The science of the six-pack
Want a taut, toned midsection for summer? Who doesn't? To help get your abs in gear, we share six moves proven to sculpt flat abs. Watch the video below, check out our tips for each exercise and do three sets of the indicated reps three times per week on non-consecutive days for flatter abs.
The idea behind the effectiveness of the six moves in the video is to incorporate six movement principles – stability, mobility, flexion, extension, lateral flexion and rotation – that target your ab muscles from all angles and ranges of motion. In other words, this is a multi-faceted workout.
According to Gregg Cook, New York-based Equinox group fitness instructor who lent his (ahem) well-sculpted body to the workout: “It’s sort of like flipping the switch so you’re activating the muscles that might have been sleeping. When you hold something like a plank, you get a really strong neural signal from the central nervous system to the core. Once everything is lit up, from there you’re just sort of pouring gas on the fire.”
You’ll find the movement principles and corresponding exercises represented in the video.
Stability: Star plank
Work your core harder than ever with the star plank. We all know the regular plank (holding a push-up position) but this version means widening your pose you’re almost in a star or X formation -- arms and legs wider than shoulder-width apart. Get into plank position, then widen your arms and legs until you feel your core engaged but you can still safely balance. Hold for 10 seconds, working up to 30.
Mobility: Roll back, jump up
This one looks fun (and it is) but it’s tough! Start out standing on your left leg, right leg bent behind you, arms at your sides. In one fluid motion, lower yourself to the ground and gently roll backwards as if you were doing a back roll. Propel yourself back up -- using your core -- into a jump and hop onto your left foot. As you land from your jump, immediately lower yourself back down and do another roll backward. Continue for 30 seconds. Switch sides and repeat.
Flexion: V-up on pull-up bar
Hanging from a pull-up bar, use your abs to pull your legs up until your feet touch the bar, or as high as you can get them. Slowly lower all the way back down and repeat for 10 to 12 reps.
Extension: Quadruped leg and arm lift
Get on all fours on your mat. Leaving hands flat on the floor, rise onto your toes, knees slightly off the ground (still on all fours). Raise your right arm into a 90 degree angle and kick your leg into the air simultaneously; repeat on the other side. Alternate sides for 30 seconds.
Lateral flexion: Headstand with legs side to side
With forearms on the floor in a triangle-shaped base for your head, slowly raise your body into a supported headstand (do this against a wall if you are new to headstands). Once your body is fully erect, lean your body to one side and then the other slowly. Aim for five reps. This one works your whole body, with an emphasis on obliques.
Rotation: Pull-up with kung fu kick
This one is not for the faint of heart (or abs). Start out hanging from pull-up bar with underhand grip, so palms face body. Do a pull-up, bringing your knees to chest; rotate your knees to the right side, then press and extend left leg forward, foot flexed (as shown). Bring your knees back to chest and rotate to the left, then press and extend the right leg forward for one rep. Do five reps.