Muscle for life

The Ultimate Ab Workouts: The 5 Best Ab Exercises for Getting a Six Pack

The Ultimate Ab Workouts: The 5 Best Ab Exercises for Getting a Six Pack

Ab workouts are a dime a dozen but this article is going to teach you everything you need to know about building a lean, cut core.


Having a chiseled six pack is the fitness equivalent of “having arrived.”

You may be strong…you may be big…but all the cool kids have killer abs. And it’s okay if you want some too. 🙂

There’s a problem though. And it has everything to do with why we don’t see many people with lean, defined cores.

You see, when millions of people want something bad enough to keep them up late at night Googling, wallet in hand, you can take a wild guess what comes next.

Yup…the siren calls of savvy marketers lurking in the shadows. Or, maybe more fittingly, soaring overhead, looking for confused or weakened prey to feast on.

Alright, alright, that’s a bit dramatic, but here’s my point:

The problem is the sheer amount of awful, misleading, and downright detrimental “six pack” advice out there.

  • Some people say you just have to do special types of ab workouts every day…and they’re wrong.
  • Some people say you should just squat and deadlift and you’ll have great abs…and they’re wrong.
  • Some people say you have to eat certain types of foods and not eat others…and they’re wrong.
  • Some people say you just have to have a low body fat percentage…and they’re wrong.
  • And some people say it’s all in the supplements…and they’re just lying.

In fact, it comes down to doing just two things well:

How to Get Abs in 2 Simple Steps


Getting a six pack is easier said than done but it’s not complicated. In fact, it’s extremely simple.

1. Lose the belly fat.

I figured I’d start with the obvious.

The primary reason why you don’t have a six pack is you have too much fat covering your abdominal muscles.

Get rid of the fat and you’re close to your goal, if not there already. This begs the question, however, of how you actually go about doing this.

First, you can’t directly “target” belly fat for elimination.

Targeted fat loss, or “spot reduction,” has long been–and still is–a hot button pushed to sell fitness books, magazines, DVDs, supplements, and more.

One workout is for “slimming” your thighs and another is for “sculpting” your midsection. This food is supposed to reduce belly fat and that food can somehow make your hips leaner.

I wish it were that simple.

Research has shown that training a muscle does result in increased levels of blood flow and lipolysis (the breakdown of fat cells into usable energy) in the area, but the effect is too small to matter.

Training your muscles burns calories and can cause them the grow, which aids in fat loss, but it doesn’t directly reduce the fat covering them.

You see, fat loss is a whole-body process.

You maintain a calorie deficit, which forces your body to reduce its total fat stores. Reductions occur everywhere, however, with certain regions leaning out quicker than others (more on that in a minute).

The bottom line is you can do crunches until your abs explode and you’ll never see great abs until you get your body fat percentage into the right range.

That range is 15% body fat and below for men and 25% and below for women.

Here’s a handy chart that puts some visuals to these numbers:



As you can see, abs start to show around 15% and 25% for men and women, respectively, and really start to shine at 10% and below for men and 20% and below for women.

Now, I mentioned earlier that certain areas of the body lose fat faster than others.

Unfortunately, the fat covering the abs, and especially the lower abs, is incredibly stubborn. And no, I’m not talking about personality but physiology.

There’s a science-based reason why fat cells in certain areas of the body are much harder to shrink than others and there are specific strategies you can use to improve this.

Check out this article I wrote on stubborn belly fat to learn more.

2. Develop your core muscles

It’s commonly believed that people doing a lot of heavy, compound lifting (squatting, deadlifting, overhead pressing, etc.) have no need for ab workouts.

I disagree. And to understand why, let’s quickly review the muscles that make up the “abs.”

First, there’s the rectus abdominis, which is the muscle group most associated with a “six pack”:


Then there are several other core muscles that complete the look, including the obliques, transversus abdominis (or “TVA” as it’s commonly referred to), and serratus:


Don’t discount the importance of developing these muscles in addition to the “pretty” rectus abdominis.

Case in point: here’s an example of what (kinda) developed “abs” with a poorly developed core looks like:


It’s not a horrible look but there’s no v-taper at the waist, no serratus development, and no sight of a TVA line.

Some people have the opposite problem–their rectus abdominis is under-developed and the rest of the core is overcooked.

Here’s an example:


This is what happens when your obliques are over-developed, your rectus abdominis is lacking, and you have no TVA or serratus.

Let’s now see what good all-around core development looks like:


Sure, the model (Greg Plitt) has far better genetics than the other two guys but he’s not much leaner here than the second. He just has a perfect balance of overall muscle development between his rectus abdominis and other core muscles.

I don’t have Plitt’s look but I have personal experience working to build a good set of abs. Check out the following picture of me from a few years ago:


I was about 7% body fat here and, as you can see, had alright core development. It’s worth noting that I was squatting and deadlifting heavy every week and was doing some supplementary ab training, but not what I lay out later in this article.

(And in case you’re wondering why I don’t have a proper “six pack” but only a “four pack” instead, that’s purely genetic, and can’t be changed. Some people’s rectus abdominis is formed better than others’.)

Within a few months of taking that picture, I started the ab workout I am going to share in this article and here’s a shot of me from a little more than a year later:


This rather dramatic improvement was the result of not only training my “abs” but also building up the other core muscles.

The Real “Six Pack Shortcut”

There really is nothing else to having “shredded” abs.

When you’re a man or a woman, you need to be lean and you need great core muscle development.

You get lean by dieting properly and you get defined core muscles by training them using both compound and isolation movements.

Use this workout and flexible dieting program to lose up to 10 pounds of fat and build muscle in just 30 days…without starving yourself or living in the gym.

The Best Ab Exercises


I’ve seen and spoken to a lot of people with small, underdeveloped abs that can do a tremendous number of crunches and post some seriously impressive plank times.

The problem here is the core muscles are like any others in the body: they require progressive overload to grow. And that requires an emphasis on weighted exercises and improving performance over time.

One of the biggest mistakes people make in their ab workouts is not doing any weighted ab exercises.

As you’ll see, I recommend that every ab workout you do contains at least a few sets of weighted exercises.

Before we talk about creating workouts, though, let’s look at individual exercises.

There are an almost endless variety of ab exercises and far too many opinions on what’s better than what. Fortunately, however, you only need to focus on a handful of to fully develop your core.

The exercises below are based on a bit of research as well as my personal experience with my own training and with working with thousands of people.

There are plenty of other ab exercises you could do but they’re probably unnecessary if you just stick to the list below.

The Big Compound Movements

The squat, deadlift, bench and military press aren’t “ab exercises” per se but are an effective tool for building and strengthening the core.

They’re also the absolute most important exercises for total-body muscle growth and strength. If you’re not doing them every week, and if you’re not going heavy, you’re leaving a lot of progress on the table.

Cable Crunch

The cable crunch is one of my favorites because it’s weighted and targets the entire rectus abdominis.

You can use it to hit the obliques as well by doing twisting reps where you touch your right elbow to your left knee, following by a regular straight rep, followed by one where your left elbow touches your right knee, back to the middle, and so forth.

Captain’s Chair Leg Raise

This exercise is one of the best for developing both the rectus abdominis, including the “lower abs,” and obliques.

You can start with knees bent but you want to work toward legs straight. Then, as you get stronger, you can add weight by snatching a dumbbell in between your feet.

Hanging Leg Raise

This exercise is similar to the captain’s chair leg raise but requires more effort to keep your body stabilized.

Again, you can start with your knees bent but want to work toward straight legs. You can add weight by snatching a dumbbell in between your feet.

Air Bicycle

Don’t let this simple exercise fool you–it’s a great inclusion to your ab workouts, and is particularly good at training the obliques and TVA.

Ab Wheel Rollout

I’m generally not a fan of workout gadgets and gizmos but the ab wheel is cheap and effective.

If you want to include this exercise in your ab routine, here’s a high-quality wheel:




You can add weight to this exercise with a weighted vest.

How to Create the Ultimate Ab Workout


The rules for ab training are very simple:

1. Combine weighted and unweighted training.

A core with deep, defined cuts requires a lot more muscle development than most people think. And a “periodized” approach to ab training is the most effective way to accomplish this.

2. Train your abs frequently.

Optimal training frequency is a subject of never-ending debate, but as a general rule, smaller muscle groups recover faster than larger ones.

And compound exercises like the squat and deadlift necessitate more recovery than isolation movements like the biceps curl or side raise.

Thus, like the calves, I’ve found that the abs can take more of a beating than the larger muscle groups.

I’ve found that 2 to 3 ab workouts per week, in addition to compound lifting, is the “sweet spot” for maximizing results while preventing overtraining.

And in terms of placement in a weekly regimen, put 1 to 2 days of rest in between your ab workouts. Personally I do Mon, Weds, & Fri if I’m doing three workouts per week or Tues & Thurs if two.

3. Make sure you’re progressing on your exercises.

Like any training, the goal with your ab training is to get progressively stronger and fitter over time.

The weight added for your weighted exercises should be on an upward trend as should the number of reps you can do on your unweighted exercises.

So, with those “rules” in place, let’s look at how to create your ab workouts.

The workout layout is simple. You will be doing exercise “circuits” consisting of 3 exercises done back-to-back. You will rest in between these circuits and repeat them.

Here’s how you build the circuits:

1. Do 1 set of a weighted exercise like the Cable Crunch, Captain’s Chair Leg Raise, or Hanging Leg Raise for 10 to 15 reps.

This means that if you can’t get at least 10 reps, you’re using too much weight. Once you can do 15 reps, however, it’s time to add 5 pounds.

2. Go directly into 1 set of an unweighted exercise and do it to failure.

3. Go directly into 1 set of another unweighted exercise and do it to failure

4. Rest 2-3 minutes in between circuits.

For example, here’s one of my favorite circuits:

1 set of Cable Crunches, 10-12 rep range

Directly into 1 set of Captain’s Chair Leg Raises, to failure

Directly into 1 set of Air Bicycles, to failure

Rest 2-3 minutes

I’ll usually do these ab circuits in between sets of major muscle groups to save time. For example:










  • 1 set of deadlifts
  • 1 ab circuit
  • Rest 60 to 90 seconds
  • 1 set of deadlifts
  • 1 ab circuit
  • Rest 60 to 90 seconds

And so forth.

A good goal to work toward is 3 ab circuits per ab workout (and 2 to 3 workouts per week). As you’ll see, this is tougher than it sounds!

Can Supplements Help You Get a Six Pack?

bodybuilding man

No natural substance can just “burn fat” outright, regardless of how complex or pseudo-scientific the explanations are.

Supplement companies often talk about increasing fat oxidation rates, preserving lean mass, supporting the thyroid, inducing thermogenesis, inhibiting enzymes related to fat storage, inducing enzymes that cause fat loss, manipulating hormone and neurotransmitter levels, reducing water retention, improving nutrient partitioning, and more.

Well, the truth is, these are all aspects of fat loss, but this type of marketing is little more than an attempt to dazzle you with terminology and scientific half-truths in hopes that you just accept the claimed benefits at face value.

When you take a cold, hard look at the science of fat loss, you’ll find that proper supplementation can help but can never make up for poor diet and training habits.

If you stick to the advice in this article, you won’t make those fatal diet and training mistakes and will be able to actually benefit from supplements that speed up fat loss.

Check out my article on “fat burners” to learn how.

The Bottom Line on Ab Workouts


Just about every fitness “guru” and workout program promises to give you a great six pack fast but few can actually deliver on this promise because it’s just not as fast and simple as people want to believe.

There are no “weird tricks” or “hacks” or anything else. If you want a lean, sexy stomach, you’re going to have to eat right, train right, and be patient. If you’re willing to commit to months of this, and not days, then you can get to where you want to be.

You now know everything needed to finally get that six pack, so get out there and get to work!


What do you think about ab workouts? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!

Want more ultimate workouts? Check out the following:

The Ultimate Chest Workout

best chest workout

The Ultimate Arms Workout


The Ultimate Back Workout


The Ultimate Shoulder Workout


The Ultimate Legs Workout

Arnold Schwarzenegger squatting deep.

The Ultimate Calves Workout


The Ultimate Butt Workout


The Ultimate Forearm Workout


The Ultimate Bodyweight Workout

Man doing push-ups on kettlebells.

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I'm Mike and I'm the creator of Muscle for Life and Legion Athletics, and I believe that EVERYONE can achieve the body of their dreams.

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  • Donald

    If you are beyond newbie gains can you really expect to see changes in abdominal muscle size/development while in a deficit? Lyle McDonald has an article on calf training and states that trying to increase calf size while cutting weight is a waste of your time. I don’t see why this would be different.

    • Probably not, no, but you wouldn’t want to completely drop your ab training while in a deficit. You’d want to include at least some work for your rectus abdominis to help maintain what you have.

  • So what are your thoughts on the debate about squatting and deadlifting without a belt thickening the waist? Also can excessive weighted ab movements thicken the waist?

    • No, these are myths. Over-building your obliques is what thickens the waist, which many people do, unfortunately.

  • Jim

    I work out at home and I don’t have access to any of the weighted exercises you recommend. Are there any other choices for weighted ab work? How about Landmine 180’s?

  • Just bought your book, Bigger Leaner Stronger, and look forward to learning more! In the mean time, please let me know if you have encountered the “Buddha Belly” type?

    Basically my belly’s relaxed state makes me look like a slightly pregnant woman (though I’m a man). I can flex and make a flat belly, but there’s a bit of fat I’m still shaving. I’m naturally super skinny (if I didn’t work out I’d be a stick figure) and I’ve noticed my dad has the same belly type.

    Over the past few months I’ve practiced keeping my belly flexed while in the gym, hoping this may “train in” my stomach… what are your thoughts? Thanks, Mike!

    • Juan Aguilar

      Hey Tommy. I’m not Mike, but I’m in a similar situation with my “belly fat”. It seems some of us just store the bulk of our fat in our abdominal area. This just means we may have to cut to a lower body fat so our abs can show nicely. (i.e: I’m about 12-13%, and my upper abs are barely showing, but not my lower half).

      Keep on cutting to asses whether or not your abs are properly developed. Maybe you need to go on a bulk to build a bit more mass on them.

      Also, keeping your core tight on your lifts is definitely important. It’ll help prevent injuries, and it strengthens/builds the core.

    • Donald

      Do you have anterior pelvic tilt? People that have really tight hips, tight low back, and weak hamstrings (or a combination of the three) have forward tilting of the pelvis that causes a protruding stomach despite being reasonably lean. It seems that tight hips are the most common cause.

    • andres bermudez

      Sometimes you can appear fatter than you are because inflammation. There are certain foods that in some people cause inflammation, like lactose in the milk or in whey protein. Take a look at your diet, perhaps there is some food that have that effect on you.

    • Hey Tommy!

      Andres, Donald, and Juan covered the points for me, haha.

      If you’re also dealing with regular bowel issues like gassiness and such, I would take a look at your diet for foods that don’t sit well with your gut.

      Anterior pelvic tilt can exaggerate the issue as well.

      And some people hold a LARGE amount of fat in their lower abs/stomach areas. It can be very annoying.

  • Matt

    Hi Mike – I notice that you suggested the possibility of doing the ab circuits in between the sets of your major lifts. I assume that means doing them in the ‘rest’ period between lifts, say deadlifts. So that would have you do your deadlift set, then wihtout rest go straight into an ab circuit of 3 ab exercises, then complete the remainder of the rest period before starting the next deadlift set. Does this ‘supersetting’ ‘circuit’ type approach have any negative impact on the major lifts? In BLS you highlight the importance of proper rest in beween heavy lifts, the main reason being that you are ready for the next set, to give it your all. So whereas you may have a 3 minute rest in between deadlift sets, you are now only getting 60 seconds?
    I like the sound of saving time (!!), but had the rest period ingrained in my head as ‘total rest’. If time were not an object, would it be better to go fo the total rest approach and do the ab circuits after the major lifts?
    Thoughts welcome.

    • Yeah exactly. Deadlift, abs, rest 60 to 90, deadlift, abs, rest, etc.

      I don’t find it makes a big difference unless I’m going REALLY heavy (1 to 3 RM work).

      • Matt

        Thanks Mike. Good to know there’s some flexibility when time is tight and I need to get home to the kids!!! That Lego won’t fix itself…!!


        • Max

          Hey Mike,

          Does this also count for the calves workout? So a set of calves in between the heavy lifts? Any more tips on how to save time (I’m following the 5 day BLS plan) ?

        • Hahaha YW brother.

      • Max

        Oh, wrong reply, sry.

  • A

    Hey, Mike. Loved the article!
    So, I’ve heard conflicting sides on this topic;
    If you were a woman with a thicker waist wanting to make it appear smaller, would you recommend doing ab exercises unweighted- as to not grow those muscles as much- and focus on building the upper and lower body?
    Thanks! Keep writing; you’re great!

    • Thanks!

      Yeah I probably would avoid weighted abs in this case because we don’t want your obliques to grow.

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • Aaron

    Air Bikes — how many Air Bikes do you do in a single circuit? I’m up to 110 in a circuit cycling between slow and fast every 10. I’m wondering if I’m cheating and not getting the full squeeze or Range of Motion and it’s making my workouts take longer than needed. I do 4 circuits now, but 9 circuits would be ~1000 airbikes, which seems crazy.

    • Hmm I usually hit about 50 to 60. May be a form issue. Are you touching your elbows to your knees?

      • Aaron

        Thanks Mike, always awesome for you to reply.

        I thought I was touching elbow to knee — but will focus on that. Do you go as fast as you can with these or a bit slower pausing/squeezing as the elbow touches the knee? That could be my problem, my fast one are as fast as I can do them, 10 in a row, then 10 slower ones

        • Okay let me know. I go slow enough to ensure I’m getting a full contraction with each movement.

  • Ab exercises are the hardest for me, and as a woman, I have found that many of the traditional abdominal exercise including traditional crunches actually cause the belly to protrude. My experience has shown me that plank exercises which require contracting the abdomen are quite effective. Of course you have to do a variety of planks to target all areas of your core. If you are a woman interested in developing a strong, sexy core, check out this article http://www.fitnessmagazine.com/workout/abs/exercises/plank-challenge/

  • andres bermudez

    I would recommend the RKC Plank before the Ab wheel rollout, the second can be very tough on the lower back if you don’t have some strength already.

  • Gemma Smith

    Love this article!

    i really want that v cut! which exercises in particular are best for achieving this look?
    Also looking at what you said a few comments down you say for a woman looking to get a smaller waist she should leave out weighted abs? i still want a little six pack and lots of definition but still a tiny waist so do you advise i cut out weighted abs coz now im not sure!

    Thanks for all your help and always replying =]

    • Thanks!

      That’s the obliques so if you just stick to the routine here, it will come. 🙂

      Keep the weighted in until you’ve got the rectus ab definition that you want.

      Gotta get rid of the fat too yes 🙂

  • Jonathan Martinez

    Hey Mike,

    Love all your articles. I used to have a decent six pack but stopped working out for two years due to my job (traveling) and now I have a 24% body fat. I finally have time to start all over again and you book became a bible for me. Just wanted to say thanks for the motivation.

    • Great to hear you decided to get back on the wagon!

      I’m glad I was able to help.

      Definitely keep me posted on your progress and write anytime if you have any questions or run into any difficulties. I’m always happy to help.

      • Jonathan Martinez

        Is there anyway I can send you my before and after pictures? I actually started last friday.

  • Henrique Perrella

    Mike, great article indeed!
    I had doubts about how to do the cycles once i have read the muscle for life, but from what you are wrote, i’m not doing wrong so.

    Regarding the spot fat loss, however, i would like to add that there are in fact methods of doing it, altough they require you: a)money b)patience and c)time. There is no miracle of course, they work and are costly effective only for the last stubborn ones and on the shapping process. But for the perfectionists, those are methods worth exploring.

    There are three that work, and from those two kill fat cells on the stubborn areas and one just activate them more or less like you suggest when training fasted and using yohimbine/caffeine.

    This is the intradermotherapy, a method that inject enzimes like caffeine and yohimbine directly on the stubborn areas. The principle here is that injecting them the enzymes will reach more quickly and efficiently those areas. However, what happens here is that the fat is mobilized, so if you don’t follow a proper diet, there are chances that you’ll get fat in another area. You need at lest 10 sessions of this one to work.

    The other two methods work similarly. Different from intradermotherapy, they kill the fat cells, which will be slowly eliminated during two months. The first of them, coolsculpting, uses the panniculitis principle: if you freeze fat on temperatures under 0 celcius (-5 celcius), they will suffer an inflammation process and die. When this happen, their lipids are slowly collected and thrown over a time on the bloodstream. Again, if you follow a deficit diet like you said, they will not come back. If not, you’ll probably gain weight on another parts of the body, considering that you’ll have lost fat cells on that specific region. This is a very interesting treatment, there are some scientific studies on it that have reported good results. I tested myself and i was satisfied with it. This works with one session on each region and you have two wait from 45-90 days to do another section, the time that your body needs to get red of the cells that died.

    Another one that also works in a similar principle is the HIFU technology, which is a high intensity focused ultrasound that kills targeted cells. They developed this technology for non invasive cancer treatments but discover that it also has great efficiency on fat reduction too with minimal side-effects. This one reaches very specific and hard to loose fat areas where the coolsculpting machine cannot reach. But, it’s more expensive than it too. This one you have to wait 90 days to do another session.

    • Thanks for the comment! I’ve heard of the cold therapy.

      Honestly I wouldn’t bother with any of that stuff. I’d just eat right, exercise, and let my body take care of the rest.

      • Henrique Perrella

        Mike the enzimes injection can also be very good because it’s like you were able to put the caffeine and yoimbine most concentrated where they should be. This on the eat right and exercise can help to change the places where you’ll loose first

        • Yeah it sounds interesting. I’m not big on injections but interesting nonetheless, haha.

  • Johnny

    So just wanted some clarification, what does the weighted ab exercises help with in terms of looks?

    Will the 6 pack boxes buldge out more so u have bigger cuts?
    (ive heard u shouldnt use weights before your lean cause it can make your stomach look bigger or this same reason)

    Im just talking about the cable crunch, not using it for obliques, just the rectus abdominus

    thanks Mike!

    • It will help with the growth of the abs themselves. The bigger they are the better (to a degree) they will also allow you to have ab definition at higher BF%.

      I definitely recommend using weight even before you lean so that when you do get lean, they’ve been built.

      Hope this helps! LMK.

  • Denzel Ford Monfiero

    Hey, Mike! Thanks for the information, I really learned a lot 🙂
    Question, though: My gym is fairly small compared to others like LA and 24. So it’s packed. My question is that is it okay if instead of the circuits, I treat them like their own sets? For example, I do 5 sets of cable crunches and after that do 5 sets of Captain’s chair leg raise then do 5 sets of Air bikes?

    • Glad you liked it! I wouldn’t do it like that, no. The idea is you really burn your abs out.

  • GeniusUnleashed

    Love this and the fact that you share teh love with videos from other people.

  • Laurits Brok

    I have a question Mike

    I really like doing the captain chair leg raise right after i do caple crunches, but the captain chair is a bit far away from the caples in my gym, so it takes me about 15-20 seconds to go from the one exercise to the other. Is that okay, or does it break the rule about going from ab exercise 1 to 2 “directly”?


  • Brian Giffin

    Nice article Mike, I already do some of these exercises but after watching the how to videos discovered I could be doing them better and definitely heavier. I tend to stay away from ab exercises I can only do 4-6 of but if it works better for the rest of my body why not my abs too right!

    Do you think that regular planks and crunches are just a wast of time as well?

    • Thanks! Glad you liked the article.

      Planks are okay and crunches are pretty shitty.

  • LifeForMuscle

    after 3 ab circuits i dont feel the burn anymore… is there something wrong?

    • What do you mean?

      • LifeForMuscle

        what i mean is… don’t we have to do 4-6 circuits… after doing 2-3 ab circuits the burn you feel while doing the ab exercise is gone (for me). am i doing something wrong? or is that normal?

  • Tammy

    Hi Mike, I have been following your program for a year now and have seen major changes in my strength and muscle tone. However, I had a c section 3 yrs ago and have struggled with getting my abs back to how they were pre baby. I have diastasis recti and have found weighted ab exercises will actually separate my abs further and push my stomach out. I have gone back to mostly doing planks for ab work but was wondering if you had any other advice?

    • Awesome!

      I’ve heard that but haven’t worked with many women with that issue so I don’t have any good advice off the top of my head.

      Reach out to Bree Lind. She has worked with a lot of pregnant women and might have some words of wisdom.

  • Tameika B

    Hi Mike. This might sound crazy but I don’t want visible abs. Its a personal thing but I don’t like abs on women. Is it OK if I skip the abs section of TLS? I do planks and some wood chops (but with no progressive overload, I stick to 50 lbs). So is that OK?

    • I recommend you you do the ab routine at least for now. You still want to develop your core for other lifts.

      I don’t think you need to be concerned with you abs showing too much, but it they do start over-developing for your taste, you can stop the training of them. For now though, I recommend it.

  • Derrek

    Mike, I can’t do bicycles or leg raises for abs. I can do the cable crunch though. I injured my hip. Is 1 ab exercise for now ok or should I look at other exercises that don’t hurt me? Thanks!

  • Jimmy Bills

    Hey Mike, what do you think of Dragon Flags as an ab exercise? I keep hearing more and more people recommend doing it. Is it legit?

  • Matt

    Mike…recently at the gym I checked my BF% using the digital calipers and found it to be 13% with my body weight around 131lbs. In the last 4 months my BF% came down from 22.6% to 13% (with whatever accuracy the digital meter has). I’ve started working on abs since a month (2-3X a week) following the routine you’ve suggested, along with the other compound exercises…But I still find that I carry quite a bit of fat around my tummy and I almost feel that even if my BF% drops below 10 I’d still be carrying quite a bit of fat….Is that a common phenomenon to not lose fat around tummy and still the scale showing 10% or less BF…

  • Mo Hez

    Hi Mike, great article as always. One thing you don’t mention what to do if you already have an area of the ab’s that is overdeveloped. Other than the obvious of just stopping that exercise. What else would you recommend in trying to “even” out the look. I am starting to lean out on your BLS program and I have started seeing/ realising that my obliques are over-developed. I mean is great to finally see them. But I would like to blend in the overall physique.

    • There isn’t really much else you can do than not directly workout the over-developed muscles. Of course, you should work on the rest of your core, and they will eventually even out…

      • Mo Hez

        Thanks for the reply. What exercises would you cut, air bike and exercises like that? M

  • Brian Giffin

    Mike I can do the weighted cable crunches to 10-12 reps no problem. On the captains chair I can only get 5-8. I also like to do weighted decline sit ups where I put 10lbs behind my head for 8 reps. My question is if I can only get 5-8 reps on some days is this too heavy for my ab work? Or can I just keep working at it until my reps progress? I have also had people tell me weighted sit ups make you fat which seems crazy to me is this true? Last but not least do you ever use a back extension? does it work for your abs? Does it help with lower back fat, or is heavy dead lifts enough for this?


    • Cool. I like it. Nah that’s not too heavy. Just keep working at it.

      I don’t do hypers because I have no reason to. No it won’t help with the fat.

      • Brian Giffin

        Thanks can I ask you about side dumb bell raises? I can do 4-5 reps with 40’s but I need to bend at the elbow a bit because it’s just to heavy to do straight armed. Is this cheating? Are you supposed to keep your arms streight and just lift straight up from the sides?


  • Law

    Hey mike!
    I’m just now getting out of a cutting phase. According to my calipers I’m sitting at 10-11% yet I still can’t see my abs, my obliques and outer wall of my abs are visible but no six pack anywhere aside from when the light hits then just right.
    Admittedly, I never really did ab work much. Is it just my abs are underdeveloped, or are my calipers wrong? I’m using Accu measure fitness 3000 calipers.
    Thanks buddy

  • Patrick

    Hey mike I don’t have the cable machine I have a home gym so what could I replace that with so I can use weight ?

    • Hanging leg raises with a DB snatched in between your feet will work well.

      • Patrick

        Bringing the legs straight out or bringing the knees up ?

        • Legs straight out if you can.

          • Patrick

            Is there anything else I could do instead of the bicycle crunch ?

          • You can substitute it for one of the other exercises I recommend if you’d like.

  • Richard

    Hi Mike – Some smarter people than I suggest repeatedly flexing and extending the lower back under load is potentially going to cause a disc prolapse at some point in the future – e.g. Dr. Stuart McGill. I have known degenerative changes in my low back and so am only doing Planks & Abdominal Rollout to be on the safe side – i.e using core to resist against movement and not initiate it. My strength is good but you imply the abdominal exercises must be loaded over time or Rectus will never be that good visually. I was thinking that if I use an increasingly heavier weighted belt when doing the plank and rollouts that might be a good compromise between avoiding the repeated flexion/extension of your exercises and still achieving progressive overload of the muscle.
    I would appreciate your thoughts.
    Thanks in advance.

    • AFAIK he’s talking about arching your back when it’s under heavy loads, like at the top of the deadlift? Can you link me to what you’re referring to?

  • Julie Hawkins

    Mike, I just bought two of your books, TLS and 1 yr Challenge, and super excited to start. I have a question though, I can’t find the Abs Circuit A,B, & C you reference. I found the Calves A, B & C on the web here, but the Abs one…no such luck. I am blonde, so it could be right in front of me and I just don’t see it. 🙂 Please help. Thx!!

  • Denzel Ford Monfiero

    What about ab twists? I saw this one workout where this guy holds a weight and twists his torso around or something like that? Is that good?

  • Jenny Hudson

    Some workouts are so effective but some are not. Look here to lose weight very fast and healthy. http://www.amazingaus.com/exercise-for-losing-weight/

  • Azouri

    Hey mike is there an alternative exercise for air bicycles that work the same muscles I could do?

    • Hanging leg raises that alternate between the left and right sides of your body could work.

  • joycem1234

    Hi Mike! I’m getting ready to start your program for women. (You’re working on a nutrition program for me now.) On the abs circuit, I have a few questions –

    1. Can I incorporate GHD situps, back extensions into the circuit?
    2. I don’t have the equipment for cable crunches or the captains chair. I know that I can do hanging leg raise. Since I can’t extend fully, are hanging knee raises ok?
    3. OK to sub barbell rollouts for the ab wheel rollouts?


    • Great!

      1. Sure. You can do GHD instead of weighted ab crunch if you’d like. Back extensions can be included on back day (end of workout IMO).

      2. Yup.

      3. Yup. 🙂

      Hope this helps! Let me know how you do on the program!

  • Bogdan Stefan

    I see you have Greg Plitt as an example here for a great all around core.
    Maybe we should say RIP Greg.
    Sadly he died in a horrible train accident.
    His Chanel on YouTube and the way he showed willingness to help should never be forgotten.

    RIP “Superman”!

    • Yup, he had one of the best physiques in the business. Sad/strange way to go.

  • Oziel Ramos Lopez


    Can you please discuss the difference between the cable crunch done on the floor and the seated cable crunch? Which is better or are they the same?

    Best regards,


    • I like the cable crunch the most because it lets you add weigh to the movement while maintaining tight form.

      • Oziel Ramos Lopez

        One is done on the floor on your knees and the other is done seated on a bench. Both the same?

        • I prefer on knees or standing (bent over).

          • Oziel Ramos Lopez

            Thanks again for taking the time to answer my questions. Ya never show
            frustration and always courteous. Don’t know how ya do it. If it were the other way around, I would be like ” hey jackass just do cable crunches like in the video!!” best regards.

          • Welcome! Haha happy to help. 🙂

  • Becky Ramsay

    Could you recommend any other ab exercises I could use in circuits? Was wondering which were the top three exercise for each part of the six pack:

    • Planks and reverse crunches are decent.

      • Becky Ramsay

        What about the top three for upper abs, top three for lower abs and top three for obliques?

        • Becky Ramsay

          Sorry to be a pain.

        • What’s in this article plus planks and reverse crunches will be all you need…

          • Becky Ramsay

            Sorry to be a pain. You must be sick of idiots like me. I was hoping to build an oblique ab circuit, lower ab circuit and upper ab circuit. All separate. What would you recommend?

          • Haha you’re not an idiot. That’s not how it really works. Any exercise that trains any part of your core WILL train the others to one degree or another…

          • Becky Ramsay

            Ok. But are there three exercises which focus particularly on each section of the abs which I could use?
            3 x oblique focused,
            3 x upper focused,
            3 x lower focused.

          • Becky Ramsay

            Sorry if it’s a stupid question… Just really need more decent exercises to put in my circuits. 3 x oblique focused, 3 x upper focused, 3 x lower focused. Hate to bother/annoy you… 🙈

  • SD Trance

    Mike, What do you think about static ab flexing (in addition to circuit training)? I tighten my abs continuously when sitting for longer periods, up to an hour or so.

    • You know I’ve never tried it. FWIW Ronnie Coleman said he used to do it, haha.

  • Alex

    Hi Mike, is 5 sets of ab pull downs twice or three times a week enough do you think? I often find my self tired by the time I finish with my other workouts and skip abs…:(( any advice, I know you mentioned getting abs in between sets but sometimes my gym is too crowded.

    • Hey Alex! Hitting abs 2-3 times a week is totally fine, but I recommend following a circuit routine like the one I lay out in this article.

  • Ysmaelin Arias

    Hi Mike so i have a really important question. im so confused. If i m doing weighted exercises, or any of those abdominal machines they have at the gym, how much weight should i do/put to burn belly fat..??? i have reduced my lower belly, but still i have a bit of chunk of fat in my mid sec.

  • Phillip

    A few questions:)

    1-Do you think captains chair is better with the back rest or without it. If I use the back rest I can support a dumbbell with good form but if I don’t use the back rest using a dumbbell is nearly impossible!
    2-do you recommend trying to work toward the ab roller from standing position instead of knees?
    3-If I work abs 3 days/week, should I do 3 circuits/day and try to work toawrds 4?(I do it all together at the end of my lifting session)


    • I like the back rest personally.

      Yes that’s something to work toward.

      IMO 9 circuits per week is plenty…

  • Phillip

    Hey mike! Great material! Just. Quick question,

    When doing leg raises, would you reccomend trying to work towards dragon fly leg raises?

    Thanks a million!

    • Dragon Flags are TOUGH but yes, it’s something you could work toward.

  • Nishu Singh

    Hi Mike
    Great article. Thanks !
    I have lower back pain when doing ab worksouts such as bicycle crunch, russian twist, planks, etc. my form is correct. Then what am I doing wrong? Is my lower back not strong? I have no problems with my lower back when doing squats or deadlifts. Its only during ab workouts. Any idea? Thanks

    • Hm it could be form but is it pain or fatigue/soreness?

      • Nishu Singh

        Just pain. Most of the time, i have to stop the workout not from ab burn but more from lower back pain 😪 I have checked my form mulitiple times, i know its correct.

        • Okay. It sounds like we need to do other exercises, then. Do hanging leg raises hurt your back?

          • Nishu Singh

            Not when Ido leg raises. Its only sitting/ laying down ab exercises.

          • Ah okay. That’s good. Can you do the cable crunches then? How about the ab wheel rollout? If you can do those 3 exercises, you can do a circuit with them and that’d be great.

          • Hi Mike, this is the best approximation my gym has for an ab roller. (Their actual ab roller is in the personal trainers’ section). Is this a decent tool? If not, all hope is not lost: I can just grab one from a fitness store and put it in my bag for ab days.

          • Interesting. I’ve never tried something like that. If I were you I’d probably just get my own roller and bring it in. They’re cheap.

          • Will do. Thanks Mike!

          • Cool! YW.

          • So I ordered my ab roller and it’s on its way! In the meantime, not sure if this works as well, but I just grabbed a (non-EZ Curl) barbell and used that as an ab roller. Seemed like a decent interim solution.

          • Yep. Same idea.

          • Snagged one! I always felt like an idiot using these because I never knew if I was doing it properly (could never get a single graceful rep done :P) but it’s time I got to learning how to use it properly.

          • Nice!

          • That looks funky. I’d just bring my own roller…

  • If I do captain’s chair leg raises with my legs straight out until I can’t anymore, should I continue doing them, but an easier version, i.e. with my knees bent? Because often, when I’m doing them immediately after a weighted ab exercise, I can only manage to do a few with perfect form.

  • Imran

    If I read it correctly, according to this article, we should do 6-9 ab circuits per workout 2-3 times per week, but in your BLS book it says we should do 3 ab circuits per workout 2-3 times per week. What is the right amount of ab circuits?

    • Oops I’m going to update this article to reflect BLS. You don’t need to train them as frequently as I originally stated here.

  • Alexander Mitov

    Hey Mike,
    I’m surprised you haven’t included vacuums in the workout for the TVA as they really help for flattening your stomach and are so easy to do.

    • You know I’ve never done them regularly so I didn’t include them because I don’t have much personal experience with them.

  • Jim Bell


    Thanks putting all this together; I’ve been having great results following your recommendations. I have a question about ab training. For the other major muscles, you generally recommend a progressive overload approach that consists of low rep, heavy weight, with enough rest to fully recover in between sets. Conversely, for abs you recommend circuits, including unweighted supersets. Why should abs be any different that chest or back? Why wouldn’t I I get the best results by attempting to attain maximum weight reps with abs like the other muscles by performing sets with low reps, heavy weight, lots of rest in between sets (without supersets) with increasing progressive overload over time?

    • Awesome Jim! Glad to hear it.

      Mainly because you can’t do heavy lifting for your abs without increasing the risk of injury to your lower back.

      And quite frankly you don’t need to be as intense with your abs because the amount of muscle growth needed to achieve the look we want isn’t nearly as significant as the major muscle groups.

  • Mick Brenan

    Great article, was loving it until I got to the part were you put a plate onto the cable press, you should not encourage people to do that. If it was ment for that weight it would be on it.

  • Jordan Mrha

    Hey Mike,
    Thank you for your work. Quick question: my TVA, serratus, and obliques definitely outshine my rectus abdominus. Do I just try to focus on catching my rectus abdominus up specifically and avoid exercises that hit the other parts of the core, or will it eventually catch up with the rest of my core if I do a circuit that includes something like air bicycles?

    • Yeah I’d say just work on the rectus and let your heavy compounds maintain the rest of your core.

      • Jordan Mrha

        Thank you man! I’m a college freshman who is 6 weeks into BLS. My friends all comment on the difference. Your work has helped so much with my skinny body insecurities (since I’m not nearly as skinny and thanks to you finally started compound lifting) and my friends now all ask me for advice now, and I point all my friends to muscle for life and legion!

        • Welcome! Glad your friends are noticing the results. 🙂

          Thanks a ton for spreading the word about us!

          Definitely keep me posted on your progress and write anytime if you have any questions or run into any difficulties. I’m always happy to help.

  • Julio jones

    Hey mike love ur work as always bra. Just wondering how long did it take for your rectus to start to separate or was it the decrease in body fat or the increase in muscle size. I do a lot of weighted abs stuff but havent achieved the separation in them or is that more from compound deadlifts n squat stuff. Because I did my first semi heavy deadlift and I felt it all in my core it was awesome!!! Anyway thanks for doing what you do man keep up the great work💯🔥

    • Thanks!

      I had a decent core the first time I ever got below 10% body fat so I probably have a bit of genetics on my side, but I saw a noticeable improvement over the course of the next couple of years, due to the amount of heavy compound work and direct abs training I did.

      It sounds like you’re on the right path my man. Just keep it up!

  • Greg Marlow

    Here’s an ab exercises I came up with and found very effective. Basically it’s a push up against a sit up while standing. I start by pressing my hands against my thighs while standing straight. Then I slide my hands down my thighs to the knees while maintaining pressure against the thighs. The exercise is better than the plank because it gives a little curl to the abs. It’s better than the sit up because it doesn’t injure the spine.

    • Thanks for sharing!

    • Eduard Dorian

      Thanks for sharing indeed, I like it a lot 🙂

  • Rodrigo Colareta

    Hey michael, im training 3 days a week, i got 6 % body fat, but my abs arent big… is this workout going to make them pop up? which one is better between captains chair leg raises and hanging leg raises? and should i work abs on lifting days? or rest days along with cardio, thanks

    • Hey hey! Damn. Great job. That’s lean!

      Yep, if you’re that lean, and you’re your core isn’t well defined, it’s just under-developed and this will definitely help build the core muscles.

      Either of the leg raises will work fine. I do my ab work at the end of the my workouts 2-3 times a week, but if you prefer to do them on rest or cardio days, that’s fine too.

      Welcome. Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • Georgia

    Hi Mike

    Do you recommend sticking with the same circuit for i.e. for 12 weeks before switching it up so that you can track progression or do you mix up circuits regularly i.e. from week to week or do different circuits within one workout?

    Thank you!!

    • Good question! I recommend sticking to the same circuit routine to track progress as you said. You can switch it up every 8-12 weeks.

      Welcome! Definitely keep me posted on your progress and write anytime if you have any questions or run into any difficulties. I’m always happy to help.

  • Abby

    Hey mike, great job on the article, but it’s got me curious on how effective traditional ab exercises are. What would just regular sit-ups/crunches target? Would they be worth doing or should I just focus on those other ab exercises?

    • Thanks, Abby! You can still get some results with them but for best results, I’d stick to these. 🙂

  • Arafat Sultan

    Great article man! Bravo! What about this circuit: 1 set of standing cable crunch 10-12 rep (for abdominis), 1 set of Flat Bench Lying Leg Raise to failure and 1 set of Dumbbell Side Bend (for obliques)? Actually I want to include Flat Bench Lying Leg Raise and Dumbbell Side Bend into my circuit. Thanks!

    • Sure, that works. Instead of side bends (they’re worthless), try: the cable crunch with twists or air bike instead.

      • Arafat Sultan

        Thanks Roger for your nice reply 🙂

        • Arafat Sultan

          Another query please, are you suggesting standing cable crunch even if someone has a recent history of backpain? I had backpain, but it is in recent history now with BLS and some mobility exercise 🙂 .


  • Teefsh

    Hey can you do an Ultimate core workout segment? I would really love to get a hang of those crazy poses you see all the girls doing.

    • What do you mean exactly?

      • Teefsh

        A workout segment targeted at training the core stabilizing muscles that is. And by crazy poses I mean things like pole dancers and people who do things like the flag pole. I would imagine that it requires a lot of core strength. I understand that that kinda thing is the extreme.

        • Ah okay. Honestly I myself don’t do much more than I lay out in this article.

  • Akash Sharma

    Hey mike thanks for the workout plan and tips, are these exercises more than enough or should I include the other exercises also in my routine.

    • NP Akash! These are a great foundation and will serve you well to get results.

      • Akash Sharma

        Thanks for the reply mike really appreciate it,one more thing to ask that if the cable crunch and the ab cruncher machine put the same effect on abs or they work differently and which one should I prefer.

      • Akash Sharma

        Hey mike,i have been going to gym for about 2 months now and my trainer says start taking protein ,can you please guide what am I looking for here and what should I take and can you also suggest which one should I take.

  • Tye

    Hey Mike great article. Apologies in advance if this question has been asked before.

    Air bicycle is putting too much pressure on my neck, can u recommend an exercise as an alternative? Thanks

  • I’ve been following the Year One Challenge this past year, and have been doing three calves routines (A, B, C) and two ab routines per week (cable crunch, hanging leg raises, and incline situps). You outline 2-3 ab workouts per week.

    With that in mind, would it be crazy stupid of me to alternate the frequencies of my calve routines and ab routines? What I mean is, say, week 1 I do three calve routines and two ab routines. Week 2, I do two calve routines and three ab routines. I then continue alternating frequencies from there. In other words, is it a smart move to cut out a calve routine every second week in favour of adding an ab routine, or will my calf development suffer? If it’s okay, what calve routine (rep range) should get the heave-ho: A, B, or C?

    And is there a more effective ab routine, i.e. I’m getting the feeling I should swap out the incline situps for the ab roller or air bike. (I suck at the air bike. I look like a turtle on its back trying to flip back over. Please tell me it gets better with practice. :p)

    • Cool you’ve been rolling on the 1YC!

      Yep, that’s totally fine if you want to do that. I’d stick calf workouts A and B. You can drop C on the weeks you do calves twice.

      Sure, the ab roller or air bicycle are both good options. And yeah, you’ll get better with practice, haha. A lot of people find it awkward at first. 🙂

  • Carl

    HI Mike.

    Another great article. Particularly love doing the weighted crunch. My question is about cutting. I am not 162lbs with 15% body fat. Two weeks ago when I started I was 168lbs and 165 body fat. I have calculated it with help from RogerT at 202g Protein, 177g of Carbs and 42g of Fat. Am I losing weight too fast? Do I need to up Protein or carbs?

    Thanks Mike

    • Hey Carl, assuming you’re exercising 4-6 hours a week, that’s a solid recommendation! Glad to see you’re seeing results already.

      • Carl

        Hi Mike. Thanks. Yes. 5 days a week of heavy lifting. I haven’t incorporated HIIT training in yet as I seem to be dropping weight quite quickly. I was considering upping my protein intake and lowering my carbs and fat. Protein to 226g, carbs to 162g and fat to 32g. Would you recommend those numbers or the original numbers?

        • I wouldn’t recommend it. This drops your fat to only 15% of your total cals. At minimum, keep it 20%, as was originally recommended.

  • Carl


  • Miz Eloise

    hello. skinny fat girl here but with 2 percent less body fat hehe. and all thanks to yoir awesome blog! my questions are:

    1) how detrimental is resting more than 90 sexs per ab circuit is? cause if i squeeze them in between major workouts, i’d be so tired from them and need more tsexs

    2)whats the least bang for your buck ab workout? i do other ab workouts depending on my mood and i wanna make sure tk stay away from them.

  • Miz Eloise

    oh another question sorry i just remembered.

    is it ok for weoghted cable crunch instead of attaching the straight handle bar that i attach rope handles instead and hold it in front of my forehead? the straight handle bar feels awkward. am ibsetting myself back cuse of the different handle used

  • elias

    hi mike
    is it necessary to do abs workout every single day i go to gym or 2 times a week is enough ?

  • Miz Eloise

    hello. is this ok?
    weight training 45 mins
    eat post workout for 45 mins
    do 2 ab circuits.

    i figured by resting and eating before abs ill be able to “recuperate”. is this detrimental

    • There’s really no need to do that. But, you can do it if you’d like.

  • Zak Smith

    Hey Mike,
    I have a problem in that I’ve gotten to the point where I can do 3 full sets on the maximum weight available on cable crunches, which is 235 lbs.

    Would you recommend switching to captain’s chair leg raises or hanging leg raises in order to continue progressing on weight and just cutting out cable crunches entirely?


    • That’s great, Zak! You can increase reps on those or do Weighted Decline Crunches.

  • David Gomez

    Hey Mike, I’m a 19 year old male, weigh 146 with about 15-16% body fat. I’ve been lifting for about a year and a half(without really knowing what I was doing). I recently started the year one challenge. I’ve began with cutting so I can try to get my body fat to 10%. However I’ve noticed I’m losing weight way too fast, lost 6 pounds in 5 days. I’m currrently consuming 29g of fat, 175g protein, and 146g of carbs, I figure I should up my macros so I can stop losing weight so much and not lose as much muscle. How would you recommend I go about upping my macros? Thanks.

  • Great colletion of AB execise.I really need that for my husband.He always use treadmillfor exercise.But, I don’t convice him for AB exrcise.I think now he will understand.

    Thanks for sharing an awesome collection.

  • AugmentedDownThere

    I thought my core was halfway decent until I tried this circuit. Definitely feeling sore after that one!

  • Amol

    Mike of all the websites that I read , the steps regarding how to train abs in this site seem very précised and point to point. So thanks a lot for this treasure, however I read somewhere that for perfect abs this combination is deadly that is ABS workout + intense cardio , Just 2 times in a week . Was just thinking to add your abs circuit + cardio . How does that sound ? Kindly lemme know ?

    • You need two things for great abs: well developed abs, and a low enough body fat %. If you need to lose more fat by increasing your calorie deficit through cardio, then yes the cardio is going to help.

  • Dean Rago

    How do I make sure not to hurt my lower back in the ab pull down?

  • Kay

    Hi Mike, just finished TLS (awesome btw!!) and getting prepared to take my workouts to the next level. I’ve been told I have diastasis recti – I hear different opinions regarding core / ab training that won’t exacerbate the DR. One physio said no crunches EVER AGAIN, minimal plank etc whereas another said no problem as long as I’m strong enough. So…how do I get strong enough to do the ab circuits without causing more damage to the DR? Feeling frustrated… FYI kids are going on 4&6

  • Trou Vang

    What would you recommend as a similar exercise to the squat? My left knee feels very tight with slight pain when I try to squat with just the barbell. Even just doing body weight squats, it still feels somewhat tight. Thanks!

  • Jaden Knaak

    Hey mike im a 15 year old boy and trying to get those abs to pop out but my belly fat that is covering it just won’t leave and I don’t have the money for a gym membership and I need help finding out the best home workouts that kill belly fat and work hard on the abs. Plus how do I find out how much I should be eating like my protein and other sorts intake? And how long a day should I do these exercises?

    • Jaden, don’t worry too much about that adult physique. Eat healthy foods, lift weights, and pack in as much exercise activity as you can.

  • Ethan

    I used to do weighted obliques and I developed a routine of it for about a year. I could move decent weight, but in the end I think my obliques have gotten too big for my rectus abdominis. It might look fine if I get to around 6-7% BF but they look too big at 9-10%. If I stick to unweighted for a while, will they even out with the rest of my body?

  • Kenny

    Hi, I may have missed it but if not, I wanted to know, do I do the circuit only once? Or is it like a 2-3 circuits per day?

    • A good goal to work toward is 3 ab circuits per ab workout (and 2 to 3 workouts per week). As you’ll see, this is tougher than it sounds!

  • Andrew

    Any thoughts on myotactic crunch on where it would/could fit in on the circuit?

  • Sammy Dou

    I’m not sure if I’m progressing well in my ab workouts. During a set, when I do reps to the point my abs are burning very intensely, I can’t help but stop for 3-5 seconds to resume back and complete my set. Am I suppose to be doing reps in a smooth continuous manner until failure for it to count?

    This is what I’ve done this week:
    10/07/17 – 15 reps of captain chair leg raise (with 2kg dumbbell between legs) then 10 reps of decline crunch then 25 reps of air bicycles. Next circuit 9 reps of CCLR (with 1kg dumbbell), 6 reps DC, 15 reps AB. Finally, last circuit is 8 CCLR (1 kg dumbbell), 7 DC, and 13 AB.
    So my numbers can be written as 10/07/17: 15(2kg)x10x25 – 9(1kg)x6x15 – 8(1kg)x7x13
    And 12/07/17: 10(3kg)x12x16 – 6(2kg)x5x17 – 5(2kg)x6x14
    And 14/07/17: 11(3kg)x10x18 – 7(2kg)x6x11 – 6(2kg)x6x13
    (I do abs 3 days a week)

    • Hey Sammy, as long as you’re adding weight/reps over time, you’re doing well. You’ll probably need a bit more than a week to notice the trend.

      Regarding failure, you keep doing reps until form breaks down and you can’t get anymore. You wouldn’t rest during the set/exercise. Make sense?

      • Sammy Dou

        Yep it does. Thanks a lot 🙂 also, what’s the best way to keep in touch with you for further questions, email?

  • Good job.

  • Tori Szala

    Hi Mike! Thanks for the article. I thought it was interesting that you emphasize weighted ab exercises (and frustrating because I’ve been purposely avoiding them (!!)). I’d heard that women should avoid weight on core exercises because it can add bulk and can create a tree trunk effect versus keeping lean and hourglass. Usually I ignore the “women shouldn’t weight train” BS, but it seemed to make sense when referencing abdominals. Can you shed some more light? Will these exercises build up my obliques and make me wider?

  • Ethan

    I used to do weighted oblique exercises, but they ended up bulking my obliques up to the point where they’re way too big for the rest of my body. I haven’t done any kind of oblique exercises in about 5 months, but there’s no change. Any ideas?

    • I’d just focus on developing your rectus abdominis with cable crunches and the captain’s chair, and it should improve over time.

  • Nevil

    When you referred to the Cable Crunch, you also referred to the sides. So whilst working on a set, do I include the sides as well to call it a set? i.e. You can use it to hit the obliques as well by doing twisting reps where you touch your right elbow to your left knee, following by a regular straight rep, followed by one where your left elbow touches your right knee, back to the middle, Is this just 1 REP? working all the sides?

    • You can count that as 1 rep, but in that case, I’d lower the reps per set so that you’re not doing 30 total straight/twisting crunches each set. You can also just do straight crunches, and save the twisting for your air bike failure sets.

      • Nevil

        Thanks Mike.

  • Hi Mike!

    I’ve been finding it difficult to complete the ab circuits, because my gym is always packed and the equipment is literally across the building from each other.

    So I’ve been completing 3 sets of cable crunches with 1 minute of rest in-between sets, followed by 3 circuits of captains chairs and air bicycles to failure.

    Is this okay, or do you have any feedback on how else I should workout my abs?

    • That seems like a good plan and should work just fine 🙂

  • Stephen Anderson

    Hi Mike.
    I just started back in the gym a few months ago. My BF in a body composition test had me at 59.5 kg (plus 35 kg of muscle out of approximately 121kg total weight). I’m thinking working specifically on my abs is a waste of time until I drop some body fat. At what stage would you advise training the abs?

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