Having six pack abs may not be necessary for good health, but they certainly do look good. If your weight lifting goal is to look good shirtless, you should add some core exercises to your lifting schedule. You can either do these exercises during your normal workouts, or fit them in at different times of the day. Some people like to do basic exercises that don’t require any special equipment in their homes in the morning or evening. Wherever and whenever you choose to do them, these exercises will set you on a path to awesome six-pack abs.
In terms of getting six-pack abs, crunches are probably the best exercise you can do. Their benefits are mostly aesthetic, so if you’re looking for functional core strength, crunches are not necessarily what you want, but they are still a good exercise. They can improve your posture and prevent lower back pain. They mostly target the rectus abdominis, which are the two parallel muscles that run down the abdomen. They also engage your obliques, and transverse abdominis, which stabilize your back and spine.
- To perform a crunch, lie on an exercise mat with your feet flat on the floor, knees pointed up.
- Put your hands behind your head with your thumbs behind your ears.
- Make sure you don’t interlock your fingers or put pressure on your head or neck – that could cause injury.
- Crunch up by contracting your abs until your shoulder blades come off the mat, then return to the start position.
- Avoid rounding your back or tucking your chin into your chest.
2. Side Bends
Side bends with dumbbells are a great way to get rid of your love handles and develop definition in your abs. They work your obliques, which are the muscles along the sides of your waist. Again, this is a mostly aesthetic exercise, but if you’re trying to build a defined core, you’ll want to do some of these.
- To perform a side bend, stand with your feet shoulder width apart, holding a dumbbell in one hand.
- Make sure the weight isn’t too heavy, because if you’re not careful, you can easily hurt your back doing this exercise.
- Bend over to the side at your waist, lowering the dumbbell toward the ground, then return to the start position.
- Make sure your movement is all on one plane – you shouldn’t be leaning forward or backward at all.
- Do an equal number on each side.
3. Air Bike
This exercise is fantastic because it works your rectus abdominus and intercostal muscles. It also taps into your hip flexors and a number of other muscles in your legs and torso. It will help you get six-pack abs, and it builds functional strength you can use in your everyday life.
- To perform the air bike exercise, lie on your back on a mat.
- Bring one of your knees up toward your chest, and extend the other leg out, lifting it off the ground.
- Put your hands palms down on the ground for support.
- Shift your legs back and forth as if you are pedaling an invisible bicycle.
- You can make this exercise more difficult by putting your hands behind your head and rotating your shoulders so that each time your bring your knee in, your opposite elbow rotates forward toward it.
4. Barbell Pullovers
Barbell pullovers target the serratus, which are located between your front abs and lats, and the latissimus dorsi muscle in your back. Doing this exercise can give you muscle definition in your core, and prevent back injuries. It is also a great shoulder adduction exercise, which means it improves your ability to pull your body up against gravity, like the motion you make when you do pull ups.
- To perform a barbell pullover, lie back on a bench as if you were going to do a chest press, holding the barbell over your chest with your arms extended.
- Bring your hands up over your head, lowering the weight without bending your elbows.
- Keep going until your arms are parallel with the ground, then bring your arms back up to the start position.
Planks are the exercise I associate most with a strong core. The great thing about planks is that they help you develop functional strength in your core. They may not be as good as crunches for defining your six-pack, but you shouldn’t skip them. They will give your abs and back muscles the strength they need to improve your posture, and prevent back injury. Planks are a full-body exercise too, which means you’ll be tapping into muscle groups all over your body while you do them.
- To perform a plank, get into pushup position on the ground, then lower yourself down onto your forearms.
- Keep your body straight from your shoulders to your heels, making sure not to sag or lift your butt up into the air.
- Hold the position for as long as you can, then rest.