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5 Full-Body Circuits To Carve Out Six-Pack Abs

These five sets of exercises go far beyond your typical ab workout. Learn how to build the abs you want, while strengthening the rest of your body, too!

If you're someone who wants stand-out abs, sure, there's some work you need to do in the kitchen. But, you're also definitely going to want to make good use of metabolic training.

Metabolic training involves intense combinations of traditional strength-based exercises and high-rep programming that will give you a serious cardiovascular challenge. You do the exercises one after another with short rest periods in between, giving you an all-around intense workout that will shed fat, improve your cardio conditioning, and work every muscle in your body in the process.

The workouts below take those benefits one step further by adding more core exercises to add a little growth stimulus to the crucial muscles of the obliques and rectus abdominis. Sure, you engage the core in just about every standing exercise you do. But, in these metabolic workouts, you'll be zeroing in on those moves that emphasize your visible ab muscles.

You get leaner abs through a combination of building up those muscles, and losing body fat so the definition you're building shows through. These workouts will do both in 30 minutes or less, so there's no reason why you shouldn't be able to fit it into your busy day.

1. Killer Crunch Circuit

This circuit is a great option if you're at the beginner to intermediate level, and will work both your strength and endurance at the same time. It's also a great circuit to perform at home, since all you need is a set of dumbbells and an exercise ball.

Perform each exercise in order. Aim for 20 reps of each one before going on to the next. Once all the exercises are finished, rest for 1 minute, then repeat the circuit a second time through. Go for a third time if you're up to it.

Killer Crunch Circuit
Killer Crunch Circuit
Circuit: Perform 1-3 rounds
1
Exercise Ball Crunch Exercise Ball Crunch

Bodyweight Walking Lunge

15-20 reps per leg
Bodyweight Lunge Bodyweight Lunge

Mountain Climber

15-20 reps per side
Mountain Climbers Mountain Climbers
Exercise Ball Pull-In Exercise Ball Pull-In

Single-Leg Deadlift

15-20 reps per leg
Single Leg Deadlift Single Leg Deadlift

Burpee

15-20 reps
Burpee Burpee

Air Bike

15-20 reps per side
Air Bike Air Bike

Lying Leg Raise

15-20 reps, on flat bench or ground
Flat Bench Lying Leg Raise Flat Bench Lying Leg Raise

Bosu Ball Push-Up

15-20 reps, using medicine ball or exercise ball if no BOSU ball is available
Bosu Ball Push-Up Bosu Ball Push-Up


2. One Side at a Time

Sometimes the best way to work the abs is to focus on balance. That might sound counterintuitive, but doing exercises that put your body off balance can dramatically increase overall core recruitment, which can lead to a stronger mid-section. The following workout uses this principle, using stabilization-focused movements that work all the main areas of your body, including your core.

Perform each exercise for the reps indicated. Once each exercise is done, rest for 30 seconds before moving on. Repeat the circuit four times through.

One Side at a Time
One Side at a Time
Circuit: Perform 4 rounds
1

Split Squat

15 reps per leg
Split Squats Split Squats

Single-Leg Deadlift

15 reps per leg
Single Leg Deadlift Single Leg Deadlift
Standing Military Press Standing Military Press
One-Arm Dumbbell Row One-Arm Dumbbell Row

Dumbbell Side Lateral Raise

15 reps, perform on left leg
Side Lateral Raise Side Lateral Raise

Front Raise

15 reps, perform on right leg
Front Dumbbell Raise Front Dumbbell Raise
Barbell Step Ups Barbell Step Ups


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3. Mountain Climber Madness

Mountain climbers are an excellent cardio exercise that will target your abs if you focus on using your core to help drive your feet in toward your body with each step. They're also great for burning calories and for working your upper body, as well.

For this circuit, alternate between mountain climbers and bodyweight-based ab moves to really give your core a workout.

Mountain Climber Madness
Mountain Climber Madness
Circuit: Perform 1 round
1
Mountain Climbers Mountain Climbers

Plank

1 min.
Plank Plank
Mountain Climbers Mountain Climbers

Bosu Ball Push-Up

20 reps, using medicine ball or exercise ball if no BOSU ball is available
Bosu Ball Push-Up Bosu Ball Push-Up
Mountain Climbers Mountain Climbers

Lying Leg Raise

15 reps, on flat bench or ground
Flat Bench Lying Leg Raise Flat Bench Lying Leg Raise
Mountain Climbers Mountain Climbers

Side Bridge

1 min. per side
Side Bridge Side Bridge
Mountain Climbers Mountain Climbers

Air Bike

25 reps per side
Air Bike Air Bike
Mountain Climbers Mountain Climbers
Jackknife Sit-Up Jackknife Sit-Up
Mountain Climbers Mountain Climbers


4. Legs On Fire

Another great way to work your core is to train your legs. Lower body training can be incredibly intense since it works so many large muscle groups at once to burn calories fast. Your core will be engaged in every single lower-body exercise you do while standing.

This lower-body metabolic circuit might be one of the hardest you'll ever face, but rest assured, you're earning results. Move through each triset, doing one exercise after the next. Once all three exercises are completed, rest for two minutes before repeating again two more times.

After each triset is done three times, move on to the next.

Legs On Fire
Legs On Fire
Triset 1: 3 sets, rest 2 min. between sets
1
Barbell Squat Barbell Squat
Bodyweight Squat Bodyweight Squat

Bodyweight Walking Lunge

15 reps per leg
Bodyweight Walking Lunge Bodyweight Walking Lunge

Triset 2: 3 sets, rest 2 min. between sets
2

Lying Leg Curl

15 reps (alt: perform with feet on exercise ball)
Lying Leg Curls Lying Leg Curls
Romanian Deadlift Romanian Deadlift

Reverse Hyperextension

15 reps (alt: hyperextension or ball hyperextension)
Reverse Hyperextension Reverse Hyperextension

Triset 3: 3 sets, rest 2 min. between sets
3
Split Squat with Dumbbells Split Squat with Dumbbells
Barbell Step Ups Barbell Step Ups

Step-up

15 reps, no added weight
Step-up with Knee Raise Step-up with Knee Raise


5. Reps for Time

A final, brutal way you can structure your metabolic circuit is by attempting to reach a number of reps in a given time period. Your mission is to beat each rep level that you accomplished the workout before. By doing so, you help increase your fitness and up the intensity of the workout overall.

Perform each of these exercises for one minute. Count your reps and track them in a journal. This workout lasts only 10 minutes, but it should be a very intense 10 minutes. If you need to rest to maintain good form during each exercise, do so. As you become more advanced, you can try to perform two rounds instead of one.

Between sets, rest only as long as necessary to set up the next exercise.

Note that for any weighted exercise, you should be using a low amount of weight. Try using around 40-50 percent of the weight you usually use for your 5-rep sets.

Reps for Time
Reps for Time
Circuit: 1-2 rounds
1

Barbell Squat

max reps in 1 min.
Barbell Squat Barbell Squat

Barbell Bench Press

max reps in 1 min.
Barbell Bench Press - Medium Grip Barbell Bench Press - Medium Grip

Dumbbell Walking Lunge

max reps in 1 min.
Dumbbell Lunges Dumbbell Lunges

Bent-Over Barbell Row

max reps in 1 min.
Bent Over Barbell Row Bent Over Barbell Row

Hanging Leg Raise

max reps in 1 min.
Hanging Leg Raise Hanging Leg Raise

Push-up

max reps in 1 min.
Pushups Pushups

Plie Dumbbell Squat

max reps in 1 min.
Plie Dumbbell Squat Plie Dumbbell Squat

Plank

1 min.
Plank Plank

Arnold Dumbbell Press

max reps in 1 min.
Arnold Dumbbell Press Arnold Dumbbell Press

Decline Oblique Crunch

max reps in 1 min.
Decline Oblique Crunch Decline Oblique Crunch