When it comes to working out and fitness, the main goal to achieve for a lot of people surprisingly aren't mountain peak biceps, a cobra looking back or a gorilla chest, but instead is a washboard, chiseled six pack. Having a six pack shows the world that you're dedicated to the fitness lifestyle and aren't afraid of hard work. But your abs aren't just for show. As part of your core, the several different abdominal muscles play many important roles and are involved in nearly every exercise. When it comes to developing thick abs, there are really two trains of thought, 1) How do I develop thick abs? and 2) Once I have thick abs, how can I get them to show themselves?
To answer the first question, you need to do loaded work for those abdominals. The abs are just like any other muscle, in order to make them grow you have put them through some serious weight resistance training. When you train your chest, back, arms, and legs, I'm guessing you use weights to properly develop the muscle targeted, right? So do the exact same thing for your abdominals! Don't expect your abs to grow if you just rely on endless bodyweight crunches and leg lifts, you have to challenge yourself and push those muscles beyond their limits.
Now to answer the second question, once you have built those abs, how do you reveal them from under the fat? Well you need to reduce the amount of body fat covering your abs, duh. This you do through cardio and a healthy diet. There is a saying out there, "Abs are made in the kitchen, not in the gym", and that is true. You'll need to put some real thought and work into your food intake and diet just like the amount of attention into your workouts (if not more so), but after that, eating clean will become routine.
Basic Rules For Ab Friendly Diet:
1. Eat smaller healthy meals and snacks 6-to-8 times per day.
2. Focus on a high protein intake.
3. Eat LOTS of vegetables (if you think you already eat a lot, eat more).
4. Never ever miss breakfast or pre- and post-workout meals.
5. Stay away from anything containing sugar.
6. Don't eat carbs in the evening unless you need to reload after a heavy workout.
7. Drink lots of cold water throughout the whole day.
8. Incorporate high-intensity interval training into your cardio regimen.
Now that we have gone through the crucial two requirements you need to achieve that six pack, let's go through the top 5 exercises to get you there!
#1 Weighted Cable Crunches: The weighted cable crunch takes your typical bodyweight crunch to a whole new level. First off, with any cable movement there is constant tension on the muscle you are working, as opposed to free weights where the tension on the muscle is lost at a certain point in the exercise movement. And second, the cable crunch is easy to execute.
How to do Weighted Cable Crunches: Kneel below a high pulley that contains a rope or any other attachment you prefer. Grasp cable rope attachment and lower the rope until your hands are placed next to your face.Flex your hips slightly and allow the weight to hyperextend the lower back. With the hips stationary, flex the waist as you contract the abs so that the elbows travel toward the middle of the thighs.Exhale as you perform this portion of the movement and hold the contraction for a second.Slowly return to the starting position as you inhale.
#2 Hanging Leg Raise: The hanging leg raise is another great ab exercise, putting more emphasis on the lower region of the abdominals, but hitting the entire core nonetheless. You can can hang from a chin up bar or utilize the Dip/Pull-Up station if you have one.
How to do the Leg Raise: Hanging from a chin-up bar, raise your legs until your legs and torso from a 90-degree angle. (Simple as that)
#3 Plank: The plank is a great exercise that can be done anywhere and requires no equipment other than your own body. It helps develop overall core strength and stability. If you are just starting off, start with 3 sets of 30 seconds, once your core gets stronger, up the time you hold the plank. Once you've grown accustomed to the exercise, grab a dumbbell or weight plate and put it on your back to do loaded planks.
How to do the Plank: Hold yourself up using both elbows in the prone position and hold the position for as long as you possibly can. (Simple as that)
#4 Barbell/ Ab Wheel Rollouts: The rollout is another great exercise for the core. You'll need an ab wheel or a barbell for this exercise.
How to do the Barbell/ Ab Wheel Rollouts: Place a barbell, loaded with 5-or-10-pound plates, on the floor in front of you so that you are on your hands and knees (as in a kneeling push-up position).This will be your starting position. Grip the barbell with both hands shoulder width apart.Slowly roll the bar forward, stretching your body into a straight position.After a pause at the stretched position, pull yourself back to the starting position as you breathe out.
#5 Loaded Russian Twists: The Loaded Russian Twist is a great exercise for your obliques and simple to perform.
How to do the Loaded Russian Twist: Hold a weight (kettlebell, medicine ball, weight plate, or dumbbell) with both arms for resistance. Twist your torso to the right side until your arms are parallel with the floor. Move back to the starting position and then move to the opposite side.
So there you have it, the top 5 exercises in my opinion to directly isolate the abs. Your core will be activated anyway with any exercise where you are standing or kneeling (i.e. Military Press, Squats, Deadlifts, etc) but these top 5 will just hit the abs without incorporating any other muscle groups. But remember, you can work out and build the abs up as much, but if your diet isn't on point, they will be hidden under that fat forever. Focus on proper training, diet, and consistency, and you'll have that six pack in no time!