OK, let’s face it, you can be perfectly healthy and feel terrific without six pack abs. But if you really, deep down inside, would LOVE to have six pack abs, here’s 10 great researched tips to help you get there.
But before we dive in, realize that six pack abs are more than just a vanity thing. Getting rid of love handles and muffin tops has definite health advantages, according to the American Heart Association, including reducing your risk of diabetes and heart disease.
So, here’s 10 killer 6 pack abs diet and exercise tips!
Tip 1: It’s going to be hard work. Anybody who tells you differently is selling something. When I raced in the Triathlon National Championships I had 10% body fat, and was as fit as I’ve ever been… and I didn’t have a six pack! I was lean, and fit, but I didn’t have a six pack because…
Tip 2: You have to do some HEAVY ab work to build and cut those muscles. If you think hundreds of crunches will give you a six pack you’re wrong. According to fitness expert Clark Bartram the stomach muscles may be different than, say, your biceps, but just like you have to do some low rep, high weight lifting to get bigger biceps, you have to do some low rep, heavy exercises to get cut abs too. That’s why many very athletic people don’t have cut abs… they don’t do any heavy ab lifting. See exercises at the end of this post for some of those.
Tip 3: Six pack abs are made in the kitchen, more than the gym! You can’t build a six pack if you’re sneaking down Twinkies. You are going to have to eat really clean, cut out desserts, sugars, and probably cut way down on carbs. A Paleo-ish diet is probably the best bet.
Tip 4: Once you have your diet cleaned up, choose the right supplements. We have a whole blog post on developing a personal supplementation strategy here, but here’s two basic recommendations that will help your body shed fat:
Option 1: Drop 10-20 pounds quickly by doing a low calorie diet for a few weeks, with Pounds and Inches Drops. The combination diet and drops will really help you jumpstart the loss of fat around your mid-section.
Disclosure: Note that this website makes a small commission for purchases made through many of the links on the site. All products are carefully vetted for price and value for our customers.
Option 2: If you are already fairly lean, try a fat burning supplement like Raspberry Ketone Pro to help your body shrink the fat cells.
Tip 5: Include an easy core workout as part of your regular exercise warm up. CrossFitters have learned the value of this. There’s nothing like a dynamic warm up to not only prepare you better for a hard workout, but it gives you an opportunity to work on your core every day. Unlike other muscles on your body, core muscles can take a little workout daily, so you can work them lightly one day, hard the next. Adding them to your dynamic warm up makes this easy, as you have to warm up anyway. Good core warm up exercises include:
-wood chops (high to low)
-wood chops (low to high)
-Russian twist with a light weight in your hands (see video later in this post)
-CrossFit style sit ups. 20-50 as part of your warm up routine
Tip 6: Make sure and exercise 6 days a week for at least 30-60 minutes per session. And while cardio is critical, you must mix in high intensity, metabolism boosting training as well. Long slow workouts do have benefits, but if you want to drop the layer of fat off your belly that is currently hiding your six pack, you are going to have to get intense in about half your workouts. A simple routine of hard workouts one day, alternating with cardio and an intense ab workout the next day, is a great combo. And work in some core exercises in a dynamic workout every workout.
Tip 7: Create a great list of Ab exercises to work into your regimen. While some are better than others, over time the body needs variety, and muscle confusion, so you do need a list and to change it up over time. There a list of highly effective ones at the end of this post.
Tip 8: Not all ab exercises are created equal! In his outstanding book “The 4 Hour Body” author Tim Ferris dives deep into the abs and how to get a six pack. One of the studies he references indicates that the very most effective exercises for getting cut abs is the Bicycle (see below) while crunches are one of the weakest. He also points out that some exercises that create great abs are completely ignored by many experts out there, such as the “Cat Vomit” exercise, that he claims is critical to getting a six pack:
By the way, if you really do want six pack abs it’s well worth buying the book; it’s worth it just for that one chapter.
Tip 9: Measure. When’s the last time you ran a tape measure around your belly? And while you’re at it, go ahead and take all your measurements, at least monthly. Why? Well, there’s lots of reasons, but here’s a few of the best ones:
-Keeping measurements is just plain smart. Good businesses keep profit and loss statements. Good students know their grades. And healthy people know their numbers. Weight and measurements are important numbers for your health, keep track of them.
-What gets measured improves. The simple act of measuring is motivational. You may not like the numbers, but at least you know what they are, and can work towards making them better.
-Measurements make your health more tangible. It’s easier to not eat that sugary temptation later in the day or the week, when you have taken measurements that you are determined to improve.
Here’s how to take measurements for women:
And measurements for men:
Tip 10: Use technology. I find that putting together my own routines sometimes just doesn’t happen, and it’s so easy to just use an app to workout. There’s nothing like simply choosing a workout length, hitting play, and watching a cartoon character show you exactly what to do, when to rest, and how to do things right.
Here’s the apps I use for ab workouts:
Runtastic. Has several ab workouts of varying difficulties and lengths.
Instant Fitness. Has a huge library of ab exercises, along with organized workouts you can utilize.
Daily Yoga. Sometimes when I just don’t feel like a hard workout, or I need to stretch and de-compress, I just select a Yoga routine from this app. I always feel like a million bucks when I’m done, and I get a great core workout.
Fitness Buddy. Tons of great ab exercises included, plus workouts.
Of course there are many others, if you have a recommendation, leave it in the comments below!
Some Great ab exercises:
One of the most effective ab exercises going. Just like it sounds, lie on your back and do a bicycle motion, like this:
CrossFit style sit ups.
You’ve been told that full motion sit ups are bad for your back, right? Well, the CrossFit style situp solves that problem. It may look and feel a little weird at first, but once you start doing sit ups this way you’ll never go back. And you don’t need anybody to sit on your feet to do them either.
While these aren’t that effective, as mentioned, they are great warm up exercises, and can be an effective part of your routine as long as you understand they aren’t the thing that will really get it done… they are just part of the plan. But don’t put your hands behind your head, put them on your chest.
Russian Twist, with legs in air.
This one qualifies as one of the “heavy” lifts Clark Bartram recommends. Lie on your back, on your mat, with your feet in the air and hands splayed out to the sides. Raise your legs, then rotate them from side to side, almost all the way to the ground.
Russian Twist, with a plate.
Front planks, side planks, planks with your feet on a ball… all of these are outstanding core exercises. Work on them until you can hold yourself in any plan position for 60 seconds.
Great training here on planks: