It is summer and you know what that means. While you may be past the age of bare midriff tops, there is definitely a confidence that goes with having your best abs forward at the beach, pool, and in thinner fabrics at the office. So let’s start shredding.
The First Thing You Need to Know
The simple truth: You need to lose the fat over your abs to see your abs. You can do crunches until you turn blue but if your abs are not visible, then fat loss is needed to make them visible. The muscles are there – they are part of simple human anatomy.
The Three Things You Need to Do To Get Visible Abs
So for most of us, the goal isn’t exactly a full six pack. Whether that is a look most people actually want is debatable. But it is nice to have a flatness to the stomach, and some visible lines around the oblique area. So the first thing you want to make sure you do is up your cardio to at least 4 times a week, per the DAOFitLife 4-3-2-1 Exercise Formula For Success. Here is a format for the best way to get fat moving off fast:
#1 Twice a week, walk for 45-50 minutes in a fasted state;
#2 Twice a week, do HIIT intervals or a HIIT circuit. You can do HIIT standalone or as a “finisher” to your strength training workout. Here is an example of a HIIT finisher circuit:
For more on HIIT with more example exercises, see this post:
#3 Do a standalone ab workout 3 times a week. See the next section for details.
This combo will both get the visceral fat burning benefit of LISS and the post-exercise fat burn from HIIT.
Even while you up your cardio, you can simultaneously sculpt your ab muscles. In fact, starting a workout with an ab circuit will both help warm up your core and also help you make sure you do not forget that part of your routine.
You will notice my list does not include any simple crunches. That is because, as Jillian Michaels explains in her below blog, the really effective ab exercises are ones that lift your pelvis. Anything you are doing where you are simultaneously fighting gravity is extremely effective, because that pull creates extra resistance.
The 10 best ab exercises
With that, here are my top 10 ab exercises. You can do them in one session before or after cardio, or break them up and do them as circuits during a strength training workout. Do each one for 30 seconds each, rest for 15 and then move on to the next one.
Quick Ab Routine
- Dead bug – Lie down with legs in a tabletop and straight arms (like a “dead bug”) – and then slowly lower opposite arm and opposite leg
- Reverse crunch – Grab a table leg or something stable. Lie on your back and then raise legs at a 90 degree angle, lower, and straighten.
- Bear crawl – OK you know when you drop a pen underneat a table and you have to crawl down to get it from the most inconvenient place possible? Yes this is the bear crawl, instead of keeping your knees down elevate them slightly (and see graphic below). You can go in a straight line if you have a runway at home or in a gym, but otherwise you can go back and forth, and even side to side which works even MORE abdominal muscles.
- Single leg jacknife – Raise straight leg and opposite arm as you raise your head, then lower down
- Bird dog – On all fours, reach opposite arm and opposite leg in different directions until your arm and legs are completely straight
- Brazilian plank crunch – Start in plank and then crunch up one leg, and then the other
- Vacuum – this is a great finisher. Just get on your hands and knees in tabletop and then suck in your stomach so there is no air whatsoever, hold for a few seconds, and then release. It really flattens it out!
- Star plank – this is a variation of a plank that really digs into your abs. You will be starting in a pushup position but then extend your arms forward as far as you can go while still maintaining your form. Then spread your feet shoulder width apart and hold.
Here are some visuals of the above exercises.
From top to bottom: Deadbug, bear crawl, and star plank.
These next moves require gym equipment but are my favorite for working lower abs and obliques
- Captain’s chair – this is a common fixture in gyms. You can pike your legs, or if you are more new, bring your knees to your chest as in the figure below.
- Hanging left lift – this is a more advanced exercise, where you are fighting both your body weight and gravity. Grab hold of a bar and then raise your legs as high as possible.
- Medicine ball wall throw – also a great way to get out your aggression on, say being on hold for 20 minutes then getting disconnected. Stand next to a wall with one side of your body facing the wall. With a medicine ball (around 10-14 pounds) use your ab muscles to swing it into the wall and then catch it as it richochets (you want to make sure you do not have people closeby). Repeat 10-15 times and then switch sides.
Below: Captain’s chair and hanging leg raise
The best YouTube channel for abs
I have been doing ab workouts with Train by Gainsbybrains, and they are all on my DAOFitLife abs playllists. Most of them are ten minutes or less, only do each exercise once, and are not audibly narrated, so you can listen to our own music or watch TV while you do these. Here are some of her example videos:
And the best ab routine I have ever done….wait for it
You might have guessed I am a huge fan of Jillian Michaels. I raised my hand to work out with her on stage at one of her road shows, a decision I both regret but also remember as one of the most exciting moments. I love her!
And I love her workouts. When I first really embraced fitness, I bought almost every single DVD (yep, I am that old). But the best workout I still love to do that is available on her app is Six- week Six Pack abs. I noticed a tangible difference after only doing this workout one time per week. You can preview it above. If you do not want to download the app, you can also buy it one-off on Amazon Prime.
If you try this, tell me how you feel afterwards!