Developing abs is difficult. However, it's not complicated. There's a huge difference.

There are really only two questions to be answered: First, how do you develop thick abs? Second, once you have thick abs, how can you get those suckers to actually show themselves?

To answer the first question, you need to do loaded ab workouts. No, we don't mean downing a few Jägerbombs instead of your pre-workout shake. We mean using resistance with ab training, just like you do with your other body-part exercises.

As far as resistance goes, gravity ain't enough, I'm afraid.

To answer the second question, you need to reduce the amount of body fat covering your abs. This you do through cardio and a healthy diet. See, it wasn't so hard now was it?

Resistance: Anything But Futile

When you train your chest, your back, your arms, your legs, and everything else, for that matter, you use weights to properly develop the muscle targeted, I'm guessing. But when it comes to abs, many people ditch the weights and go crazy doing countless numbers of crunches and the like.

Start doing loaded abdominal work. You'll feel a dramatic difference in the stimulus, I promise you that.

Serious About Getting a Six-Pack?
Serious About Getting a Six-Pack?
Check out our complete guide to getting a ripped midsection!

Diet: The Missing Link

You'll need to put some real thought and work into your food intake during the next three weeks, but after that, eating clean will become routine.

Well, most days, anyway. An ab friendly diet can come in various forms, but basic rules apply pretty much across the board:

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 a lot 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.

Top 10 Ab Exercises

Without further ado, then, my top 10 exercises, listed in no special order:

1. Russian Twists

Loaded Russian twists, performed for 10 reps per side. Hold a weight 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.

Russian twist

Russian Twist

2. Kettlebell Windmills

The kettlebell windmill is a great compound exercise with some much-needed rotation, just like the Russian twist. Clean-and-press the kettlebell overhead while rotating your wrist.

Bend your hip to one side. Slowly lean until can touch the floor with your free hand. The kettlebell should be held over your head at all times.

Reverse the motion and repeat.

3. Hanging Leg Raises

The hanging leg raise is another great ab exercise. Hanging from a chin-up bar, raise your legs until your legs and torso from a 90-degree angle.

I usually do this exercise with a little twist, rotating my legs side to side. More work, greater reward.

Hanging leg raises

Hanging Leg Raises

4. Gorilla Chin/Crunch

The gorilla chin/crunch is kind of similar to the hanging leg raise but still a bit different--that's why it's another stand-alone exercise. Here, hang from a chin-up bar with an underhand grip.

Bend your knees to a 90-degree angle and pull yourself up while crunching.

Finish the crunch when your nose reaches the same level as the bar.

5. Barbell Ab Rollouts

Next up is the barbell ab rollout, which will work your core. 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.

6. Cable Crunches

The cable crunch is another classic ab move. Kneel below a high pulley that contains a rope attachment. 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.

Cable crunch, ab exercises

Cable Crunches

7. Side Jackknifes

Side jackknifes will leave your midsection (namely, your obliques) sliced and diced, in a good way.

Lying on your right side and keeping your left leg over your right one, place your right hand in a comfortable spot and clasp your left hand behind your head.

Bring your torso and left leg toward each other as you pull with your obliques.

Squeeze for a moment and return to the starting position. Not tough enough? Strap on some ankle weights!

8. The Plank

The plank helps develop overall core strength and stability. Hold yourself up using both elbows in the prone position and hold the position for as long as you possibly can.

Also, incorporate the side plank into your ab routine, which is basically the same as the normal plank, only you lean on one elbow at the time and switch sides to hit both your left and right obliques. Once you've grown accustomed to the exercise, grab a dumbbell to do loaded side planks.

Bring the dumbbell to your hip and then push yourself, along with the dumbbell, up into starting position. Balance the dumbbell on your top hip.

Hold for as long as possible and then switch to the other side. Rinse and repeat.

9. Exercise Ball Pull-In

The exercise ball pull-in is a great exercise that also requires balance. Place your lower shins on top of an exercise ball and stand in push-up position with your hands shoulder width apart.

Pull your knees in toward your chest while keeping your back straight.

Straighten your legs by rolling the ball back to get into starting position.

Exercise ball pull-in

Exercise Ball Pull-In

10. Press Sit-Up

Last but not least comes the press sit-up. Lie down on a bench with a barbell resting on your chest. Position your legs so they are secure on the extension of the abdominal bench. This is the starting position.

While inhaling, tighten your abdominals and glutes. Simultaneously curl your torso as you do when performing a sit-up and press the barbell to an overhead position while exhaling.

Lower your upper body back down to the starting position while bringing the barbell back down to your torso.

So now you have my 10 best ab exercises. Which leaves one important question unanswered: What to do with this information? I suggest combining several of these moves into an abs circuit.

Along with being a major time saver, ab circuits are cardiovascular, which over time will allow you to see those abs being built by these exercises.

Pick five exercises that'll develop all the muscles in the abdominal wall and do 8-to-12 reps of each, one exercise after the other, until the circuit is complete. Then rest and do them all over again.

About the Author

Contributing Writer

Contributing Writer’s authors consist of accredited coaches, doctors, dietitians and athletes across the world.

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