Five exercises to give you six-pack abs in 30 days – forget the crunches and sit-ups
To help you reduce belly fat and get those washboard abs, mixed martial arts fighter and director of fitness at Hong Kong’s Goji Studios Tricia Yap has five moves that will work the right muscles and strengthen your core
When it comes to getting rippling abdominals, crunches and sit-ups are often the first exercises to come to mind. But that may be the biggest fitness misconception people have.
“You can do crunches all you like. That is not going to get you abs,” says Tricia Yap Li-ping, director of fitness at Goji Studios and a mixed martial arts fighter. “Obliques, transversus abdominis – there are a lot more other muscles that make up your core.”
Yap recommends five better exercises to add to your workout routine that will help you sculpt a toned six-pack. The first is relatively easy, the others progressively more difficult. Each has options to suit people at different fitness levels.
1. Four point plank into Superman (see main photo above)
Put your hands right under your shoulders and your knees under your bottom on the ground. Raise your opposite arm and leg. Extend both limbs in a straight line and hold for as long as you can. Then do the same for the other limbs.
“I would recommend holding each position for 60 seconds. While you’re doing that, think about squeezing your shoulder blades together, squeezing your bum, as well as engaging the core,” says Yap.
“Engaging the core is a little difficult for most people, because sometimes they don’t understand what that means. Think about how you’d brace if somebody were to punch you in the abdominals.”
2. Barbell ab roll-out
Put two plates on either side of a barbell and make sure it can roll like a rolling pin. Sit up with knees on the floor and arms straight, holding the bar. Roll yourself forward until your face is almost touching the floor and roll back in.
“The torso needs to be completely straight the entire time. You don’t want your bum in the air. It’s quite difficult if you don’t know how to brace. That’s why, in the first exercise, you’re learning how to brace and engage your core,” says Yap.
For an easier option, use larger plates so you are not as close to the ground, and it is not necessary to get into a horizontal position, even though it is ideal. For a harder option, use smaller plates or just the barbell.
3. Overhead squat with a plate
Stand with your feet slightly wider apart than your hips. Lock your elbows completely. Bend at the knee and the hip at the same time. Come all the way down, if you can, past parallel and bring yourself up.
“Make sure you know how to do a squat before you put anything over your head. When you’re ready, grab a plate. It can weigh anything from one kilo to 10,” says Yap. Those who are more advanced can replace the plate with a barbell. “People who have tight pecs [chest muscles] might want to loosen up by doing some lats [side] stretches first,” she adds.
4. Garhammer raise
Grab the bar with a neutral or overhand grip. Raise your knees in alignment with your waist so you have a 90-degree bend in your knees. Put your toes together and drive your knees towards your chest, then lower them. Do three sets of 15 reps.
To make it harder, after bringing your knees to your chest, extend your legs, so your torso and your legs are perpendicular, then bring yourself down. For an easier option, hold yourself in the first diamond-shaped position.
“Hanging is a great movement to work your core, improve your shoulder stability and decompress. Many weightlifting movements involve a lot of compression of your spine. When you hang, you decompress that spine,” says Yap.
If you cannot do a chin-up, practise the garhammer raise first and do lats pull-down exercises. If you can’t lift your body weight, jump up or use a box to stand up, hold the bar and slowly lower yourself in a controlled manner. When you succeed, try one single chin-up. On the way down, aim to take 20 seconds for the eccentric [lowering] section.
“Pull your shoulder blades together. Create tension through the lats first. From there, as you pull up, don’t think about pulling your body up into the bar, think about pulling your elbows down into your waist. Bring your chest up to the bar, hold, and slowly lower yourself into a dead hang,” says Yap.
“If you’re able to do plenty of chin-ups in this position, you can always see how much weight you can lift on top of your body weight,” she adds.
As well as doing the right exercises, it is also important to eat healthily and sleep well. “Abs are made in the kitchen,” says Yap. “My recommendation for most people is to eat real food.”
She has one last tip. “A lot of people see fitness as an aesthetic thing – a way to look better. Treat fitness as a way to be injury-free, to live a longer life and a happier one. Because if I can get to 90 years old and I’m mobile and strong, that’s a life well lived.”