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Apart from following a diet made up exclusively of pizza and beer, the worst mistake a guy can make when training for abs is refusing to switch things up. Crunches, situps, and planks are all fine, but they’re not the only tools you need to sharpen your midsection. (Surely you’re devastated by the thought of taking a break from planks.)
Your core (the abs and lower-back muscles that work in conjunction with them) is complex. In addition to bending your torso forward, as in a situp, it also straightens and extends your spine—as well as twisting your torso and hips and stabilizing your body. Unless you train all these functions, you won’t develop your core completely.
To help you forge the strongest, most defined core possible, we’ve put together three different circuits of three moves each that work the core from all angles.
You’ll do the exercises without rest in between, which raises your heart rate and accelerates fat loss—after all, you won’t be able to see your abs if they’re covered in fat. Just tack these circuits onto the end of your normal workouts.
Perform one of the three circuits (I, II, and III) at the end of each workout. (Use a different circuit each day.) Complete one set of each exercise in sequence, resting one minute after the last one. Repeat once more. After two weeks, increase the number of circuits: In Week 3, perform three circuits; in Week 4, do four circuits; then do five circuits in Week 5.
Note: Some of these exercises are malleable enough to where you can adjust them depending on difficulty. Therefore, you don’t have to do these the exercises in this workout exactly as outlined here to benefit from them.
Easier: Bend your knees 90 degrees and raise them as high as you can. If that’s still too hard, perform leg raises lying on a slanted bench set to 45 degrees.
Harder: Wear ankle weights or hold a medicine ball between your feet.
Easier: Perform the rollout in front of a wall, so you can roll the wheel against it to shorten the range of motion. As you get stronger, you can move farther back from the wall.
Harder: Perform the rollout with your knees off the floor and legs straight.
Easier: Perform a regular plank with elbows at 90 degrees. The RKC version is used by kettlebell enthusiasts and requires more muscle recruitment. But the old-fashioned yoga plank is fine for strengthening the core in beginners.
Harder: Raise one foot off the floor to challenge your stability. Raise the opposite foot on your next time through the circuit.