By, Ed Halper
Six-packs are a common discussions in health clubs – both the kinds you drink, and the ones that you develop through hard work, diet, and a little luck. The luck is your genes. Some people, genetically, have the propensity to develop ripped stomach muscles.
Others are born with a blockier build (think of a beer keg, to stay in that frame of reference), and just cannot get that same look, no matter what they do.
I always feel that you work the most on your strengths. If your abs look good, you tend to work them even more. If they’re not there, you tend to concentrate on other parts that can be developed easier. It’s just human nature.
Working with clients, I usually like to start with abs, rather than finish with them, as most trainers do. I feel abs are a priority for people, so it’s good to hit them when you’re fresh and can keep good form. Plus, a variety of core exercises warms up the entire body and raises the heart rate up, so you are loose and supple for weight-bearing exercises.
5-10 minutes of core work, on the ground or standing, is way more effective than a five-minute walk on the treadmill. It’s important to hit the core (a group of over 20 muscles, including your hips and glutes), from many different angles.
I like Ground Routines
- one exercise on your back,
- one on the left side
- one on the right side
- one plank-type exercise facing down
Spend an equal amount of time and effort in each direction. Go two times through, with different exercises each time, for a total of eight different “ab” exercises. Change up your number of reps and your cadence, and don’t forget some isometrics like your planks or “V-sit.”
Never pull on your neck when doing crunches, hold for a second when you “feel the burn,” and put as much variety as you can in.
I probably have about 100 different exercises that I rotate through for “abs,” for myself and my clients. Out of all I do, I feel the most effective is the:
Medicine Ball Throws off the decline bench.
1. Have your partner throw 20 over your head, and reach up to catch, “Dwight Clark-style.”
2. Go all the way back to the bench, sit up with the ball over your head, and throw back, as hard as you like.
Have your partner go next, then do another 20, catching it over your shoulder to target the obliques more.
The final set
…if you’re brave enough. Sit up, and have your partner throw the ball into your stomach. Tighten up as hard as you can, and don’t exhale as the ball hits! On the first five, guide it in with your hands. Then, the stomach should be ready for full absorption. I saw Evander Holyfield do this with a 35-lb medicine ball, only he was lying on the ground, where you cannot lean back to lessen the pain. Unbelievable!
Those are for advanced exercisers, but other great ones are hanging leg raises (there’s a bunch of different varieties of those), and partner resistance band pulls. Of course, to bring out the abs visually, you have to reduce the amount of surrounding body fat, through diet, cardio, or both.
Getting a six-pack is a lot of hard work, but I always tell the clients (half-jokingly):
“If your abs are good, the rest of life’s problems will eventually work themselves out!” (easy tweet)
Ed Halper is the proprietor of Mountain Fitness in Warren. He has a Master’s Degree in Education (with emphasis on PE). He is the former track and cross country coach for Monmouth University and has over 30 years of running expertise.