Although summer has officially come to a close, there’s no reason to let your physique go. Abdominal definition has long been a measure of fitness level, with the coveted 6-pack abs being the ultimate trophy. In trying to attain this goal, it’s important to remember to try and hit all 4 sections of the abdominals: the rectus abdominus, transverse abdominus, internal obliques, and external obliques. Whether you’re just trying to maintain until next bikini season, or you’re a newbie to fitness looking to start prepping for next summer to have that beach body you’ve always wanted, we’ll give you the best tips for killer 6-pack abs that rival any of our stunning Zen performers. Below we list our top 5 favorite abdominal exercises to get that gut into Zen shape.
1. Incline Crunches
Any fitness aficionado in possession of washboard abs will tell you this exercise is at the heart of every 6-pack. On an inclined bench, with feet locked in the stirrups and head placed at the lower end of the bench, raise your head and torso up as high as possible with a short pause near the top, before lowering back onto the bench. Hands should be placed either across the chest or clasped gently behind the neck. The neck should be maintained in a neutral position, with no straining or bending, and adequate space between the chin and sternum. Start off with a 3-4 sets of 10 and gradually increase your rep numbers and set numbers. Once you’ve conquered gravity’s resistance, hold a weight plate across your chest or behind your neck for added difficulty. This is a great exercise for the total area of the rectus abdominus.
2. Long-Lever Crunches
In the workout world, moving any sort of resistance point further away from the body increases the difficulty of an exercise. That is exactly the principle behind these long-lever crunches. Lying in a supine position on the floor with feet flat on the ground, knees bent, and back flush against the floor, extend your arms behind your head and slowly raise the head and torso with the arms following the direction of the head. Pause at the apex and then slowly lower back down. Increase difficulty by holding the feet up at a 90 degree angle. Additional difficulty can be added by doing these on a stability ball, which adds an increased range of motion as well as utilizes the body’s stabilizers. For an even more advanced version, add weight to the hands. This is a great exercise for the upper rectus abdominus.
3. Oblique Twists (aka Russian Twists)
Lying in a supine position on the floor, raise the torso and legs entirely off the ground, resting your body only on the glutes. From this position, with hands side-by-side extended out in front of you, tap your hands to the area on the ground to the left and right of your thighs, reaching as far back behind the body as possible. For added difficulty, hold a weight in the hands or conduct on an inclined bench. This is an excellent exercise for both the internal and external obliques, transverse abdominus, as well as the entire abdominal region.
4. Leg Raises
Either in a captain’s chair or hanging arm slings, raise the knees up to the torso as high as possible and then lower back down. If you do not have access to either of those items, the exercise can also be conducted flat on the floor in a supine position, and raising the knees and hips off the ground and towards the chin, then slowly lowering them back down. Or you may also simply grab onto a horizontal pull-up bar and complete the exercise that way. For additional difficulty, add ankle weights to the legs or hold a dumbbell between them. Leg raises are great for the lower abdominals to attain that v-cut.
Planks are an isometric exercise, meaning they are completely static with no movement involved. Although not as affective on the rest of the body, isometrics are excellent for the core region. Lying in a prone position on the ground, raise the body up as if attempting to do a push-up, resting the torso on the forearms and the legs on the toes. While thinking about sucking in your belly-button and tightening your abdominals, hold in this position for at least 1 min. As you improve, increase your hold time as well as number of sets. To also train the obliques and transverse abdominus, try holding to the side with the feet in a staggered position and torso resting on one forearm, with the other arm raised straight in the air. For this side plank, also remember to maintain a straight line throughout the shoulders and arms.
Remember every weight-loss fitness routine should be a balance of resistance training, cardio exercise, and healthy balanced nutrition. Adding these ab exercise into your fitness routine will guarantee you to be Zen ready by next summer!