People seem to think endless crunches are the route to a six-pack. People are wrong. It’s an understandable mistake; you curl a weight to pump your guns, so surely it’s the same for your six-pack?
But that ignores two important truths: one, your core is designed to hold you upright, not flex back and forth; two, everyone has a six-pack – it’s just buried beneath your gut.
Sadly, no matter how much the dedicated attendees of ‘Legs, Bums & Tums’ classes want to believe, you can’t melt fat away from specific areas. When you burn calories, your body finds fuel from everywhere. And – sorry gents – men’s bodies choose to stockpile that extra energy around the middle. Right where your six-pack should be.
So while your quest for washboard abs isn’t hurt by core-specific moves, the most effective regime is one that focuses on total-body workouts, which burn as many calories – and as much fat – in as little time as possible. And also not laying down more blubber because Just Eat beat that low-cal stir fry (more on that here).
It’s important that the exercises you choose work your core – the area from your above your hips to below your pecs – so when the fat starts clearing, solid abs start appearing. But that tax bigger (and therefore more calorie-guzzling) muscles at the same time. We’ve put together a workout that does just that.
The Fat-Burning Six-Pack Circuit
You’ll need a pull-up bar, a kettlebell (a dumbbell, or any weight will do as replacement) and some floor space. Take 30 seconds rest between each move, and two minutes between circuits.
Aim to do the circuit five times over, three times a week. Can’t do that? Then complete as much as possible and work up to it. Any sweat is better than none.
With arms a little more than shoulder-width apart, hold the bar with an underhand grip. From a dead hang – that’s arms completely extended – pull yourself up until your chin is over the bar. Pause, then slowly lower yourself back down until you’re back in a dead hang. If your arms aren’t straight, you’re cheating.
Why it works: Chin-ups target your big back and arm muscles, which ups your calorie burn. But by engaging your core to keep your body locked in position, you also work your abs.
Pro tip: Finding it hard to complete the reps? Don’t quit. Jump up to the top position of the move and slowly lower yourself down as slowly as possible.
Reps: 10-12 (each side)
Set up in a press-up position, with your forearms flat on the floor directly below your shoulders, and weight resting on your toes. Engage your core to keep your torso flat – there should be a straight line from your shoulders to your heels.
Slowly bring one knee towards the elbow on the same side of your body, using your core to keep your torso from twisting. Return to the start position and repeat on the other side. Get the name?
Why it works: Studies show that standard planks are a good core move. This variation is a great core move. It keeps your heart rate up for increased fat-burning and works your obliques – those muscles at either side of your six-pack which you may recognise from Tyler Durden’s torso.
Pro tip: It’s not a race. Keep the movement controlled to increase the tension through your core and engage more muscle. And more muscle means a more defined six-pack.
Toes To Bar
Hang from the bar with an overhand grip. Keep your arms straight and engage your abs to lift your legs up, until they touch the bar. Lower them back down as slowly as possible.
Why it works: Your legs aren’t going anywhere without your core muscles supporting their weight. As that burning sensation in your lower abs confirms. The move also recruits your big, fat-burning back muscles, to help torch the spare tyre that’s covering them.
Pro tip: It’s tempting to swing. Don’t. Bring yourself to a dead hang between each rep for the full, six-pack building benefit.
Hold a kettlebell – use whatever weight you feel comfortable with and increase it next time if it felt easy – by the handle with your elbows out to the sides, so the weight rests on your chest.
Squat down, keeping your chest puffed out and lowering down until your thighs are parallel with the floor. Drive back to standing.
Why it works: Like a barbell squat, this full-body move works every muscle group, for maximum calorie and fat burn. Unlike a barbell squat, loading the weight in front of you puts more load through your core, which has to work to keep you upright.
Pro tip: When returning to the standing position focus your weight on your heels, pushing down through them for more power and better balance.
Hanging Windscreen Wiper
Hang from the pull-up bar with an overhand grip and lift your legs until your feet are just higher than the bar. Keeping them together, lower your legs to one side by 90 degrees.
Return to the top position and repeat on the other side. That’s two reps.
Why it works: This brutal move keeps your core under tension throughout and works it in different directions, to recruit more six-pack-building muscle.
Pro tip: Too hard? Hang from the bar and twist your hips to one side while keeping your upper-body facing forward. Bend your knees and raise them to your chest.
When you can comfortably do 10 reps of these, you’re ready for the real deal.
Lie flat on your back with your arms by your sides and legs extended. Keeping both straight, lift your heels and hands off the ground and hold for 15 seconds.
Why it works: This is a seemingly innocuous moves that actually works every core muscle. All gymnasts have superhuman six-packs. All gymnasts do dish holds. Enough said.
Pro tip: Don’t raise your arms and legs too high. That position that makes your whole body vibrate with tension? That’s the (horrible) sweet spot you’re looking for.