Flat Abs for Men: Go-to Exercises
Want 6-pack abs? Here's how to get them.
How to Get Flat Abs
Ab workouts alone don’t necessarily produce flat abs. If you have a lot of belly fat, you also need to consume fewer calories than you burn. For weight loss and general fitness, aerobic exercise and strength training are important.
Choosing an exercise for a specific fitness goal is like picking a tool out of a toolbox, Kraemer says. The right tool for the job isn't always the most powerful or complicated. "If you’re going to put up a picture in your house, you’re not going to use an air hammer to do it," he says.
He says the core muscles don’t need "heavy loading" with weights. Effective training makes them stronger but not bulkier. "Mass in the abdominals is based on the amount of muscle fibers that are there genetically," he says. Because you can’t pump up your abs beyond a certain genetically predetermined size, he says, the chiseled look accomplished with physical conditioning comes mainly from having scant abdominal fat covering the muscles.
There are any number of exercises that, along with a balanced fitness regimen and a healthy diet, could help you get strong, flat abs. No ab exercise is perfect, Kraemer says. "Many approaches work. There’s no one size fits all."
Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Flat Abs Exercise: Traditional Crunch and Sit-up
The traditional crunch could be called the plain vanilla of ab exercises, but it works and is worth knowing how to do properly.
Most guys with gladiator-quality abs have put enough effort into physical training to know the difference between a crunch and a sit-up. If your DVD collection is conspicuously lacking in the fitness category and your gym membership lapsed long ago, you might need a little clarification, though.
The difference between a crunch and a sit-up is where you bend. To do a sit-up, you literally sit up from a prone position, bending at the waist until you touch your elbows to your knees. To do a crunch, you squeeze your abdominal muscles to bend your rib cage toward your pelvis, as if you are trying to sit up but can’t because an imaginary strap is holding down your abdomen and hips.
Lay flat on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Place your hands loosely behind your head and spread your elbows out so that your shoulder blades squeeze together. Keeping this posture, contract your abdominal muscles, lifting your upper body without arching your back. The lower back should stay flat to the ground. The hips and legs should not move. Stop at the point where you can’t go any farther, hold it, and then slowly relax, returning to your starting position.
Get it right:
- Go slowly, and focus on good form. Doing crunches too fast could make your form sloppy and strain your back muscles.
- A set of 15-25 crunches or sit-ups is enough, Kraemer says. "I think the big mistake that people make is they try to do hundreds."