Pick one exercise and do three sets of 8–10 reps.
Weighted Decline-Bench Crunch
Hanging Leg Raise
Upper + Lower Abs
Weighted Decline-Bench Crunch
Avoid pulling through your thighs as you rise up on the decline bench with the added resistance of a weight plate held across your chest or behind your head.
Keep your arms straight as you roll the wheel on a smooth surface, keeping your body flat. Contract your abs to bring yourself back up.
Pick one exercise and do three sets of 12–15 reps.
Hanging Knee Raise to Side
Upper + Lower Abs
Lower Abs + Obliques
A crunch and reverse-crunch motion done at the same time; don’t pull on your head.
A short range of motion, keep your feet together and legs bent 90 degrees to your body. Push your feet toward the ceiling, lifting your butt off the floor.
Pick one exercise and do three sets of 20+ reps.
Upper Abs + Obliques
This combo move hits the upper abs and obliques.
With your upper body stabilized, bring your knees in to your chest but lock the angle in your knee and hip joints. Get your butt off the floor at the top.
Turning to one side at a time, crunch up in the lateral plane as high as possible without pulling on your head.
The Group D Option
If 9–12 sets of progressively more chaotic abdominal work isn’t enough for you, try adding a D Group to your menu of exercises. These are exercises done for time (rather than reps) that target your abs differently than the moves in the other groups. Planks are isometric (no movement) moves that build strength in your deeper-lying transverse abdominis, which works to hold your abdominal wall tight to your spine. The mountain climber is speedy and dynamic — consider it cardio for your abs — and can help you scorch additional calories while also working your abs in a different way.
Pick one exercise from this group and do it at the end of your abs workout for three sets of 30 seconds. Add 10 seconds each week for a progressively tougher workout.
Upper + Lower Abs, Obliques
Lower Abs, Transverse Abdominis
Maintain a straight spine as you lean your torso back 30–45 degrees. Twist at the core to the left and right.
On your forearms and toes, feel the burn in your abs as you align your legs and torso with your hips raised slightly. Don’t sag.
Keep your hands planted on the floor as you simultaneously alternate leg positions by swinging your back leg forward and the front leg back.
Building Your Multiple-Choice Abs Workout
Frequency: Perform this workout 2–3 times per week on nonconsecutive days. Use dedicated abs-training days, or do the workouts after your normal weight training.
Variety: Choose different moves each time to make variety one of the default traits of your program.
Sets: Choose one exercise from each group. Perform 3–4 straight sets of each move.
Focus: Use a mix of moves to hit the various areas of your abs in each workout, or pick moves that focus on one area for a single, focused abdominal thrashing. If you choose the latter option, simply pick a different abdominal focus for your next workout.
Rest: For Group A, rest 60 seconds between sets. For Group B, rest no more than 45 seconds between sets. For Group C, limit rest to 30 seconds between sets. Rest up to 60 seconds between exercise groups. Perform all sets of one exercise before moving on to the next group.
Control: On each exercise, perform the reps under control to engage the most abdominal muscle possible.
Resistance: If you find you can complete more than the target number of reps on the first set, simply adjust on the next by adding some resistance or slowing down the movement.
This lab-tested strategy could help burn fat directly from your abs. Many experts assert you can’t lose fat preferentially from your abs through training. There is some evidence, however, that spot reduction may not be a myth after all. A 2006 study published in the American Journal of Physiology showed that subjects were actually able to mobilize more fat cells in trained muscle by following high-rep, bodypart-specific training with cardio. Researchers at the University of Copenhagen (Denmark) had male subjects perform single-leg extensions with light weight for 30 minutes straight. They found that the working leg experienced a significant increase in blood flow to and lipolysis (release of fat) from the subcutaneous fat cells. This means that the fat cells surrounding the trained muscle released more fat into the blood, and therefore into the working muscle, to be used as fuel.
Researchers went on to suggest that by following bodypart-specific training with low-to-moderate intensity cardio, the released fat is more likely to be shuttled away to other areas of the body for use, rather than redeposited at the point of release. It’s unclear just how effective this type of training might be, but the study does show that spot reduction is not as mythical as you may have thought.
Try This: On abs day, go through your workout as prescribed to mobilize the fat around your midsection, and then hit the treadmill for a 20–30-minute jog. Or fire up your metabolism with 3–5 minutes of jump-rope exercises.