Most of us have dreamed of having a six-pack or a super-flat tummy. As unfair as it may seem, some people are simply genetically predisposed to having a fabulous flat stomach, while the rest of us have to work at it every day.
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The good news is, even for the average Joe (or Jill), achieving a toned tummy is possible, with the right diet and exercise regime. However, doing one without the other will not give you the results you are looking for, so first, you have to make sure you are building abs in the kitchen. For your abs to really show, you need large, well-developed ab muscles and you need a low body-fat percentage in order for those muscles to be visible.
The good thing about ab muscles is that you don’t need to spend hours in the gym to get a flat stomach. You can do this ab workout at home, in just 10 minutes!
Complete this 10-minute workout, five times a week and (when combined with clean eating), you’ll begin to see your abs shine through!
Before we get into the workout, let’s talk about the muscles we’re targeting.
The Ab Muscles
Rectus Abdominus: This is the main muscle group that is visible when you look at someone’s abs. It extends from the bottom of the sternum to the pelvis. Its main function is to help bring your upper torso to your knees and vice versa.
External Obliques: These are the muscles visible only on welltoned athletes or bodybuilders. They run diagonally down the sides of your body, between the rectus abdominus and the lats. Their function is to twist the body from side to side.
Internal Obliques: These are not visible but they lie just below the external obliques and run in the opposite direction. Their function is to pair with the external obliques to provide a powerful set of muscles to help the body twist and turn in all sorts of ways.
Serratus Anterior: These are finger-like muscles found running from the lats to the side of the rib-cage. Their main function is to stabilize the scapula.
Transverse Abdominus: This muscle is invisible to the naked eye and lies just below the Rectus Abdominus. It’s function is to compress your abdominal contents and keep them in place to provide pelvic stability.
Intercostals: These muscles are found between the sides of the rib-cage and under it. Their function is to aid in elevation and depression of the ribs during respiration.
Now that we know the muscles we have to work on and what their functions are, we can get to the exercises we will use to work them. These muscles are primarily made up of fast twitch muscle fibers.
This means that these fibers are denser than slow twitch muscle fibers and are responsible for speed and strength rather than endurance. Thus, they respond better to moderate rep levels, which is around the 8 to 15 range, which will be the goal for each exercise.
To do this exercise, lie flat on the ground with your legs slightly apart. Place your feet on the ground and bend your leg at around 90 degrees angle. Place your hands lightly on either side of your head while keeping your elbows in.
Now push your lower back into the floor to strain your abdominal muscles and then push your shoulders off the floor. Lift up until your shoulders are about 6 inches off the floor.
Keep your abs tightly contracted throughout the movement, then slowly bring yourself back down to the floor. This constitutes one rep. Do 4 sets of this exercise with 10-15 reps each, taking 20 second breaks between sets.
Remember to squeeze your abdominals throughout the movement and not use your momentum to do it. This exercise works great on your rectus abdominus muscles. A video tutorial can be found here.
This is one of the best abdominal exercises out there since it works on all your major abdominal muscles as well as the glutes, triceps, hamstrings and deltoids.
To do this exercise, lie down on the floor in a prone position, facing downwards. Then raise your body so your weight is only supported by your forearms and toes. Your arms are bent beneath you and are directly below your shoulder.
Form a straight line from your back to your legs. . Hold this position for 60 seconds. Repeat 3 sets of this exercise with a 20-second break between sets. Don’t try to cheat and remember to keep your abs flexed throughout the exercise. A tutorial video can be found here.
This exercise is great for your Rectus and Transverse abdominal muscles. For starting position, lie flat on your back with your arms extended straight back behind your head and your legs extended flat on the floor.
Exhale and bend at the waist while raising your arms and legs at the same time to meet in a jackknife position. Your legs should be extended and lifted up around 45 degrees off the floor with your arms parallel to your legs and your torso up off the floor.
Then inhale and bring your arms and legs back to their starting position. This constitutes one rep. Do this exercise for 10-12 reps and 3 sets with a 20 second break between each set. A video explanation can be found here.
Russian Side Twist
This works great at working your obliques as well as your abdominus muscles. You need a weight such as a dumbbell or a plate in your hands for this exercise. If you don’t have either one at home, than just use something else you find which is moderately heavy and weighs a couple pounds, such as a large water bottle.
Lie down on the floor and then bring your feet up off the floor so they are a couple of inches above the ground.. Bend your legs at the knee to about 45 degrees and then bring your torso up off the floor so it forms an imaginary V-shape with your thighs.
Extend your arms out, holding the weight in front of you. This is the starting position. Twist your torso to one side, moving as far as you can while keeping your arms parallel to the floor.
Hold your abs contracted in this position for a second and then twist your body to the opposite side. Do 8-12 reps on each side of your body for 3 sets, taking a 30 second break between each set. For video assistance, go here.
To perform reverse crunches, you must get into the starting position. Lie down on the floor with your legs fully extended and your arms to the side of your torso, with palms facing the floor.
Your arms should not move throughout the routine. Move your legs upwards till your thighs are perpendicular to the floor. Your feet should be aligned together and must be parallel to the floor.
As you inhale, move your legs in the direction of your torso, rolling your pelvis backwards and raising your hips off the floor. The final position should be one where your knees are touching your chest.
Hold this position for a second, then start moving your legs back to the starting position as you exhale. Repeat this for 10-15 reps and 4 sets. This exercise works great with your upper and lower abs with more focus on your lower ones. A video tutorial can be found here.
Dumbbell Side Bend
First, stand straight with a dumbbell in your left hand and your palms facing towards your torso. Your right hand on your waist and your feet shoulder width apart.
This is the starting position. Keeping your head up and your back as straight as possible, bend towards your left side at the waist, not moving any other part of your body. Bend as far as possible and hold for one second, then return to the starting position.
Repeat this on the other side. This exercise is great for getting rid of those pesky love handles and gives your oblique muscles a good burn. Perform 3 sets of 8-12 reps with a 30 second break between sets. A video on the exercise can be found here.
Bicycle crunches, also known as the air bike, is an exercise that focuses on your Internal and External Obliques as well as your Transverse and Rectus Abdominus muscles. To perform bicycle crunches, lie down flat on the ground with your lower back pressed to the floor.
In order to perform this, your hands must be beside your head. However, you must be cautious about accidentally straining your neck while performing the routine. Once you have positioned yourself like this, you must lift your shoulders off the ground into the crunch position. The knees must be at a level where they are perpendicular to the floor and your lower legs must be parallel to the floor.
This is the starting position. You must simultaneously, slowly perform a cycle pedal motion. Kick forward with your right leg, while bringing in the knee of the left leg. Your right elbow must be brought close to your left knee by crunching to the side as you exhale.
Return back to the starting position as you inhale. Repeat the process by crunching to the opposite side while cycling your legs. Your left elbow must be brought closer to your right knee as you exhale.
You must keep alternating like this till all the recommended number of repetitions have been successfully completed. To challenge yourself and get the most out of this exercise, you must perfect the execution and make sure your speed is slow. Do 3 sets of 8-12 reps on each side with a 30 second break between sets. An exercise video tutorial is available here.
The most important thing to remember while doing these exercises is to always keep your abs contracted and your entire core engaged. The more contracted your muscles, the better your results! We recommend you do each rep in a slow and controlled manner. Also make sure to warm up and stretch before starting any workout. Keep all these things in mind, and with this workout and a clean diet, you’ll have that six-pack you always dreamed of in no time.