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If you’re one of those guys who don’t want to spend ample time carving out your abs, then you’ve come to the right place.
The Straight Up workout in our August 2013 issue, which focused primarily on the lower abs, was highly effective but also somewhat time-consuming, with 15 total sets. In the newer Level Up installment, we’re giving you a seven-set routine that touches on all major areas of the midsection—lower abs, obliques, and upper abs, as well as the deep inner core muscles. The meat of the workout is a tri-set incorporating hanging leg raises (lower abs), side planks (obliques and deep core), and Rocky Balboa–style weighted situps on a decline bench.
You’ll finish things off with an accumulated minute of L-sit holds that’s more challenging than it looks on paper. But, hey, we said the workout would be brief, not easy.
The basic side plank focuses on lateral core stability through isometric holds. You can perform the exercise either with your downside forearm on the floor or the arm extended. For an added challenge, raise your free arm toward the sky.
All four exercises in the Straight Up workout targeted the lower abs; this is one of two exercises that do the same in the Level Up routine. On each rep, touch your feet to the bar at the top, using momentum from the bottom of the rep to help achieve a longer range of motion.
This isometric hold targets the lower abs (though you’ll also feel the triceps working). Maintain balance by keeping your hips behind your hands. If the straight-leg version is too difficult, do it with bent knees. To make the exercise harder, do your L-sits on the floor.
You’ll be targeting your upper abs here against additional resistance. But keep that resistance light, starting with a 10-pound weight plate, dumbbell, or medicine ball before gradually increasing in 5-pound increments.