It might not feel like it right now, but summer is only a few months away. Which means if you want to turn heads on the beach, the hard work needs to start NOW.
It's safe to say that no physique is complete without a set of steel-cut abs. Big shoulders and a barrel chest will help you fill out a tee shirt, but if you want a body that catches the eye when you're wearing nothing but a pair of swim trunks, you need abs that you can grate cheese on.
The first step to washboard abs is the food that you eat. If your nutrition isn't on point, you can forget about your six pack ever showing up to the party.
But once you've got your diet dialled in and you're lean enough for your abs to become visible, it's time to start sculpting them. Like any muscle, your abs will only really start to pop when they're trained hard - and trained correctly.
Want a set of abs that are guaranteed to be the envy of everyone you meet? Then you need to add these five exercises to your programme.
#1 - Plank
The first, and most important addition to any ab workout should always be the plank. Not only does it work your upper, middle and lower abdominals better than any sit up or crunch, but it also helps to build isometric strength, which is a key factor in helping your six pack to emerge.
A novice trainer should be able to hold a plank for 90 seconds. If you can double that, you've got a good level of abdominal strength. By the time you can hold it for over 5 minutes, we guarantee you'll have a set of abs that turn heads.
#2 - Hanging leg raises
No matter how many sit ups and crunches you add to your routine, you're still only working the upper abs with these movements. The lower two abdominals are notoriously the slowest to emerge - so hit them hard with hanging leg raises to give them a helping hand.
Grip a pull up bar tight, palms facing forwards. Hang from the bar with your elbows straight and your shoulders locked. Now, lift your legs up with control until you form a perfect 'L' shape. Slowly lower them back down. Do not allow your body to swing as you perform this movement - it should be done with maximal tension from top to bottom. Perform 8 - 12 reps, rest for 30 seconds, then repeat.
To make this even harder, you can lift your legs up and to the side so that they are pointing at a 45 degree angle, instead of straight ahead of you. This is also a great way to engage the obliques.
#3 - Side raises
It's all well and good to focus on the central abdominals, but it's important not to neglect your obliques if you really want your abs to pop.
To perform a side raise, lie on your right hand side with your bodyweight resting on your right forearm. Rest your left leg on top of your right leg. With your body straight, press your hip up off of the floor, so that your body is in a straight line, in the 'side plank' position. Slowly lower your hip back down to the floor, and then repeat for one repetition. Perform 25 on this side, then switch.
To make it even harder, hold your position at the very top of the movement for 5 seconds.
#4 - Ball Crawls
Now we've trained our rectus abdominals, A.K.A the 'visible' abs that you see on the surface, it's time to make sure our transverse abdominals get a workout too. These are very much the 'behind the scenes' guys, that do all the hard work whilst the visible six pack earns the plaudits. But, training them is incredibly important for building core stability and in helping your rectus abdominals to become visible in the first place.
The clue with this exercise is in the name. Rest your feet on a swiss ball, and lean your weight forwards onto your hands in a press up position. Now, start to crawl, keeping your feet on the ball at all times. Keep your abs engaged to support you as you go. Crawl for ten metres, rest and repeat. Work your way up to sets of 30 metres. This exercise is much, much harder than it looks!
#5 - Barbell ab rollouts
Feeling the burn yet? Good. Now it's time for the finisher.
To perform this exercise, you should be in a push up position; but instead of having your hands on the floor, they should be clutching a barbell out in front of you. The barbell should be weighted to allow it to roll, but not too heavy - start with 5 kilos max each side until you build up enough strength to increase the weight.
Keeping a slight arch in your back, lift your hips and roll the barbell back towards your feet. Your glutes should be coming up as you do so. Keep your abs tight at all times. When the barbell is a yard or so away from your feet, roll back out with control to return to the 'push up' position. That's one rep. We challenge you to do ten in a row without falling into a heap!
Add these five exercises to your workouts and watch how quickly your abs emerge!