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Four Hard ‘Core’ Training Circuits For Six-Pack Abs

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Four Hard ‘Core’ Training Circuits For Six-Pack Abs

Your abs are a stabilizer muscle built for endurance, so it only makes sense to train them that way. In this article I’ll provide an overview of how I prefer to train the core in all types of clients, from beginners to advanced fitness competitors, by detailing the style of training, sets and reps, frequency, favorite exercises, rep cadence and highlight my personal favorite training technique — the abs circuit or giant set.

Related: Intense Core Workout For Six-Pack Abs

Some of the most impressive cores I’ve helped to sculpt have been built with a circuit style of training or what I like to call “giant sets” (a giant set is a group of four or more exercises performed back-to-back in sequence without rest between movements). The key benefit here is that the abs are given very little time to rest and recover so the net stimulus and time under tension on the muscle is significantly enhanced per workout time. When you tailor your training to the structure and function of a muscle, results tend to come much quicker.

Here is a summary of my take on the different training variables when it comes to abdominal training. Once you get this down, planning your own circuit becomes easy.

Sets And Reps

When doing a circuit, I prefer to call one rotation of all exercises one “round”. You would do 3 to 5 rounds per workout and 15 to 50 reps per exercise. For static holds, do a minimum of 30 seconds and no more than 90 seconds to keep things moving along and the intensity up. Training abs with heavier weights and lower reps can lead to a thickening of the waist — never really a good look for any level of fitness.

Rep Cadence

For hypertrophy of the rectus abdominis or “six-pack” look, I’ve always preferred, “explosive with control” and a strong mind-muscle activation engaged throughout (1 second up, 1 to 2 seconds down). I think this is best for stimulating any type of hypertrophy of the abs. I’ll typically have clients slow things down when doing the core tightening workouts and use a more controlled pace (2 seconds up, 1 second contracted position, 2 to 4 seconds down).

Exercises

When planning your workouts, you should make a decision regarding your goals — is it more important for you to see your six-pack muscles or are you more concerned with having a tight, slim waist?  If you chose the six-pack, then you would do more challenging crunching movements and if you chose the tight core goal then you would emphasize those workouts more frequently (samples provided below). I’ve provided some of my favourite six-pack exercises and core tightening exercises below. Take some time to learn the proper technique for each of these exercises before going into your ab circuit.

exercises to get six pack abs

Favourite Six-Pack Ab Exercises:

Hanging leg raises with slings
Weighted cable crunches
Decline board straight leg raises
Stability ball crunches
Stability ball pass
Hanging windshield wipers
Decline board weighted crunch

Favorite Core Tightening Ab Exercises:

Plank
Vacuums
Dragonflies
Ab wheel rollouts
Pallof press
L-sit holds
Broomstick twist

Frequency

I really don’t believe the abs need to be or should be trained every day. Twice per week is plenty if you are doing it right (technique) and with enough intensity (effort). Workouts should take 20 to 30 minutes and be trained with the same level of effort you would give on a challenging leg day.

Read: 10 Surprising Facts About Working Out Twice A Day

The Workouts

Now let’s get into the actual workouts! The ideal ab workout for me would be 4 to 5 different exercises that stimulate various parts of the core through different angles and movement patterns, performed in a circuit with no rest between each exercise and 2-minute rest periods after the circuit. One way to structure the circuit is to move from lower, upper, transverse, overall and isometric hold. Not sure what I mean? I’ve provided some examples below of a beginner and more advanced ab training circuit you can try out.

Sample Beginner Core Tightening Ab Circuit

Three rounds of 12 to 15 reps per exercise
30 seconds max between exercises, 4 minutes between rounds.

  1. Plank – 45 seconds
  2. Ab wheel rollouts from knees
  3. Broomstick twist – 15 reps to each side
  4. Vacuum – 12 reps, holding each 5 seconds each.

Sample Advanced Core Tightening Ab Circuit

Five rounds of 15 to 25 reps per exercise
10 seconds max between exercises, 2 minutes between rounds.

  1. L-sit hold w with kettlebells
  2. Ab wheel rollouts from standing
  3. Dragonfy ab exercise
  4. Broomstick twist with 2 second vacuum on each rep
  5. Plank with rotations to each side — 60 seconds

Advanced Core Tightening Ab Circuit

Sample Beginner Six-Pack Circuit

Three rounds of 12 to 15 reps per exercise
30 seconds max between exercises, 4 minutes between rounds

  1. Lying leg raises on mat
  2. Stability ball or bosu ball crunches
  3. Toe touch crunches
  4. Bicycle crunches — 45 seconds continuous 

Sample Advanced Six-Pack Circuit

Five rounds of 15 to 25 reps per exercise
10 seconds max between exercises, 2 minutes between rounds.

  1. Hanging leg raises with slings
  2. Decline board crunches with med ball
  3. Decline board straight leg raises
  4. Weighted cable crunch
  5. Hanging windshield washers — 10 each side

You’re now on your way to a tighter, more sculpted core with some of my best tips for training the abs. Remember that training abs won’t burn the fat that’s located around your stomach so you can give up on that dream. To reveal your abs, you’ll need to get your diet and cardio right, and then use these workouts to really make them pop and shrink that waistline to be the best it can be.

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