People tend to place a great deal of importance on the aesthetics of a chiseled midsection, but don’t realize how much it impacts (or is impacted) by everything you do. Many movements in the gym, such as squats or overhead presses, provide a challenge for your core, and would be improved by strengthening it.
Much like any other group of muscles, you must work your abs (upper, lower, and obliques) from all angles to get results. As an additional challenge, many of the following exercises can be done with added weight in order to continue to challenge your core. However, I would be cautious when adding weight and truly focus on using proper form as opposed to moving heavy weight when it comes to abs.
1. Plank – assume the push-up position with your forearms resting on the ground. While holding your core tight, your body should be in a straight line with only your toes and forearms on the ground.
2. Side Plank – I also like to work in side planks (support comes from one forearm and the side of one foot to add in additional oblique work. I usually start out with this stability exercise combo to fatigue my core before moving to other core exercises. I superset regular and side planks for 3 sets, holding the regular for one minute and the side planks for thirty seconds.
After planks, I tend to do circuit style training, meaning that I will cycle through all the exercises without rest, and consider that one set. Also, focus on truly contracting your abs in a controlled manner. Try this for 4 rounds:
3. Leg Raises – Lie face up on the floor with your legs straight in the air. Slowly raise your legs by contracting your lower abs. Lower and repeat for 15-20 reps.
4. Crunch (legs elevated) – Lie face up on the floor with your legs bent 90 degrees resting on a bench. Slowly raise your shoulders off the ground by contracting your upper abs. I like to place my hands across my chest versus behind my head. I feel like this eliminates the possibility of them assisting with the movement. (15-20 reps)
5. Broomstick Twist – Place an unloaded bar over your shoulders by resting it across your traps. Standing with your feet spread beyond shoulder width, rotate your upper body side to side. (As an alternative, you can also do all reps for one side before switching to the other. Your lower body should remain motionless, and you can also perform this exercise seated to take your legs out of it altogether. Perform 10 reps for each side.
6. The Kitchen – As cliché as it sounds, abs are truly made in the kitchen, so regardless of the work you put in at the gym, your food intake is crucial when trying to develop that six pack. However assuming that you are eating according to your goals, the above workout can help you carve out that desired look.