Who doesn’t want to show off a set of shredded abs? Six pack abs are a sign of hard work and strength. They also help to perform functional movements that we take for granted. Building shredded abs isn’t about luck; it requires discipline and the correct exercises. Let’s review the most common mistakes people make when trying to build their abs, the anatomy of the core, and the best exercises to build a six pack.
MISTAKES OF AB WORKOUTS
There are two common mistakes that people make when it comes to getting shredded abs:
First, many people say core when they are referring to the abs. The core encompasses several major muscle groups that work together to allow for functional movement. The core is made up of the front abs, obliques, lower back, and hip flexors. Draw a circle around your torso and this is your core.
Nervous about working on your core because of lower back pain? Check out our article on how to get rid of lower back pain.
The other mistake that most people make is they assume that it’s okay to focus on the front and center muscles of the core: the rectus abdominis or the abdominal muscles. Not only is this dangerous because it promotes overcompensation, but it’s also not aesthetic. Imagine if Phil Heath only trained his abs but never bothered with his obliques or back. Do you think he would have won the Mr. O? Not a chance.
BREAKDOWN OF THE CORE
Before jumping into the exercises you need to perform to get shredded abs, let’s breakdown the musculature of the core. This will help you understand the muscles you’re targeting. It’ll also help with establishing a strong mind to muscle connection that will provide better results.
Rectus Abdominis: Commonly referred to as the abs. You’ll find these muscles on the front of your stomach. The rectus abdominis runs the length of where your solar plexus is down to the groin. When people use the term washboard abs, this is an excellent way to visualize the muscle.
Transverse Abdominis: This layer of deep muscle tissue lies beneath the rectus abdominis. It’s responsible for deeper ab contractions such as when you suck in your stomach. Learning how to activate and control this muscle is essential for getting shredded abs.
Learn more about the transverse abdominis and the exercise to shrink your waist.
External Obliques: The obliques are on the side of your torso. As the name implies, the external obliques refer to the muscle that you see.
Internal Obliques: This is the muscle tissue that is beneath the external obliques. This deeper-level muscle tissue is essential in basic twisting and turning movements.
Extensors: Attached to the back of the spine, you’ll find extensors that support the larger muscle groups.
Flexors: Opposite the extensors, you’ll find flexors. Again, these support larger muscle groups in the core, most notably the rectus abdominis.
We recommend taking the time to look at your core in the mirror. Practice flexing each muscle group and becoming more familiar with each section. This will help to form the mind to muscle connection that will be essential for results.
BEST EXERCISES FOR SIX PACK ABS
Now that you know the muscles that form the core, let’s review the exercises that are ideal for targeting each section for the best results.
- Muscle(s) Targeted: Rectus Abdominis
- How to Perform: On an abdominal mat, get on your hands and knees. Extend your feet back and put the weight of your upper body on your forearms. Keep a neutral gaze towards the floor. Bring the hips up and contract the abdominal wall as hard as you can. Hold this position.
Do you have wrist pain that you’re afraid might interfere with the plank exercise? Check out our article on how to get rid of wrist pain.
- Muscle(s) Targeted: Transverse Abdominis, Flexors
- How to Perform: Sit upright in a chair or on the floor. If this is your first time doing the exercise, you may want to place an abdominal mat behind you just in case you become lightheaded. Begin by exhaling all the air out of your belly and lungs. Simultaneously, contract your stomach muscles and bring them inward. Visualize your belly button touching your spine. Continue breathing out and hold for the prescribed length of time.
SIDE TO SIDE CABLE TWIST
- Muscle(s) Targeted: Obliques
- How to Perform: Set a pulley cable to the height of your stomach. Stand with your right side face the pulley. Hold a handle with both hands and arms extended straight. Use your obliques and abdominals muscles to twist your body from the right to the left. Pause when you bring the handle across your body. Slowly return to the starting position. This is one repetition.
- Muscle(s) Targeted: Extensors
- How to Perform: Lie on your belly on an abdominal mat. Extend your feet behind you and your hands in front of you. Keep a neutral gaze with your head looking towards the floor. Simultaneously, lift your hands and feet towards the sky. Feel the contraction in your lower back and hold it for as long as you can. Slowly lower your hands and feet towards the ground. Repeat until you’ve reached the prescribed amount of time.
GLIDING DISC MOUNTAIN CLIMBERS
- Muscle(s) Targeted: Rectus Abdominis, Flexors
- How to Perform: Place two sliding discs on the ground. Get into a push-up position with your feet near the gliding discs. Stabilize your upper body then place each foot on a gliding disc. Tightening to core, move your left knee in towards your chest but don’t take it off the disc. Extend the left knee back as you move the right knee forward. Alternate back and forth for the prescribed repetitions.
Want to do more with your gliding discs? Check out our free full-body gliding disc workout video.
SHREDDED ABS WORKOUT
For beginners, perform the following abs workout three times per week. For experienced lifters, you can perform this workout four to five times per week. If you feel extreme soreness, be sure to skip a day or two.
- Plank: 3 sets of 60 seconds
- Seated Vacuum: 3 sets of 10 seconds
- Side to Side Cable Twist: 3 sets of 12 to 20 repetitions
- Superman: 3 sets of 60 seconds (only count the time when hands and feet are elevated)
TRICKS FOR MAXIMUM RESULTS
Every time you use the workout above, keep these tricks in mind if you want to see elite-level results.
Focus on the Contraction: Don’t just go through the motions of each exercise. Get your mind in the exercise as much as your muscle. Focus on contracting the muscle as hard as you can. Look at the muscle in the mirror, feel the contraction with your hand if possible. Be as connected to the working muscle as you can.
Use a Shred Belt: As your abdominal muscles continue to develop, you’ll naturally want to start burning fat from your core. Spot reduction is possible and the key is blood flow. One of the best ways to promote belly fat burning is with a shred belt. This fit gear helps to safely increase the temperature around your abs, promoting a higher level of blood flow, and usage of stored body fat.
Learn more about the benefits of the shred belt and how to use one for weight loss success.
Master Nutrition: It might be cliché but it’s true: 70% of the result you see in the mirror are a result of proper nutrition and dieting. Focus on natural and wholefood choices.
Once you develop and grow your abdominals muscles and you’re prepared to lean out, drop your caloric intake by around 200 calories. Focus on protein to protect lean muscle from being used as fuel. Continue using the workout above and consider adding an additional set to each exercise.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE EXERCISE FOR SHREDDED ABS?
Do you use any of the exercises on our list? Have a favorite that we forgot to mention? Let us know on our Facebook.