One of my clients’ most frequent questions is how to get the illustrious ‘six pack’. There are of course health benefits to training the abdominal area (reduces risk of lower back pain, promotes improved posture etc.), but when it comes to ‘abs’, health seems secondary to cosmetics! First, if the stomach isn’t flat, there’s likely too much fat being stored; sit-up after sit-up won’t help, as they burn fewer calories vs. proper cardio. ‘Spot training’ simply doesn’t work for this.
The solution is genuinely simple – reduce body fat by increasing activity, whilst controlling calorie intake – abs then will begin to show definition of their own accord. Exercises can improve the shape and bulk of the muscles, but they won’t show unless the fat layer goes first. To do that, above all, engage and work the transversus abdominal muscle, which acts as a muscular corset connecting the upper and lower body, holding in the waist. Try to hit the stomach muscles from all angles. Here’s a 3-point attack plan, with photos! ….
Maximum effort for each exercise to failure, then move on to the next – when completed all of the below, go for a light jog (increase calorie burn). That is one set. Repeat x 3 or until you give up!
1) Work the Transversus Abdominals
Simple plank to begin with, then combo leg-and-arm lift plank, as per below pic.
Also, the abdominal muscles help support the spine during forward bending therefore any exercise involving forward flexion of the spine such as deadlifts and squats will indirectly train the abdominal muscles too!
2) Work the Rectus abdominals
Curling bodily movements (e.g. normal sit ups, as below)
Reverse curl movements (like a sit up, but where you’d bring in your legs to your chest, rather than the opposite)
Toe reach (as per below pic)
3) Work the External & Internal Obliques
Dumbbell side dips / bends
Trunk Twist movements (as two below images)
Side plank (as below)
AND of course, some stretches to finish off!