The recipe for six-pack abs isn’t all that complicated: Crank out an abs workout, eat a nutrient-rich diet, and consume fewer late-night pizzas in a single sitting. The undisputed holy grail of men’s fitness is good for more than just an extra boost of confidence whenever you have cause to peel off your shirt, too. Want to do yoga better? Run faster? Squat heavier? Carry the groceries without wincing? It all begins with your core.
But alas, this process doesn’t happen overnight. And by now, the washboard abs industrial complex has produced such a dizzying volume of exercises, tricks, and gizmos promising to transform your midsection into a Hemsworth brother’s midsection that even after you’ve settled on a strategy, it’s hard not to wonder whether all that diligence and discipline is really making a difference.
Good news: Thanks to some of the best trainers in the country, we’re going to help you out. Below are their favorite abs exercises, along with a few pro tips to ensure that you’re executing each one perfectly. Incorporate them à la carte into your existing routine—or, if you’re feeling ambitious, turn all six into an abs workout circuit. Try two sets of each movement, resting for 30 seconds between each set.
Do it: Lying face down on the ground, prop yourself up into a forearm plank position. Make sure your elbows are aligned underneath your shoulders, and that your hands are balled up in fists. Your forearms should be parallel to one another. Hold for 10 to 20 seconds per set.
Do it: Lay face up on the floor with arms straight above your shoulders. To start, bring your knees directly over your hips and bend at the knee so that your calf forms a 90-degree angle with your thigh. Next, simultaneously lower your left arm above your head while straightening your right leg and sending it towards the floor. Pause, return to the starting position, and then repeat on the opposite side. Do 14 alternating reps to complete one set.
Equipment: None. (No excuses.)
Do it: Get into a cannonball-type shape on your back, hugging your knees into your chest—yes, just like you’re at the pool at summer camp again. Simultaneously extend your legs and arms outwards into a “hollow” position, pressing your lower back to the floor. Hold for five seconds before curling up again, and complete five reps for one set.