Q. I really want my abs to pop right out of my stomach! What do I need to do in order to get turtle-shell definition like yours?
I love this question! Everybody is looking for the secret to thick muscle bellies. Thin, flat abs are for skinny kids—you want those strong, impressive, bulging abs that will protect you from punches thrown by the jealous boyfriends of beautiful women.
One of the best parts about having thick ab bellies is that they are visible through a higher body fat percentage. If you're a guy and have thick abs, you'll see them at 12-13% body fat; if you're a woman with thick abs, you can see them at 14-16% body fat.
If your abs are small and you're a woman, you won't be able to see them until your body fat is below 12%. A guy with small muscle bellies can't hope to see his abs until his body fat is at 10% or below.
That doesn't mean you can just do a few more ab exercises and hope to see a 6-pack; you still need a proper nutrition program in order for your abs to come out of hibernation. In order to maintain my 3D abs, I do these five movements 2-3 times per week.
I make sure to use a good amount of weight to help build that thick abdominal wall. Give them a try!
1. Kneeling Cable Crunches
To perform this exercise, I typically use a rope on a cable machine and use 70-75% of my maximum weight. I also crunch low enough and at an angle so that my head almost touches my knees.
I perform each rep slowly to feel my abdominal muscles contracting. Make sure your abs are doing the work and not your arms or lower back. If the weight is too heavy, you'll compensate using other muscles.
5 sets of 30 reps, or to failure.
2. Mason Twists
This exercise really works the obliques! Keep your knees bent. Your heels should be 4-5 inches off the ground. Some people execute this exercise with nothing in their hands, but I like to use a little bit of weight, so I use a basketball.
Twist left and right until you touch the floor 30 times. Twisting left and right counts as one rep.
5 sets of 30 reps or to failure.
3. High Knees
In a nutshell, you're going to run in place. Drive your knees to your chest, one leg at a time, and make sure your arms are constantly moving in a 90-degree angle (almost like your hand is picking something from your pocket).
Do this movement at a medium pace, or 50% speed. It's a great cardio and abdominal workout!
5 sets of 30 seconds.
4. Short Sprints
Sprints are a great abs exercise: Every time you lift your leg in the air, you work your abs. When you run, your abs have to work at a fast rate.
Consistent sprinting will make your abdominal bellies thicker. I attribute my thick ab bellies to my many years of competitive sprinting.
Five 50-meter sprints.
5. Leg Raise
I typically use a weightlifting belt when I perform this exercise. I also typically hold a dumbbell between my legs. Between the dumbbell and the weightlifting belt, there's enough added weight to make this movement just a little bit harder.
Adding weight helps make your abs thicker, so if your body weight isn't heavy enough, don't hesitate to add pounds.
5 sets of 30 reps or to failure.
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