A lean and aesthetically pleasing midsection is something that many strive for and perhaps more than any other body part it speaks volumes about your dedication to a healthy lifestyle. In order to build the abdominals you need to take a different and smarter approach than simply lifting heavy weights like you might to bulk up your legs or your chest.
The abs are primarily made up of four muscles to help us move around and provide us with support:
- Transversus abdominis: This is the deepest muscle layer. Its main roles are to stabilise the trunk and maintain internal abdominal pressure.
- Rectus abdominis: situated between the ribs and the pubic bone at the front of the pelvis. This muscle is what forms your six-pack.
- External abdominal oblique muscles: These are found on each side of the rectus abdominis. The external oblique muscles allow the trunk to twist.
- Internal abdominal oblique muscles: These flank the rectus abdominis and are located just inside the hipbones. The internal oblique muscles allow the trunk to twist in the opposite way to the external oblique muscles.
Before you start your workout plan, remember you can strain your abdominal muscles from overstretching or overuse. An uncontrolled and poorly performed movement of the trunk can strain the abdominal muscles, which can be painful and difficult to manage if they occur close to ribs, pubic bone or hipbone, not to mention they will hold you back on your training.
To prevent injury make sure you warm up your muscles prior to each exercise routine and warm down afterwards.
What to eat
While taking part in this six-week abs programme, it is important to eat well.
We recommend a calorie intake of around 2,500 per day for men to ensure that you actively shed fat. Follow a high-protein diet plan – a regular whey protein shake and high-protein snacks such as a protein flapjacks will ensure you don’t lose muscle along the way. Limit your refined carbs, saturated fats, trans fats and high-fructose corn syrup. Cut out all alcohol.
- Each workout circuit should be completed three times a week
- Take 30 seconds’ rest after one circuit then start again
- Rest for at least a day between workouts
- If you injure yourself, stop and continue the workout another day
- Each workout should take ten minutes to complete
- Focus on each movement and the contraction of the muscle
Perform all exercises listed below (one circuit), rest for 30 seconds then repeat the circuit one more time.
Lie on the floor with your knees bent. Then flatten your back onto the floor and tilt your hips upwards and hold for five seconds. It’s a small movement but very effective.
Twisting gym ball crunch
Reps 10-12 each side
Sit on a gym ball and place both hands behind your head. As you crunch up make sure you lead with your shoulder as opposed to your elbow and twist your body to the opposite side. Then lower back to the start position.
Reps 5 each side
Lie sideways on the floor with your lower arm bent to support yourself and your upper arm on your hip. Move your hip upwards off the floor so that you’re balanced on your supporting arm and feet. Focusing on keeping your neck and spine in alignment and hold for five seconds before lowering back down.
Crunch with gym ball
Lie on the floor with the gym ball under your calves and arms behind your head. When crunching upwards, focus on bringing your ribs to hips, exhaling as you contract and take care not to pull your neck or head with your arms. Hold the contraction for about 2 seconds then crunch back down.
These exercises really work the core. Perform all exercises listed below (one circuit), rest for 30 seconds and then repeat the circuit one more time.
Gym ball crunch
Sit on your gym ball with your hands behind your head. Lower yourself down without letting your head drop or your back arch keeping the contraction and control in your abs. When you crunch up exhale.
Twisting gym ball crunch
Sit on a gym ball and place both hands behind your head. As you crunch up make sure you lead with your shoulder as opposed to your elbow and twist your body to the opposite side. Then lower back down to the start position.
Gym ball pull-in
Place your shins on top of your gym ball, with your body in a press-up position, supported by your hands, which should be in line with your shoulders. Then pull your legs in, rolling the ball upwards towards your arms, squeezing your lower abs in as you do so and then extending them back out to the starting position. That completes one rep.
Time 30sec minimum
Keep the whole of your abs squeezed in as much as possible, keep all pressure in supporting forearms and try not to let your bottom rise above your shoulders. Hold for 30, 60 or 120 seconds, depending on what you’re comfortable with.
This week steps things up slightly to make them even more advanced. Perform all exercises listed below (one circuit), rest for 30 seconds then repeat the circuit one more time.
Lie on your back with your palms on the floor and feet up at a 90-degree angle. Lift your bottom off the floor while bringing your legs towards your head so that your hips go towards your rib cage. Hold the contraction for a couple of seconds then lower legs. Take care not to jerk or bounce legs up.
Gym ball jackknife
Similar to the pull-in from week 2 but more advanced, requiring more stability. Place your shins on top of your gym ball, with your body in a press-up position, supported by your hands which should be in line with your shoulders. Then rolling the ball towards your arms, push your bum upwards towards the ceiling so that your toes are flat on the gym ball and your body is in an arched upwards position. Then extend legs back out to the starting position. That completes one rep.
Lie on your side with legs on top of each other, one arm supporting your body straight out in front of you and the other hand bent behind your head. Then bring your head and shoulders slightly off the floor so that your ribs go as close to your hips as possible.
Lying alternate leg extension
Lie flat on your back and bring legs up to a 90-degree angle, taking your shoulders slightly off floor while contracting your stomach muscles, hands behind your head. Then extend your legs down to the floor alternately, taking care not to rest your leg on floor.
This week we are going to mix things up a bit with supersets. This means completing the first exercise in superset 1 then going straight into the second exercise. Take 30 seconds rest after that and repeat. Then move on to the second superset.
Sets 2 Reps 12-15
Lie on the floor with your arms to your sides, palm down. Straighten your legs up to the ceiling. Then use lower abs to bring hips around 1cm off the floor, squeeze for count of two then control back down.
Pull-over crunch on gym ball
Sets 2 Reps 12-20
Sit on your gym ball, and roll down so the ball is on your lower back. Then holding a weight of choice above your head, arms straight up, crunch upwards squeezing your upper abs in and lower back down.
Take 30 seconds, rest then repeat the first superset again.
Sets 2 Reps 10-12
Hanging from a pull-up bar, bring your legs off the floor to make a 90-degree angle and then lower down. To make them harder bring your toes all the way to the bar.
Lateral gym ball side crunch
Sets 2 Reps 12-15
Lie sideways on an gym ball with the ball under your hip and your feet supported against a wall. Put arms to side of head and crunch up sideways using your obliques and intercostal muscles. It’s a very short movement so make sure you concentrate on lowering and squeezing your body down.
As with week four this week includes supersets. So complete the first exercise, then go straight into the second exercise, then have 30 seconds’ rest and repeat before moving on to superset two.
Sets 2 Time As long as possible
Lie on the floor, face down and then push yourself up until your arms are fully extended. You should now be in a press-up position with your body in a straight line from your shoulders to your ankles. Squeeze your abs and glutes and hold this position for as long as possible. Rest for 60 to 90 seconds and repeat.
Twisting hanging leg raise
Sets 2 Reps 10-12
Grab a pull-up bar with your arms slightly wider than your shoulders and hang your weight. With your pelvis rolled slightly backwards, lift your knees and twist at the waist to the left. Now return to the starting hanging position and then repeat and twist to the right. Inhale as you twist and exhale as you return to the starting position. Complete 10 to 12 reps, rest for 60 to 90 seconds and then repeat.
Gym ball roll-out
Sets 2 Reps 10-12
Kneel in front of a gym ball with your knees around hip-width apart. Next, place your forearms on the ball, tense your core and slowly roll the ball away from you by straightening your arms. Keep your back straight and extend as far as you can without your hips dropping. Hold the extension for a moment and then bend your elbows to roll the ball back towards you.
Gym ball pull in
Sets 2 Reps 12-15
Place your shins on the top of your gym ball and extend your arms to position yourself into the push-up position. Keep your arms shoulder-width apart and bring your knees towards your chest. Keep your back straight. Hold this position for a moment and then straighten your legs to roll the ball back to the starting position.
By now, your strength should be at an all-time high. It’s time for supersets again.
Split leg crunch
Sets 3 Reps 12-15
Lie on your back with your hands behind your head and elbows out to the sides. Now raise your raise your legs perpendicular to the floor and open them out into a wide position. Now start the exercise by performing 12 to 15 sit-up from this position.
Lower body rotation
Sets 3 Reps 10-12
Place your shins on the top of your gym ball and extend your arms to move into the push-up position. Now move your shins so that your ankles are on the outer edge of the ball. Keep your back straight and use your core to rotate at the hips. Rotate to the left and back to centre, then rotate to the right and back to the centre. Complete 10 to 12 reps in each set.
Sets 3 Reps 20-25
To get into position, lie on your back with your knees bent and by your sides. Bring your knees to your chest then extend both of your legs above your hips. Keep your core tense and your back flat then begin to lower your legs toward the floor. Stop when you feel your back rising off the floor.
Now spread your legs wider than hip width and keep your abs tense. This is your starting position. To begin the exercise, swing your legs back in and past your midline, allowing your right leg cross over your left leg. Next swing your legs outwards into their starting position and repeat with your left leg crossing your right. Complete 20 to 25 reps in each set.
Gym ball jackknife
Sets 3 Reps 10-15
Start with your shins positioned on the gym ball and your hands underneath your shoulders so that you are in a push up position. Next bring your knees in to your chest with the gym ball and hold for a second. Now return the gym ball back to the starting position, whilst bringing your chest down to the floor in a push up motion. Push back up to the original position and repeat for 10 to 15 reps. Rest and repeat for two more sets.