You’ve decided the time is right to flatten your gut and bring out the six-pack that you know is hiding down there, all you need is the right advice and the right exercises. And here's where you start.
1. Know your abs
Your rectus abdominis – your abs – is a sheet of muscle that connects your ribcage to your pelvis. It’s flanked by your serratus, obliques and transversus abdominis muscles, all of which help to stabilise your spine and transfer power between your upper and lower body.
A strong set of abs is not just for show. By working these muscles you’ll improve your sports performance, protect yourself from back pain and build a strong foundation for lifting weights.
2. What kind of exercises should you do?
Variety is key. If you only do one kind of abs exercise, such as crunches, you will very quickly adapt to the stresses and your muscles will stop responding. By varying your exercises you will keep your muscles stimulated and growing constantly.
In this guide there are 70 abs specific exercises to choose from, so you should never get bored. Each exercise is accompanied by a series of icons that denote the difficulty of the move, the muscle area it targets and the equipment required to perform it.
3. How to build a workout
It’s important to focus on other muscles as well as your abs. This will not only help you to keep your physique balanced, but by training large muscle groups such as your legs and back, you will increase the overall muscle-building effect on your body, which will have a positive impact on your abs as well.
Aim to train three or four times a week, although if you can’t manage that, any training is better than none as long as it’s regular. You could either tag a few abs exercises to the end of an all-body workout for each session or you could focus on abs for one session a week. Either way, make sure you warm up properly before each session, and leave at least one day’s rest before working the same muscle group again.
4. Keep increasing the intensity
As you improve at the exercises, you’ll need to keep upping the intensity in order to keep your muscles growing. That doesn’t necessarily mean doing more reps of a particular exercise, but rather making the exercise harder.
So, if you have been doing 12 reps of crunches and you feel the time is right to work harder rather than simply doing more reps, try holding a dumb-bell and doing weighted crunches instead for the same number of reps. As you improve you can increase the weight or move on to tougher exercises.
Aim to increase the intensity of your workouts by around ten per cent every four weeks.
5. Ditch the flab
Of course, the strongest abs in the world won’t make a proper six-pack if they’re covered in a layer of belly fat. Watch what you eat – click here for food tips – and try to include some high-intensity cardio work in your plan.
Running, cycling and swimming are all great ways of torching calories, and if you perform interval sessions, where you do short bursts of fast-paced exercise interspersed with longer recovery periods, you’ll give yourself the best chance of burning fat in the shortest space of time.
Here are the abs-specific exercises: