In this article I’m going to show you 3 ab exercises that are not only effective, but downright awesome at strengthening your entire mid-section and core.
Everyone wants to have visible abs, right?
You. Me. The lady at the grocery store.
Outside of professional strongmen, pretty much everyone would like to sport a six-pack.
Shedding body fat to get your abs to show happens through nutrition, adequate sleep, and proper training. While it’s not easy, it is possible to get abs if you follow these important steps.
Let’s first take a look at the nutritional factors needed in order to drop body fat low enough so your abs will “pop.”
3 Things You Must Do Nutrition Wise
Create a Caloric Deficit
In order to display your hard work, you’ve got to decrease the amount of body fat you carry. In general, 10% for males, and 15% for females is roughly when you’ll see those abs popping.
To do this, you need to put yourself into a calorie deficit. In simple terms, this means you need to eat fewer calories than you burn through daily activity. Check out this article here to get a crash course on counting calories. That will be step one in making sure you’re in a calorie deficit. I’d also encourage you to grab my free ebook at the end of this article which goes over the 10 most important factors in losing body fat.
So, let me give you a quick example of how you’ll create a calorie deficit.
Let’s say you need 2,000 calories per day without factoring in activity. Add in some lifting, and you may need 2,600 calories per day JUST to maintain your bodyweight. So what you’ll do if you want to lose body fat is make small calorie cuts to get under 2,600 calories per day.
For people >200 pounds, start with 250-300 calorie cuts. Those <200 pounds aim for 150-200 calories less per day.
These are just examples and estimates. If you’d like to calculate your own deficit based on your activity levels and lifestyle, go here. You can follow the prompts to calculate your basal metabolic rate (calories needed to maintain your weight without activity). Then plug your BMR into the Harris Benedict Equation to get a rough estimate of the calories you’d need based on your activity levels.
The site recommends cutting 500-1000 calories per day, although I would not cut so many calories off the bat. Start smaller and see what happens to your weight. You want to aim for 0.5-1.5 lbs lost per week. Slow and steady wins the race. If you cut too many too soon, you won’t have anywhere to go when you stop losing.
Set Your Protein
So, hopefully you’ve got your total calories in check. Now, the next most important variable is to make sure you’re getting an adequate amount of protein.
Protein is the building block of muscle and is very important for preventing muscle loss during a dieting phase. Aim for anywhere between 0.6-1.0g of protein per pound of body weight.
Great sources of protein include:
- Eggs/egg whites
- Protein powder
There’s plenty of other protein options as well, this just gives you an example of some quality sources you should be including in your diet.
Aim to Lose Slow and Steady
As I mentioned above, you should aim for 0.5-1.5lbs of weight loss per week.
Too many people try to starve themselves in order to lose weight. What ends up happening?
They drop some water weight initially, feel like absolute crap, and end up gaining most, if not all of the weight back.
Instead, opt for the slow and steady approach. There’s no need to cut so many calories at once that you can’t function or make it through challenging workouts. As long as you keep your carbs in for as long as possible, you should have plenty of energy to train, even if you’ve been dieting for a few months.
What’s better, losing 15 pounds over the course of 3 months and keeping it off? Or, losing 15 pounds in two weeks and gaining it all back?
Now that you’ve got your diet squared away here are 3 ab exercises you need to be doing.
Ab Wheel Rollouts
The ab wheel rollout is unbelievably awesome for crushing your abs. With this exercise, you must keep your glutes engaged and your abdominals tight, otherwise your lower back will sag as you roll out.
This exercise trains anti-extension (basically resisting letting your lower back sway), and is not only great for the abs and core, but also teaches you to brace which benefits squatting and deadlifting as well.
Here’s how to do them:
- Start kneeling on a pad
- Grab the handles of the ab wheel and try to make a small “c” with your lower back.
- Squeeze your butt hard, almost trying to tuck your butt under.
- Then, pull your rib cage down towards your belt buckle.
- Initiate the movement but pushing your hips and hands forward while maintaining that small “c” you created at the beginning.
- Roll out as far as you can without your lower back dipping down, then pull hard with the abs and lats back to the starting position.
Start out with 2-3 sets of 6-8 reps, building up to around 10 reps once you become more proficient. Watch this brief video demonstration to see if performed properly.
*Note-if the ab wheel is a bit too difficult, have no fear. You can still perform a similar exercise by doing stability ball rollouts. This elevates your hands a bit which will make it a little easier until you get stronger. The same rules apply here. Check it out:
If you want to crush your oblique’s, give this one a try. The landmine is fantastic at training anti-rotation and requires you to stabilize your entire body.
To perform you can either set up a bar in a corner, or use a dedicated landmine holder (looks like a home plate with a bar sleeve attached).
- Grab the end of a barbell with both hands, one above the other.
- The bar should roughly start right about chest height. Then, extend your arms out in front of you.
- Plant your feet about shoulder width, and brace your abs.
- You want to rotate the bar from side to side without twisting your hips or torso too much. All the motion comes from the arms. You’re trying to prevent rotation throughout the entire movement.
Check out this video demo here:
Start with the empty bar on these, as they’re a lot more challenging than you may think. Perform 5 reps per side for 2-3 sets. Once that becomes easy, add a 5-10 lb weight.
Not the typical exercise you’d think of if you want to work your “abs,” but an often underutilized and effective one at that.
You can do farmer’s walks with dumbbells, kettlebells, a trap bar, or anything really that you can hold in your hands. Single arm or both arms, there are lots of variations that are simple and effective at training your entire core.
You want to make sure you are standing upright and engaging your entire midsection, without letting the rib cage flare up. Make sure you don’t lean to one side or the other.
You can do these for time, distance, or a medley with varying weights.
Here’s a quick video demo:
Creating A Plan of Action
While crunches and sit-ups aren’t necessarily “bad,” some people perform them incorrectly and cause more harm than good. To shake things up you can implement the three exercises above to effectively strengthen and develop that six-pack you’ve been striving for.
So, to recap:
- Monitor your total calories and pay attention to your weight. It doesn’t matter so much what number you start with exactly, but rather the changes you make based on what your bodyweight does.
- Consume enough protein- somewhere in the 0.6-1.0g/lb of bodyweight range.
- Aim for long term progress, not instant gratification.
- Start incorporating rollouts, landmines, and farmer’s walks into your lifting routine.