We all want to feel great, stay healthy, build muscle, and stay lean. Most of us also want to keep our midsection in check. People who are looking to reduce body fat and get in shape often look at their stomachs to see if they’re making progress. It’s only natural—the coveted abdominals are the centerpiece of the physique. So, working on that six-pack becomes a high priority.
I want to make it clear that doing endless amounts of abs exercises will have virtually no effect on your progress to trim your waistline. Spot reducing has been proven to be a myth a long time ago, so just because you work a body part hard in the gym with endless reps doesn’t mean fat will fall off and improve the looks of that body part. It simply won’t happen. But your overall nutritional intake will determine how lean you will become and how your body will look.
1. Barbell Rollout
Out of all the rollout variations, this one is my favorite. It taxes your abs quite a bit, and requires your core to be pretty strong without engaging you’re lower back. I prefer to keep my feet up so I don’t cheat by pulling with my legs. I would start with just the empty barbell and then add weight plates once you can perform 10 reps with solid form.
2. Weighted Hanging Leg Raise
This is a great gymnastic movement that is an advanced version of traditional hanging leg raises. It utilizes the lats, core, hip flexors, biceps and smaller muscles in the back. This exercise requires the body to bow from a global extension (hanging hollow body position) to a global flexion (pike position). I don’t recommend this exercise for everyone. You must master the hanging straight leg raise first. Once you get strong enough, I recommend doing low reps with NO kip action. Start by gripping a small dumbbell with your feet and perform 3 sets of 8 reps and then add weight as you progress.
3. Side-Plank Cable Row
Side plank is great to engage the lateral core stabilizers such as the obliques. Ditch side bends to sculpt your abs and instead, perform the side plank row. The lateral core stability muscles are actually anti-lateral flexion, and are not made to bend side to side. It also allows us to work each side oppositely to help reduce muscular imbalances.
While just holding a plank is beneficial by itself, adding dynamic movements will increase it’s benefits. Try adding a cable with some heavy weight to increase the anti-rotary tension affect, and to increase difficulty. Simply set up in a side plank position a few feet away from a cable apparatus, or a place where you can attach a band. Maintain a neutral spine (a perfect side plank position), and then perform a rowing/pulling motion. Start with a few sets of 8-12 reps and increase tension when needed.
4. Landmine Anti-Rotation
This exercise is a total abdominal builder, but the oblique group is sure to take a beating as well. If you do not have a landmine apparatus with a handle, you can simply place a barbell in a corner of the room. The key on this exercise is to NOT move the hips as you draw a half moon shape with the bar. Brace your whole body and do not move anything besides your arms as you perform the movement. To activate even more abdominal muscle fibers, brace your abs and exhale at the end of each rep.
5. Weighted Situps
I prefer straight-leg situps to the traditional bent knee version because you have less stress on the back and you can isolate your abdominal area and disengage the hip flexors a bit. Make sure not to rock or jump up fast and use your abdominals to get yourself up.
Start by lying down on the floor flat with a weight plate above your chest with your arms straight. As you sit up, raise the plate above your head and then lower slowly to the ground.