Growing a six pack – who doesn’t want that? Certainly with the summer ahead, many people are focusing more on the abs. But you have to do that the right way …
A daily abdominal muscle quarter is really not going to give you a washboard. What then works? We explain below the 15 best exercises for a six pack ! With this you can compile a complete and varied training.
Tips for a six pack
In this article we focus on training for a six pack, but you are not there yet. Your diet and general lifestyle are also of great importance!
In short, the most important tips for a six pack are:
- Eat with a slight calorie deficit to lose fat on your stomach
- Eat enough protein
- Don’t forget to eat carbohydrates as well, for energy during training
- Sleep and rest enough
Training schedule for a six pack
When you train for a six pack, two things are very important: peace and variation. We briefly explain that below.
Many people think that your muscles grow while you exercise. However, that is not the case! Your muscles grow after training, while they recover from exertion. And in order to grow well, they need rest and recovery time.
For that reason there should always be some time between two workouts of the same muscle group. 48 to 72 hours is the most common rule of thumb. So do not train your abs every day, but limit yourself to 3 workouts per week!
Your muscles can get used to an effort. After you have done the same workout for weeks, they know the routine pretty much. The result? They are challenged less and need less recovery, which means there is less growth.
If you want to continue to grow, change your workout routine approximately every 6 weeks. Use a few new exercises for your six pack, move with the order or use a heavier weight with fewer repetitions. This way you keep surprising your muscles.
Exercises for a six pack
There are three categories of exercises for a six pack. Your upcoming six pack also consists of three muscle groups : the high abs, the low abs and the oblique abs.
Below we discuss a number of exercises for you from each category. Especially try them out to find out which one you like best, and don’t forget to alternate some exercises from time to time!
The perfect number of repetitions varies per person. However, we recommend that you do one or two sets of 15-20 repetitions, or more sets of fewer repetitions. If that is too easy, you better take a more difficult version of the exercise or grab a weight during the exercise. That way you train more efficiently than if you add more repetitions.
The high abs are also known as the ‘upper’ abs. These are the muscles that are from the bottom of your chest to above your navel. This muscle group can be trained most efficiently with crunches , crunches and more crunches! There are all kinds of variations on the crunch for athletes of different levels, so we will discuss a few.
1. The basic crunch
The crunch is one of the most popular exercises for a six pack, because it is ideal for training the upper abs . You only need a fitness mat or other soft surface for the basic crunch. A blanket or rug on the floor also works. Pay attention! Don’t just do your abdominal exercises on the floor, because then you risk injuring your back.
For the crunch you lie on your back and place your hands next to your head, with your fingers around or against your ears. Be careful not to grasp your head or fold your hands behind your head, because then you run the risk of unconsciously pulling your arms when the exercise becomes heavy and you injure your neck. You can also fold your arms over your chest to make the exercise a little easier.
Place your feet on the floor and keep your knees bent. Then roll up slowly by contracting your abs and without lifting your lower back. To make the exercise harder, you can hold the position at the top for a while before you drop down again in a controlled manner.
This exercise is not about getting off the ground very high, it can sometimes be enough to lift your shoulders off the mat a little. You can feel your abdominal muscles when it gets heavy, that is the point you should go for.
Also make sure you don’t put your chin on your chest. If you notice that your neck often cramps during abdominal exercises, we recommend that you choose a point on the ceiling that you will keep watching.
2. Crunch with bench
This is a form of the crunch that can be easy for people who find it difficult to get up with other forms of the crunch. A gym bench is ideal for this exercise, but if you want to do the exercise at home, a different elevation, such as a chair or couch, also works.
Place your mat next to your elevation and lie on your back on the mat. You place your lower legs and feet on the elevation so that both your hips and knees form an angle of approximately 90 degrees.
Then perform the crunch as described above: roll up by tightening your abdominal muscles and, if necessary, hold it at the top to make it harder. Then lower your body in a controlled manner.
3. Crunch with hands up
This is a variation on the crunch that is more difficult than the previous two. This exercise is therefore recommended if you do not find the ‘normal’ crunch challenging enough.
For this exercise you again only need a mat or another soft surface. Lie on your back with your feet on the floor, knees bent. Extend your arms above your head with your hands together.
Now roll, as you are used to from the crunch, slowly with your upper body up by tightening your abdominal muscles. Your arms stay stretched along your head and move with it upwards. To make the exercise more challenging, you can hold this position at the top for a few seconds, and then drop it down again in a controlled manner.
In this exercise it is important that your arms keep moving as a whole with your upper body. If you find yourself waving your arms to raise yourself, you are overcompensating to do the exercise properly. It can then be useful to first keep yourself busy with one of the above exercises.
4. Crunch with legs up
This crunch variation is also somewhat more difficult than the basic crunch and is especially suitable for slightly more advanced athletes. The exercise involves both your high abs and low abs, making it one of the more effective exercises for a six pack.
Also for this exercise you only need a mat or a soft surface. Lie on your back on the floor and extend your legs straight up so that your hips form a 90-degree angle. You also extend your arms towards the ceiling.
To perform the exercise, roll up with your shoulders off the ground by tightening your abdominal muscles as you would expect from the crunch. Try to touch your toes with your hands, or at least see how far you get!
It is not a problem if you cannot keep your legs completely straight with your hands or reach your toes with this exercise, that has more to do with flexibility than with strength. Make sure that you do not strain anything and that you do not ‘throw’ your body up, always try to perform all your movements in a calm and controlled manner.
5. Crunch on balance ball
Finally, this variation on the crunch is mainly for advanced athletes. With this exercise you actually increase the range of the crunch, so that your abs have to work harder to execute the movement. The muscles in your core are also put to work with this exercise, so this is also a compound exercise in which you train more than just your high abs.
For this exercise you need an inflatable fitness ball or a balance trainer (half ball). This can be found in every gym , but you can also purchase one to do the exercise at home.
To perform the exercise, lie down with your back on the ball and place your feet on the floor. Take your time to find a good balance and take the position that you are used to with crunches: hands on your ears, neck not cramped and don’t chin against your chest.
Roll up slowly by tightening your abdominal muscles and, if necessary, hold this at the top for extra intensity. Then lower yourself in a controlled manner again.
Note: it is easier with this exercise than with other exercises that you get up too far. If you do that, the tension on your abdominal muscles will disappear and your exercise will be less strenuous. So make sure you don’t sit up too far.
Sit under your high abs, you guessed it, your low abs. This muscle group is also called your lower abs . These muscles run down from around your navel.
1. Place raise
Leg raises are also known as ‘leg lifts’. You only need a fitness mat or other soft surface for this exercise.
You lie on your back with your hands under your buttocks . Then tighten your abs and lift your legs slowly until your hips form a 90-degree angle. Then bring them down again in a controlled manner, until your feet are a few centimeters above the ground. This is one repetition.
Because you do not put your feet completely back on the floor, your abs stay tense and they have to work hard to perform the exercise. Don’t make it too easy for yourself! If you still find this exercise too easy, you can lift your head and shoulders off the floor so that you have also tightened your upper abs.
If you are not that flexible , it may not be possible to keep your legs completely straight. That’s okay, but try to keep them as straight as possible to make the exercise harder.
However, if you find the exercise too heavy, you can also perform it with your legs bent. For this variation on the exercise, start in the same basic position, but bend your knees while lifting your legs until your thighs point straight up and your knees form a 90 degree angle. Try to work towards a leg raise with legs straight!
2. Lay out walk
This exercise is very similar to the raise leg. Just like with the raise raise you only need a mat or a soft surface for this and you start in the same basic position: on your back on the floor, with your hands under your buttocks.
To do this exercise, lift your right leg up until it forms a 90-degree angle with your body. Then lower it slowly again, until your foot almost touches the ground (but not completely!) And repeat the movement with your left leg. Once your left leg is down, lift your right leg up again and so on.
Also with this exercise you can lift your head and shoulders to make the exercise harder and you can bend your knees to make it easier.
3. Scissor kicks and butterfly kicks
These exercises for a six pack are very similar. The basic position is also the same for both: you lie on your back on a mat or soft surface, with your hands under your buttocks, and you lift your legs off the floor without bending them. You don’t have to lift them too far! If you lift your feet about 20 centimeters off the floor, your legs are high enough.
For scissor kicks, spread your legs and then cross them over each other, with your left leg over your right leg. Then you spread them again and cross them the other way around: with your right leg over your left leg. This is how you alternate this.
You don’t have to spread your legs for butterfly kicks, but move your legs up and down alternately. So first, lift your left leg, then lower it again while lifting your right leg.
You can do these exercises with a fixed number of repetitions, but you can also hold a certain amount of time for this. For example, you can try to get as many repetitions as possible in 30 seconds. During these exercises keep your legs straight and your abs contracted.
4. Reverse crunch
Again, you only need a mat or other soft surface for the reverse crunch. Here you lie on your back, with your hands under your buttocks. Your feet are on the floor, your knees bent. This is your basic attitude.
From this basic position you can perform the reverse crunch by moving your knees towards your chest. Keep your movement calm and controlled. For beginners, it may be enough to raise your knees so far that your hips form a 90-degree angle and then lower them again.
If you are more advanced, you can move your knees even further, causing your buttocks to get off the ground. Once you have carried out the movement as far as your level allows, lower your legs in a controlled manner until your feet are just a few centimeters above the floor.
Make sure that your abdominal muscles are constantly contracted and that you do not put your feet back on the floor in between, to get your muscles working optimally during this exercise.
5. Hanging leg raise
The hanging leg raise is a challenging exercise for the lower abs. This exercise is especially suitable for advanced athletes. You need a sturdy bar or beam for this, which you can hang on with your entire weight.
Hang on the rod or beam, with your arms extended. Try to hang as quietly as possible, because when you start to swing you make yourself unnecessarily difficult. Then tighten your abs and slowly raise your knees. Pull them as high as possible towards your chest, hold them for a second, and lower them again in a controlled manner.
If your abs are so advanced that this exercise is no problem, you can perform it with your legs stretched out or with a weight on your feet.
Do not try to execute this exercise too quickly, then you will start to rock and the exercise will not only become more difficult, but also less efficient.
The oblique abs run along your upper and lower abs. These muscles are often trained with your upper and lower abs, even without you noticing. However, it does of course not hurt to occasionally pay extra attention to it. These are the five best exercises for a six pack with strong oblique muscles.
1. Side shelf
The side plank is a variation on the known plank. While planking you use all the muscles in your abdomen and core, but the side plank emphasizes your oblique abs. This exercise can be used as a variation on the board, but can of course also be used as a separate exercise.
To perform this exercise, lie on your side with your legs straight. Lift your upper body by resting on your forearm. Then lift your hips so that your entire body rests on your forearm and feet. Try to keep your body in a straight line and do not lift your hips too high.
We advise you to start quietly with this plank. Try for example the first time 10 seconds on both sides and 10 seconds the ‘normal’ board, then you can extend it next time.
If this exercise is too easy for you, there are also ways to make it more challenging. For example, you can add ‘side plank dips’ to it. You do this by lowering your hips towards the floor from the plank posture and then lifting it again, slightly higher than the basic posture. ‘Bounce’ checked up and down a number of times.
Another way to make the side plank more challenging is by lifting your upper leg, or by sticking out your upper arm next to your body, so that your muscles have to work harder to keep your body balanced.
2. Angled sit-up
The slanted sit-up is a variation on the normal sit-up. This makes it a nice change from one of the most used exercises for a six pack! You can do it in addition to your normal sit-ups, or you can replace some of your normal sit-ups with oblique sit-ups.
You start with a sit-up: you lie on your back on a mat or other soft surface, with your feet on the floor and your knees bent. You have your hands on your ears. You tighten your abdominal muscles and you come up controlled until you are almost completely upright.
When you reach the top, bend your right elbow to your left knee. Turn your entire upper body. Then you lower your body in a controlled manner. At the next sit-up, turn your body the other way and bring your left elbow to your right knee. This way you train your entire core, just like with sit-ups, but you put a little extra focus on your oblique abs.
3. Russian twist
For the basic shape of the Russian twist you only need a mat or a soft surface, but as soon as you get a bit further in this exercise, you will need a weight. This can be a kettlebell or dumbbell, but can also be a medicine ball. If you do the exercise at home, you can also start with, for example, a full liter bottle of water or something else with the desired weight.
You sit down with your legs forward, knees bent and heels on the floor. You lean back a little, but you keep your back straight. You have your hands with your stomach, possibly with a weight in it. Then you move your entire upper body to the left and then to the right.
If you hold a weight, make sure you keep it close to your body, but keep moving with your body. This exercise can easily be made heavier by taking heavier weights.
4. The spiderman
The spiderman is an extensive compound exercise in which you use your arms, shoulders, core and back. Yet here too the focus is mainly on your oblique abs. You don’t need anything for this exercise, so you can easily do it at home.
You start the spiderman in a plank position, with straight arms. So you only lean on your toes and your hands and back are straight. Then carefully lift one leg and move the knee from that leg to your elbow on that side. Use your upper body to move towards the knee. Then place the knee back in a controlled movement in the starting position and do the same with the other knee.
5. Bicycle crunch
The bicycle crunch is a variation on the crunch that we discussed under the heading ‘high abs’. Just like with the basic crunch, you only need a mat or other soft surface for this exercise.
You lie on the mat in the basic position for a crunch: you lie on your back with your hands near your ears. The difference with the basic crunch is that with this exercise you have your legs straight, with your feet a few centimeters above the ground.
To perform the exercise, tighten your abs and bring your left elbow toward your right knee. At the same time, bend your right leg to also move your right knee toward your left elbow. When your elbow and knee are together, hold that position for a second and then lower both in a controlled manner. Then do the same with your right elbow and your left knee.
These 15 exercises for a six pack are of course not the only possible exercises. Do you have any suggestions? Then we would love to hear from you in the responses!