Though we wouldn’t quibble with Patrick Bateman in the arenas of business card design or dissecting prostitutes, his workout needs a tweak. That washboard stomach is in spite of, rather than thanks to, a 1000-crunch-a-day regime that’s more likely to leave him with lumbar problems than a six-pack.

It’s faulty logic that sees a sit-up as the abs version of a bicep curl. A six-pack is, as the name suggests, not one muscle. So it needs more than a pump. There’s all manner of engineering under there and you need to work smarter if you want a core that ripples like a bag of puppies. And, if you want to keep hitting the gym. That’s because, according to research by sport science OG Stuart McGill, sit-ups and crunches put so much force through your spine that you’re more likely to get popping discs than popping abs.

So switch out for the moves proven to pump up that six-pack – without trading in your PT for chiropractor.

Ab Rollouts

Why It Works

It’s telling that the dudes in white coats recommend flipping the crunch over to get your abs on show. A 2010 study found roll-outs hit your rectus abdominis – that’s the muscle that pops to give you those six distinct paving stones – harder than either sit-ups or crunches. Without snapping your spine.

How To Do It

Think of the roll-out as a dynamic plank. If your gym has an ab rollout wheel, ideal. If not, use a barbell, or a towel on a slippery floor.

Rest on your knees with your hands in front of you, then slowly push your hands and shoulders forward. The lower you can go, the more effective the move, although it’s best start slow and build up; if you can’t keep your hips locked and back flat then you’re risking injury.

At full extension, pause, then contract your abs to pull yourself home. Catch your breath and repeat for 10 reps.

Goblet Squat

Why It Works

As a training rule of thumb, ditch moves with no real-world application for ones that mimic things you’d do outside the gym. So a move that hits every muscle in your body and trains you to lift heavy things is, arguably, more valuable than flexing your midriff like a flipped turtle.

Holding the weight in front of you is a better six-pack builder than racking it on your back – your core’s job is to support your spine, so shifting the downforce forward makes it work overtime to pull you upright. Meaning a side of back pain relief served with your washboard.

How To Do It

Grab a dumbbell or kettlebell with both hands and hold it in front of your chest, elbows tight against your torso. Push your hips back and sink into a deep squat, keeping your weight on your heels.

Focus on locking your core and pulling your shoulders back to keep your chest up, and back straight, as you push to standing. Repeat for 10 reps.

Standing Russian Twists

Why It Works

A granite six-pack doesn’t just look good from the front. For all-round core strength you need to hit your obliques too – the muscles that flank your rectus abdominis and which ensure that your gains are more than just skin deep.

But don’t be tempted by the ol’ sit-up with a twist – Canadian research found they work your bones more than your muscles. So switch to rotation in a standing position, which keeps your spine in line and hammers everything that keeps it there.

How To Do It

Grab a weight plate or medicine ball and hold it in front of you with both hands. Clench your abs and glutes to keep your spine locked then rotate explosively to one side.

Pause, then reverse, going equally as far in the opposite direction. Repeat for 10 reps.

Interval Sprints

Why It Works

Here’s a secret – everyone has a six-pack. It’s just that most are hidden under a layer of fat. If you’re carrying too many extra kilos, your abs will stay swaddled. Which is the main reason sit-ups aren’t an effective six-pack move – they burn next to no calories, so the abs-cloaking belly remains.

By adding high intensity interval training to your workout you spike your body’s ability to torch the wobble. Which gets your six-pack on show quicker.

How To Do It

Pick a cardio exercise and switch between 20-second bursts at 100 per cent effort and 10-second rest periods. Repeat for eight rounds total at first, then build up to longer stints.

It’s all the blubber-burning benefits of a 45-minute run, in a quarter of the time. Although be prepared to become reacquainted with your lunch.

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