t bat an eye at doing a 30-minute abs class five days a week. The fact is that your abdominal muscles need just as much resistance and recovery as the other muscles of the body. That’s why the following workout doesn’t use high repetitions and should only be performed twice a week.
Abdominal Workout Circuits
This routine contains some of the best abdominal exercises around—and some of them don’t even look like abs exercises (though, believe me, they are). Perform each move in a circuit—do the required reps, resting for 30 seconds between each exercise. After the final move, rest for 2 to 3 minutes, then repeat. Perform the entire circuit for 3 to 5 total sets depending on your level of fitness. Perform twice a week.