10 of the Best Exercises for Six-Pack Abs

10 of the Best Exercises for Six-Pack Abs

Here’s the good news: if you can stand upright, you have abs. Sure, they might not be the defined, muscular, fat-free six-pack abs of your dreams — but they’re there, holding you up and protecting your spine from injury nearly every moment of the day as you twist, bend, lift, walk, jump, run, and grind through your ab workouts. So rest easy — you have abs.

The real question, though — the one posited by fitness enthusiasts everywhere — is how to get abs that show? That ripple like the Pacific in a squall? That stand out like the treads on a set of off-road Goodyears?

That’s what everyone wants to know.

We’re here to help.

 

What Do Abs Do for the Body?

For people who grew up doing sit-ups, leg raises, and other similar workouts, the abs — technically the rectus abdominis, a sheet of muscle extending from the bottom of your rib cage to the top of your pelvis — seem to do just two simple things: pull your chest toward your hips, and your hips to your chest. End of story.

In fact, the abs do a ton of other stuff too. Along with the other muscles of your core — the internal and external obliques on the sides of your torso, the transverse abdominis, and the spinal erectors of the lower back — the abs are the major link between the upper and lower body, the muscles that transfer the power of your legs and hips to your upper body.

Without these muscles, the great pitchers, batters, tennis players, boxers, swimmers and track stars of the world would be mere shells of themselves. Indeed, it’s hard to think of a movement — particularly an athletic one — that doesn’t involve the abs to some extent.

strong core is also an insurance policy against injury. Like Secret Service agents for your spine, those muscles provide a crucial line of defense when your back is in danger of bending or rotating too far. The stronger and more supple your core muscles, the less likely you are to jack up your back.

 

10 of the Best Exercises for Six-Pack Abs

The exercises below have been pulled from Beachbody programs, and are designed to strengthen the abs and their compatriot muscles. Incorporate a few of these moves into your current ab workouts 3–4 times a week to forge six-pack abs.

Dolphin Hop

Benefits: This plank variation works the entire core — with an emphasis on the rectus abdominis — while also working the shoulders and stretching the hamstrings and calves.

Appears in: P90X3 – Ab Ripper

  • Assume a low plank position — forearms, palms, and the balls of your feet on the floor, body straight from head to heels. This is your starting position.
  • Keeping your legs straight and your core braced, hop your feet forward, raising your hips toward the ceiling until your feet are as close as possible to your elbows.
  • Jump both feet gently back to the starting position, and repeat.

 

Reciprocating Slow Switch Kick

Benefits: This supine move hits the anterior core — the six-pack — while teaching you to stabilize the spine as you move your hips.

Appears in: SHAUN WEEK – 25 Abs

  • Lie on your back in “banana” position: arms extended with your elbows near your ears, head off the floor, legs straight, feet together and raised about 12 inches off the floor. Press your lower back into the floor. This is your starting position.
  • Keeping your upper body still, your legs straight, and your feet flexed (toes pulled toward shins), raise your left leg as high as possible.
  • Simultaneously lower your left leg back to the starting position as you raise your right leg as high as possible.
  • Continue alternating sides for one minute, performing equal reps on each.

 

Bridge Burner


Benefits: This exercise works the entire core, with an emphasis on the oblique and transverse abdominis muscles that flank your torso.

Appears in: P90X3 – Ab Ripper

  • Lie on your back in “banana” position: arms extended with your elbows near your ears, head off the floor, legs straight, feet together and raised about 12 inches off the floor. (Advanced option: hold a medicine ball or dumbbell in your hands.) Press your lower back into the floor. This is your starting position.
  • Simultaneously raise your legs and your torso off the floor, forming a “V” shape with your body.
  • Balancing on your butt, bend your knees around 90 degrees and twist right, reaching both hands toward the floor beside your right hip, and repeat on the left. Repeat both twists.
  • Return to center, slowly return to the starting position, and repeat the sequence.

Too tough? Drop the weight, and/or keep your feet on the floor throughout the move.

 

High Low Plank Spider Lunge

Benefits: This plank variation forces the core to resist bending and twisting through your spine, and can improve hip mobility.

Appears in: SHAUN WEEK – 25 Abs

  • Assume a push-up position with your arms straight, hands slightly wider than your shoulders, and your body straight from head to heels.
  • Keeping your core tight and body rigid (resist any rotational movement), place your right forearm on the floor. Repeat with your left forearm to assume a low plank position.
  • Reverse the move, returning to push-up position.
  • Step your right foot forward, planting it beside your right hand, then return to push-up position.
  • Repeat the entire sequence for reps, then switch sides, lowering your left elbow to the floor before your right, and stepping your left foot beside your left hand.

 

C-Curve Weighted Pass

Benefits: This seated move places constant tension on your abdominals while building rotational mobility through the upper back.

Appears in: 21 Day Fix EXTREME – 10 Minute Abs/Fix for Abs

  • Sit with your butt and heels on the floor and your knees slightly bent, holding a dumbbell with both hands at arm’s length in front of your chest.
  • Keeping your core braced, lean back slightly, creating a C curve in the spine. This is your starting position.
  • Passing the weight to your left hand, rotate to the left as you reach back to lightly touch the weight on the floor behind you. Keep your right arm extended in front of you throughout the movement.
  • Return to the starting position, and, without stopping, pass the weight to your right hand. Repeat the move to the other side.
  • Continue alternating sides, performing equal reps on each.

 

Weighted Hip Drop

Benefits: In addition to cultivating six-pack abs, this weighted side plank targets the obliques.

Appears in: 21 Day Fix EXTREME – 10 Minute HardCORE

  • Lie on your left side propped up on your left elbow and forearm, shoulders stacked over your elbow, legs stacked on top of each other, and hold a dumbbell in place on top of your right hip.
  • Raise your hips so that your body forms a straight line from head to heels. This is the starting position.
  • Keeping your core braced, slowly lower your left hip, tapping it gently on the floor.
  • Reverse the move, returning to side plank position.
  • Repeat for reps, then switch sides, performing equal reps on each.

 

Hip Escape Toe Tap

Benefits: An MMA-inspired variation on the bear crawl, this exercise works the entire abdomen — front and sides — in an athletic, functional context.

Appears in: CORE DE FORCE – Core Kinetics (fifth move)

  • Get on all fours in a bear crawl position — arms straight, hands below shoulders, and knees bent 90 degrees below hips with your knees a few inches off of the floor.
  • Keeping your left hand and right foot on the ground, rotate to your right, lifting your right arm, extending your left leg a few inches above the floor, and tapping your toes with your right hand. Return to the starting position.
  • Repeat to the left, and continue alternating sides, performing equal reps on each.

Too tough? Keep your “kicking” leg bent rather than extended, and/or tap your opposite shoulder with the free hand.

 

8. Side Plank Hip Lift

Benefits: Besides its abdominal advantages, this plank variation strengthens the obliques, hip abductors, and shoulder stabilizers.

Appears in: CORE DE FORCE – Five Minute Core on the Floor

  • Lie on your right side propped up on your right elbow and forearm, shoulders stacked over your elbow, legs stacked on top of each other.
  • Raise your hips so that your body forms a straight line from head to heels, and extend your left arm toward the ceiling. This is the starting position.
  • Keeping your core engaged, slowly lower your right hip toward the floor as far as possible.
  • Reverse the move, lifting your left hip toward the ceiling as high as you can.
  • Repeat for reps, then switch sides, performing equal reps on each.

 

V Sit Hold and Tap

Benefits: This seated move trains the core to engage fully while you keep your back straight.

Appears in: PiYo – Hardcore on the Floor

  • Sit on the floor with your knees bent, shins parallel to the ceiling, spine elongated. Your fingers can gently rest on your hamstrings, just under your knees.
  • Keeping your back flat, lean back until your abs engage, then extend your legs as high as possible.
  • Hold for a five-count, then bend your knees, and lower both feet to the floor.
  • Hold for a one-count, then straighten your legs, and repeat the entire sequence.

 

Seated Bike Twist

Benefits: This exercise works the entire core rotationally, emphasizing the obliques, transverse abdominis, and abs.

Appears in: Body Beast – Beast Abs

  • Sit on the floor with your knees bent and your feet flat, holding a weighted plate or dumbbell in front of your chest.
  • Keeping your back flat, recline slightly, lifting both feet off the floor, and balancing on your glutes. This is your starting position.
  • Simultaneously rotate your upper body to the right as you straighten your right leg.
  • Return to the starting position, and, without stopping, repeat the move to the other side.
  • Continue alternating sides, performing equal reps on each.

 

Eating for Abs

10 of the Best Exercises for Six Pack Abs

When it comes to building six-pack abs, however, strength and power in the muscles is only part of the equation. Unless you’re very lean, the coveted six-pack is at least partially obscured under a layer of fat. So, aside from your ab workouts, the other essential part of “getting six-pack abs” is what you’re eating.

Fundamentally, if you want to lose fat you have to eat a little less. And the first place to cut should be the empty-calories column: desserts, sugary beverages, and processed carbs. Beachbody’s Executive Director of Nutrition Denis Faye, M.S., suggests that carbs comprise 40 percent of your daily caloric intake, max.

While cutting calories, though, it’s essential to maintain a protein intake of about 0.7g–0.9g per pound of your target bodyweight. Dietary protein helps you hold onto your muscle mass as you lose weight.

Faye also suggests that you can target visceral fat — the type that surrounds your organs, adds inches to your waistline, and increases the risk of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases — by upping your fiber intake, sleeping more and stressing less. Check out Beachbody’s nutrition and supplement programs for more on this and other ideas on what to eat for six-pack abs.

A little reality check: for most people, six-pack abs aren’t visible until your body fat levels dip below about 12 percent. And the “peeled” look you see on fitness models and bodybuilders? That doesn’t happen until you’re at 8 percent body fat or less.

For all but the genetically gifted, that’s a tough standard to reach. We’re talking part-time job tough: brutal workouts and a spartan diet, seven days a week, forever. That’s especially true if you’re female, as women typically carry 7-8 percent more body fat than men, and must maintain at least 12 percent essential fat just to ensure proper physiological functioning. (It’s 3 percent for men.)

Faye, who cycles over 250 miles a week, spent a brief period in sub-10 percent body fat territory, and doesn’t recommend it: “I was cold all the time,” he says. “Being that skinny is overrated.”

So while a midsection like an overturned ice tray may not be in the cards any time soon, anyone can get a leaner, more muscular torso with a smart approach to both diet and exercise.

High-intensity interval training (HIIT), which is any workout that alternates between periods of intense and less-intense activity, has been found the most effective such exercise. Beachbody On Demand offers many HIIT exercise programs intended to burn fat efficiently, such as INSANITYINSANITY MAX:30, and TurboFire, as well as ab workouts like Rev Abs and Hip Hop Abs.