10 Best Stomach Exercises For 6 Pack Abs

Muscular man with 6 pack absTwo things are essential to get a six pack – diet to reduce total body fat and exercise to strengthen and develop the abdominal muscles. However, losing excess fat and getting a six pack is one of the hardest goals to achieve. We have already talked about how to lose weight, so here we shall mostly focus on the exercises that best develop your abdominal muscles.

Remember that there are no specific exercises to lose fat. Spot reduction, or targeting stomach fat, does not work. You may have been brainwashed by infomercials that abs toning devices will melt away your stomach fat and reveal 6 pack abs, but this is all just a clever bit of marketing. The adverts never show the fitness models drenched in sweat, gasping for breath after an intensive workout. The people that demonstrate ab toning devices do not actually use those devices to get the fit body they have, they really are all just fitness models.

The 10 Most Important Abdominal Exercises

As any bodybuilder knows, building muscle requires lifting increasingly more weight (progressive overload). The abdominals follow the same rules as any other muscle. Generally muscle growth (in terms of size, not functional strength) is most successful when lifting 10-12 rep sets. Therefore, maximum weight is not used, but also the weight should not be so light that you can easily perform more than 12 reps per set.

For this abs training routine you will require some free weights (discs and a dumbbell, plus ankle weights) and a bench that can be set at a slight incline. You can see instructional videos for some of these exercises on Abdominal Exercises to Tone and Strengthen Your Stomach. Here are the most important exercises to do to get six pack abs:

1. Bicycle Crunches

Considered by some trainers to be the most important abdominal exercise. Perform crunches with your hands lightly touching your forehead and as you raise your torso, twist so that your leading elbow meets the opposite knee. Alternate each side.

2. Incline Reverse Crunch

We start on the bench, which is set to its first incline position. Put on your ankle weights, lie back and grab the bench behind your head with both hands. Raise you knees so that they are above your waist, and then lift your hips off the bench, towards your head. Do 3 sets of 10 reps.

3. Weighted Crunch

The crunch is the classic stomach exercise. Simply lie back and hold a weight disc to your chest. With your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor, lift your shoulders off, hold, and lower. 3 sets of 10 reps.

4. Weighted Russian Twist

Sit upright on the floor with your legs out in front, but legs slightly bent. Lean back approximately 45 degrees while holding a dumbbell in both hands straight out in front of you. Then twist your torso to the left, keeping your back straight, hold for 2 seconds, then return to face forward. Repeat on the right side. Do 3 sets of 10 reps.

Adding weight should mean that you are working your abs harder, and result in better muscle growth. Do not try building abs with 200 sit-ups every day, do it the proper way with bodybuilders weight training exercises.

5. Hanging Leg Raises

Hanging leg raises target the “lower abs” and are much more effective than laying leg raises, which mostly target the hip flexors. You need good grip strength to perform them as you hang on a high pull up bar and then lift your legs up with knees bent as far as you can.

6. Front Squats

Front squats are performed like a standard back squat, but instead of supporting a barbell across your shoulders you hold a weight tight to your chest. This moves the focus of the squat to the core region, thus creating a good abdominal workout.

7. Kettlebell Swings

Kettlebell swings are a great way to combine muscular endurance exercise with cardio. The dynamic swings increase heart rate while working the glutes, thighs and core. They are useful in developing the core region.

8. Side Bends

The classic dumbbell side bend is often neglected these days. However, it was one of the exercises that Bruce Lee performed to supplement his abs routines. The most important rule in side bends is to ensure that you keep your lower body solid and only move your torso. Also avoid leaning forward or backward. Start in an upright position, inhale as you lower the dumbbell along your thigh, then inhale as you lift.

9. The Plank and 10. Side Plank

The Plank and side plank are static exercises. You support your body on your forearms and toes while keeping your body straight and your abdominals engaged. If you are not feeling a burn in your abs then you are not performing the plank correctly. You can also support your weight on your hands and feet, in a classic press up position. Keep the back straight at all times. If the back starts to sag slightly, this is because you are tiring, so stop. Abdominals must be engaged and if you do not quickly feel your abdominals tiring then you are not doing the plank properly.

The side plank can be performed in either a half or full position. The side plant is performed by supporting the body on just one hand, with the feet close together. The other hand is held up vertically. To perform a half side plank, you support the body on one elbow with the forearm on the ground, with the feet together.

Abdominal Muscles Need Recovery

Remember that like your other muscles, the abdominals require adequate rest to ensure that the muscles recover after the exercise. Do not perform these stomach exercises daily. Arnold Schwarzenegger worked his abs everyday, and Bruce Lee’s abs were also training often. However, we do not all have the same genetic advantages, so do not over train. They also had the advantage of being able to take extra care to optimize their nutrition and rest to prevent overtraining problems.

Fat Reduction Diet

As we have covered diet already in the article “how to start losing weight” we do not need to go into detail here. The number one rule is CUT OUT SUGAR. Sugar is the reason why most people are overweight. Ignore all those people that tell you the problem is too much fat. Saturated fat is unhealthy, it clogs your arteries and leads to coronary heart disease. There is no dispute about that. But did you know that sugar also does this? And excess sugar is converted to fat very quickly.

To make changes as quickly as possible adopt a sugar free diet for 2 weeks. It is extreme, but essential. Sugar is everywhere, especially in “healthy” breakfast cereals, white bread and junk food. Are you planning to eat low fat yogurt? Don’t! Low fat yogurt contains additional sugar to make it taste nice.

The second rule is to eat more protein and more healthy fat. These food groups help build muscle and boost your metabolism. Just make sure you are eating healthy forms in all cases. No processed meats, limit red meat and other forms of saturated fat. It is also important to remember that you need to reduce your total calories as well to help weight loss.

Ultimately to lose fat requires a daily calorie deficit by combining a healthy and balanced diet with regular exercise.

Increase Your Metabolism

There are two ways to increase your metabolism: diet and exercise. The longer you go without eating, the more your metabolism slows down. So to counter this effect, eat more often, but obviously eat less. Many professional athletes eat 6 to 8 times a day, with each meal being a small portion of protein, fat and carbohydrate (low GI diet) in a perfect balance to keep fat content minimal while building muscle tissue.

The other way to increase your metabolism is through exercise. Whenever you exercise you start burning calories quicker. Also as you build more muscle, your metabolism also increases. So exercise is essential.

Exercise Like Your Life Depends On It – Because It Does!

Finally, the exercise component. Exercise is essential, and you need to learn to exercise properly to lose weight in the most efficient way. OK, ab exercises will help you get a six pack in the long run, so do not abandon them. But while you have a layer of fat over your stomach you will never see your abs or reduce that fat by just doing ab exercises.

Several years ago someone came up with the idea of the “fat burning zone” which involves working out at a relatively easy pace for a long time. It turns out that this idea was incorrect. However, fitness machines all over the world are still plagued with this “fat burning zone” scale. You need to workout more intensively to effectively lose weight and get fit.

This does not mean that you have to try to exercise like an athlete though, as this is also not going to be possible. Just push yourself as hard as you can for 30-45 minutes every day. 45 minutes is best as 45 Minutes of Intensive Exercise Raises Metabolism for 14 Hours. In short, if you can do 45 minutes of exercise at a reasonably intensive level (more than just walking or a slow jog) then your body will continue to burn extra energy for 14 hours. This is often called the afterburn effect.

So why do we say that your life depends on it? Well, simply, it does. Excess stomach fat is a sign that visceral fat is building up around your internal organs. This fat actively harms you and leads to heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Being overweight is also fast becoming one of the leading causes of cancer. Fat reduction is not just about aesthetics, it is about your health and longevity. Learn more about the Health Benefits of Losing Weight here.

The Best Forms of Exercise to Burn Fat

So what workouts should you do? There are really no best exercises for burning fat, the key is to work as hard as you can to increase your calorie deficit so that you start breaking down fat stores. These exercises are all good options:

  1. Running
  2. Swimming
  3. Cycling
  4. Walking
  5. Dance workouts
  6. Martial arts
  7. Intensive Interval Training
  8. Compound Weight Training
  9. Full Body Workouts
  10. Plus many more!

Note that burning fat is the first step. The key to any exercise session is that you absolutely must work yourself hard. You should be sweating well and also panting during the intense intervals. If you are not, then you are simply not working yourself hard enough.

Many of the old school approaches to exercise are very effective, especially the circuit training exercises and compound weight training sessions. This is why military style boot camps and martial arts classes are so good at helping people get fit and lose weight – they use tried and tested methods that strengthen the body, improve muscular endurance and cardiovascular fitness.

However, as good as a particular method of exercise or a new diet designed to aid weight loss is, the real ingredient that is required for success is you. You need to want it, and you need to work hard to get it.

The Science of Burning Fat and Building Muscle

Effect of a 1-Week Diet and Exercise Program on Weight and Limb Girth, by Jerrold S. Petrofsky et al – The Journal of Applied Research • Vol. 4, No. 2, 2004.

This research paper confirms that daily exercise will reduce stomach fat effectively, when combined with a diet plan, and therefore eventually reveal a 6 pack.

Comparison Between an Abdominal Curl with Timed Curls on a Portable Abdominal Machine by Petrofsky et alThe Journal of Applied Research Vol. 3, No. 4, Fall 2003

This paper concluded that abdominal exercise equipment can help increase muscle gain by encouraging subjects to exercise harder – “subjects are forced to work hard with this machine as they fatigue whereas with crunches, as fatigue approaches, people work faster and at less of an angle of flexion

Core Strength Training by Skip Allen et al, Sports Science Exchange Roundtable 47, VOLUME 13 (2002) NUMBER 1

“Keys to successful core strengthening programs include selecting sport-specific
exercises that overload both anterior and posterior muscles of the trunk and pelvis
and emphasize repeated explosive movement”.

296 Comments on “10 Best Stomach Exercises For 6 Pack Abs”

  1. Hello Sir,

    First of all, I dont have words to express how much I want to thank you :)
    My Problem isn’t about belly Fat,I have a flat Stomach, But I have tried Cardio workout, and so many abs excersices with no Result, Just a Strong Stomach not more than that.. My Stomach get stronger, But No Abs appears, Is it my Body nature ?? :(

    Best Regards,
    Mohamed ElNaggar

  2. MotleyHealth says:

    Hi Mohamed, losing all the fat that covers your stomach is really hard. Athletes manage it because they do a lot of exercise, vary their workouts and eat really healthy. Same rules apply to everyone though, athletes, teenagers, celebrities and you. Start performing a combination of weight training, bodyweight exercises and interval sprints. Try this routine every other day for a week, and do the normal cardio on the other days:

    After a warm-up (skipping, 5 minutes gentle jogging), run 400 meters, then 10 burpees, 5 pull-ups, 15 sit-ups. Repeat 4 times. Should take around 20 minutes. This will get your body burning more fat.

  3. Many Thanks for ur great advice, Good luck in every thing you want to acheive :)

  4. Aryan Gaikwad says:

    Are they suitable for a 12 year old. If not then what diet should I follow with right form of exercises?

  5. MotleyHealth says:

    Hi Aryan, speak with your PE / gym teacher at school, they can guide you best.

  6. respected sir,

    my age is 19 and my height is 5.6 and i want to increase my height upto 5.9 or5.10 ..so plz suggest me the exercise and diet to increase my height

  7. MotleyHealth says:

    Hi Sasi, sorry, but this is not possible. You cannot force your body to grow taller.

  8. What was the maximum age for the males to grow ?

  9. m 22 and my belly fat is very embarassing for me. I had gained this because of my bad eating habits and tiring schedule.. i work for 12 hrs a day and so didnt get time for exercise. please give me some effective tips to reduce my tummy…

  10. MotleyHealth says:

    It varies really Sasi, men tend to stop growing between the late teenage years and early 20’s. The main driver of how tall you are is your genetics. A healthy diet and exercise will help you to reach your genetic potential, but nothing will magically make you taller. Getting plenty of sleep is important too. If anyone sells a product that claims to make you taller, it is a scam. Do not buy it.

  11. MotleyHealth says:

    Hi Natasha, you need to stop the bad eating habits – eat 3 small meals a day, no snacks. Make time to exercise – everyone has time. Most important is to be more active in general and control the diet though.

  12. I am 44yrs, 173lb, 5’9. I too have lower belly stubborn fat and side fat. I am lean and well defined on my entire upper body and lower body. I am an old body builder mentality type of person when it comes to workkouts. Having family history of heart disease I take my nutrition seriously. I work out with weights 4x/wk, 120min cardio/wk, core training & ab exercise/3wk. What i can’t overcome is the last layer of belly fat i have. Sugar intake eliminated, processed foods eliminated, white carbs eliminated, hydrogenated oils eliminated, fruits/veggies up, lean protiens up, increase in healthy fats (such as avacado, almonds, olive oil), Whey protein shake 2 servings/daily and water consumption at 100oz/daily. Its really frustrating having a ripped body except in my mid section. What the heck am I missing?

  13. MotleyHealth says:

    Hi Dean, a tricky one. It is possible that you need to restrict calories much further to lose the fat on your stomach. This may not be something that is sustainable though. More cardio may help too, maybe some intensive interval training to encourage additional fat burning (increasing those metabolic pathways).

  14. Hi,
    I am 35yrs old with 1 child.
    I trained boxing nearly for a year and a half,which helped me to lose 7kg in two months without making any hard diet.While i really loved boxing,i am wondering if this sport can make my torso larger than what is already.It is ok to tune and to lose the fat on my back but i don’t want bigger torso.
    My second question is : When i went to a dietitian she told me that i can not lose more than 8kg otherwise i will lose muscle.
    Now,i still need to lose another one kilo but i feel like i need to lose more because of my belly and stomach doesnt seem flat enough meanwhile i dont want to lose muscle either.What am i suppose to do?

  15. MotleyHealth says:

    Hi Essie, if you are still training those muscles and eating a healthy diet with plenty of protein your muscles will not waste away. As for boxing training and developing a larger torso, you will get a bigger upper body as boxing exercises the back, shoulders and arms. A lot of the training is focused on developing these areas. However, it is unlikely you will bulk up a huge amount, and if you are still carrying a little extra fat then this will make a bigger difference anyway. What are your measurements at the moment? Is your waist a healthy size already?

  16. i had gained too much waith with in 2 3 months coz i am suffering from typhoid,, my tummy especially has increased much,, doctors suggest me not to excercise as my health is not well,, i feel hungry too much,, plz help me

  17. MotleyHealth says:

    Anjali, listen to the advice of your doctors. Concern yourself with recovering from typhoid before anything else.

  18. Juan Carlos says:

    Hi, So i have fast metabolism and it’s hard for me to gain weigh. What kind of protein shakes, should i take? I’m also a swimmer, but i want to gain muscle, since I’m a very skinny guy. I’m 5’9’1/2″ feet tall and i weigh 145Lb. What should i do? It’ll be nice if my chest get bigger lol.

    Thanks, JC

  19. MotleyHealth says:

    Juan, eat more food – more healthy carbohydrates, more lean proteins. Take a whey shake after your weight training workouts.

  20. Travis L. says:

    hi i am 16 im starting out doing intesive workouts should i do cardio one day then weights the next to give my muscles a chance to rest? and does supplement drinks like six star nutrition help or any of the powder stuff? and what are some good lean protien sources to eat. Thanks…

  21. MotleyHealth says:

    Hi Travis. Yep, alternating cardio and weight training is a good way to go. Here is some info on lean protein sources. Powders are good too, just be careful to monitor how much extra energy you may be consuming. If you are exercising hard it should not be a problem though.

  22. i have a normal body , and i am working in office
    you know 99% of time am staying in front of my pc
    and my belly fat is keep growing , i need to remove it
    what is the best and quick way to do it please please help me
    i am 25 years old and 5.3 hight 62 kg weight

  23. MotleyHealth says:

    Hi Shamseer, exercise everyday and stop eating junk food. 3 meals a day, keep them small and healthy.

  24. Hi!

    Ive decided i need to lose a little weight and tone up. Im 26, 5 ft 4 inch and weigh around 11 stone.

    What would be the best sort of exercises to do as ive had 3 children by c section… last one 3 years ago… and want to lose weight and get rid of some of my tummy flab. I start my diet Monday, and already have an exercise bike to help with fitness. Can you point me in the right direction please?

  25. MotleyHealth says:

    Hi Sarah, if you are planning to exercise at home, then start with 30 minutes on the exercise bike and then do our 20 minute circuit afterwards, which will help to strengthen your muscles (and burn more calories).

  26. Thanks…thts brill!

    With the circuit can i just take my time and work up to doing the full 20 mins?
    Im an asthmatic and the last exercise class i did didnt end well so i just wanna build myself up and take my time until my body and health can handle the full workout.

    The advice is so much appreciated!

  27. MotleyHealth says:

    Yes, always work at your own pace, but always try to increase your fitness.

  28. Hi
    i am 26 male, my waight is 80KG and i want to lose like 7KG, i have belly fat, my waist is 40inch i need to reduce it less than 35inch. I was in trying this for the past 4years but it is like i am just maintaining my condition no change at all. So can PLZ you give me advice, i do swim and go jogging during the weekends. PlZ HeLP

  29. MotleyHealth says:

    Hi Ali, start by exercising every day, just exercising at weekends is not enough. You also need to change your diet, you are obviously eating too much food throughout the week. You should be able to lose 7 kg in 14 weeks on a healthy (but low calorie) diet and daily exercise regime.

  30. Thank you so much for your advice, but I do exercise almost every day, I swim during the weekdays and jog during the weekends but I am feeling like I am not losing any thing no change at all, and I of course I do it less but what how much less should I eat ? Do u mean it will take me to lose 7kg within 14weeks?
    Thanks again for your advice.

  31. MotleyHealth says:

    Hi Ali, if you are overweight, doing a lot of exercise and not losing weight, then you are certainly eating too much. How much should you eat? To lose 1/2 kg a week you need to have a daily calorie deficit of about 500 Calories (3500 Calories a week). If you go over this it is unlikely you will lose fat. Counting calories does work, but it is easy to miscalculate. Better to follow a simple meal plan. You will be surprised at how little you really need. Take a look at the simple meal plans here. This is an area we may expand on, as so many people ask.

    The best way to really lose weight is to keep a diary of all you eat and all your exercise. Omit nothing. Then measure your weight and waist circumference weekly. If you do not lose weight, look at your diary and highlight snacks, refined carbs etc. and eliminate these. Some as simple as halving the portion of rice with a meal and stopping soda and snacks in between meals may make the difference.

  32. thank you so much for your beneficial advice i will start doing what you said, and i hope it will work. once again thanks

  33. hi
    I am 63 yrs old. my wt is 64 kg. I am doing 45 mints workout including dumbbell exercises. but I am unable to reduce belly fat. another thing is that I get tired after 3 to 4 hours. I drink water in between exercise. please advice ! any wrong doing? have a nice day!

  34. MotleyHealth says:

    Hi Chandish, what are you eating? And when? Do you mean you are getting tired 3-4 hours after exercising, or after waking up?

  35. I wake up at 8 am .after tea at 9 am i do workout for 45 mints. then i eat one boiled egg two slice of bread ,3 dates ,and about 25 grams nuts. i took about 1 teaspoon of honey with water in between exerciser. after 3 to 4 hours of work out i get tired. i took lunch after 5 hours of workout. please advice about my tiredness.thanks.

  36. MotleyHealth says:

    How much sleep are you getting Chandish? What are you doing after working out?

  37. i had a disturbed sleep for 6 hours. i just do little light work after workout.i drink lot of water. now i have started daily walking for 15 mints in the evening.had i have a vitamin deficiency ? or excess work out as compare to age ? or diet problem? .pl guide me. Thanks a lot !

  38. MotleyHealth says:

    Hi Chandish, if you are concerned about tiredness and possible nutritional deficiencies, you should speak to a doctor. 15 minutes of walking is not going to cause over training problems at any age. One option is to have some breakfast before you exercise. Something easy to digest such as a banana is a good idea.

  39. thanks a lot !let u know in future.bye!

  40. Hi am trainer from India I need some support and guideline for me and latest updates so can u guide brother
    Fitness trainer
    Fitness one group India ltd

  41. miriam chimoyo says:

    My weight is too much and l am having problems with the exercises. Please assist starting with the easiest. Walking is now a problem esp my back and legs are a problem.

  42. MotleyHealth says:

    Hi Miriam, if walking is a problem then I strongly suggest that you seek a personal trainer who has experience in helping people with back problems. We cannot really give you specific exercises to do if you are not able to walk comfortably.

  43. hi.. i am a teenager. i want to exercise for 6 packs abs.i am 17 years old and my height is 5’7.will exercising stops my growth of height. what you suggest, i should exercise or not. i want a good height.

  44. MotleyHealth says:

    Hi Kase, exercise will not stop you growing. Exercise is good, it will make your body stronger.

  45. good site, but I am looking for week plan to follow exactly
    if there are any please suggest
    height 172 cm
    belly 40 inch
    weight 90 kg
    specifically want to lose around belly . please provide some plan

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