If you're craving washboard abs, it's nice to think that all you must do is show up in the gym and beat the hell out of your rectus abdominis muscles. But when it comes to getting six-pack abs, it takes brains as well as brawn. Take a moment and learn from these masters.
Santi Aragon: IFBB Pro, MuscleTech Athlete
The hanging leg raise has been a powerhouse ab exercise for Aragon.
"This one exercise has helped me overcome the fact that my obliques were thicker than my six pack," he says. "By choosing leg raises, I was able to target more of the six-pack muscles and not hit the obliques directly."
Aragon does hanging leg raises every other morning before he does his fasted cardio. This timing keeps it consistent for him and ensures that he won't neglect ab training, like so many people tend to do.
"I'll usually perform 4 sets of 15-25 reps," he notes. "Make sure you feel the squeeze during each rep and every set."
Ryan Kurek: Fitness Model, MuscleTech Athlete
"My greatest weapon in ab development has always been circuit training," says Kurek. "I do sets that last from 20-100 reps per set, really driving the intensity up there."
Moving from one exercise to the next without resting in between, he says, is a fantastic way to ramp up your metabolism and bring your ab muscles to a higher level of fatigue. Kurek's other go-to ab exercises include leg raises, cable crunches, crunches, and lying leg raises.
"Using higher rep ranges has always given me better overall results than doing heavier weighted sets," he notes.
Sometimes, he says, it's about knowing your own body and what it responds to best. Some people find weighted work to be ideal, while others find the opposite.
Abel Albonetti: Fitness Model, MuscleTech Athlete
Abel Albonetti is a fan of the hanging leg raise, too, although he does them with extra weight to add extra resistance to the mix.
"For me, this is one of the hardest ab exercises out there. I'm always working to improve on my weak points, and this move hits the lower half of my abs exceptionally well," he says. "My ongoing goal is to perform weighted hanging leg raises three times per week, performing 4 sets of 15 reps each time."
Albonetti pays special attention to the tempo he follows when he does his weighted leg raises.
"Make sure you do each rep in a slow and controlled manner," he says. "It's very easy to give in to momentum to make the exercise easier. Pay special attention to avoiding this tendency."
Dylan Thomas: Lifestyle Transformation Coach, MuscleTech Athlete
"My favorite ab exercise is cable crunches," says Dylan Thomas.
The great thing about cable work, Thomas says, is that you're able to maintain tension on the working muscles throughout the entire range of motion. Cable crunches are also a great way to provide an overloading stimulus, whether you're doing 10 reps or 40 reps. Greater stress on the muscle means better overall development.
"With bodyweight exercises, you're pretty much limited to whatever you weigh at that moment," he says. "Cable crunches make it easy for me to pick and choose the amount of resistance I want to use on any given set, and that helps me really push it to help get my abs where I want them to be."