It takes a lot of work to develop a six-pack. It requires you to intensively train your upper abs, lower abs and obliques, as well as moving your body fat percentage to the lower end of the healthy range. That last part is the most important and also the hardest, but the training part is much more straightforward (if still hard). Working your abs directly doesn’t require the type of equipment you’d find in a gym, because your bodyweight provides sufficient resistance and stimulus to sculpt a harder and more defined core.
To get started, try this 20-minute abs circuit, designed by the fitness experts at the New Body Plan. It hits all the key areas of your abs from different angles and using different rep ranges to work and fatigue the maximum number of muscle fibres, so your body has no option but to rebuild your midsection stronger than it was before.
How To Do This Workout
Perform the exercises in order, sticking to the work and rest periods detailed. At the end of the first circuit, rest for three minutes, then repeat. If you’re a beginner, aim to do three circuits; if you have more training experience, do up to five circuits in isolation or throw in a few circuits at the end of another body part weights workout for a tough but effective “finisher”. Watch your form carefully, especially with the crunches if you’ve had back issues. If you can’t maintain the correct form, stop, rest and try again.
Reps: 10 Rest: 20sec
Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Place your fingers either side of your head by your temples, elbows pointing forwards. Engage your abs, then raise your torso until your elbows pass your knees. Don’t round your back at any point. Hold this top position for a count of one second, then slowly lower your torso back to the floor.
Make it harder: Don’t allow your upper back to touch the ground between reps.
2 Crunch pulse
Reps: 20 Rest: 20sec
Start at the top of the crunch but hold your arms straight up so they’re pointing to the ceiling. Pulse up, pushing your fingers as high as you can into the air, keeping your abs fully engaged throughout the set. The movement range is very small, so the number of reps is high, and you must ensure your abs muscles are responsible for the movement, rather than using momentum to rock body down and up.
Make it harder: Raise your heels off the ground to work your lower abs too.
3 Reverse crunch
Reps: 10 Rest: 20sec
Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Place your arms by your sides, or put your hands flat under the small of your back. Engage your lower abs, then raise your heels off the floor. Keeping your core tight, use your lower abs to raise your knees and bring them towards your chest, avoiding any rocking motion. Hold the top position for a count of one second, then lower your feet back to the floor.
Make it harder: Don’t allow your heels to touch back down on the floor between reps.
4 Lying leg raise
Reps: 20 Rest: 20sec
Lie flat on your back with your legs straight and your arms by your sides, or put your hands flat under the small of your back. Keeping your legs straight and feet close together, engage your lower abs to raise your feet around 30cm. Hold this top position for a count of one second, then slowly lower your feet back to the floor. Keep the small of your back pressed into the floor throughout.
Make it harder: Raise your feet as high as you can, then lower them without letting your heels hit the floor between reps.
5 Plank toe tap
Reps: 15 each side Rest: 20 sec
Start in the plank position on your front, holding your body in a straight line on your forearms and toes, with your feet together and your core, lower back and glutes engaged. Keeping your head in a neutral position and your breathing relaxed and regular, lift your left foot and take it out to the side. Touch the floor with your toes, then return your left foot to the start position. Repeat with your right foot. Alternate sides with each rep.
Make it harder: Start in feet-elevated plank position, with your feet on a chair, step or other raised surface.
6 Plank shoulder tap
Reps: 15 each side Rest: 3min
Start in the plank position on your front, holding your body in a straight line on your forearms and toes, with your feet together and your core, lower back and glutes engaged. Keeping your head in a neutral position and your breathing relaxed and regular, lift your left hand and touch it to your right shoulder. Return to the start position, then repeat the movement pattern with your right hand to your left shoulder. Alternate sides with each rep.
Make it harder: After each left and right shoulder tap, perform a press-up.
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