We’re not big fans of the major ab training trend that’s emerged over the past 20 years, and we’re not talking about Bosu balls, although they’re not among our favorites either. It’s the idea that effective ab training can be a walk in the park. This fallacious notion started with self-appointed experts telling us to replace situps with crunches. Then they replaced crunches with planks. What’s next? Not training?

To counter this softcore meme, we’ll posit an old-school mantra that will never go out of style: The harder the exercise, the more effective it is. Take, for example, the Roman chair twist…

The Roman chair was a staple in gyms like the original Gold’s in Venice, where hard work was de rigeuer. As you’ll soon find out, exercises done with the Roman chair aren’t as forgiving as ab exercises done on the floor or a machine. (So if you have lower-back issues, don’t do them.) With nothing to support your upper body, your core needs to be locked at all times, which also means more muscle recruitment in the abs, obliques, and lower back. It’s tough, but if you want killer abs, you need to embrace hard work—not trends. The iron gods will smile upon you.

How to: Roman Chair Twist: 

Use a Roman chair apparatus, glute-ham bench, or back extension bench. Secure the front of your feet under the pad and sit on the bench, holding a weight plate at arm’s length. Brace your abs and lean back so that your core is fully engaged. Twist from side to side.

Old School Ab Workout

Here’s a routine in the spirit of the ab training Arnold and his body- building contemporaries did in the 1970s. Do it right and you’ll build a six-pack faster than you ever could with that As-Seen-on-TV device you picked up at a yard sale last year.

Exercise Sets Reps
Roman Chair Twist 3 8-10 (each side)
Lying Leg Lift As many as needed 50 total*
Sit-Up As many as needed 50 total*

*Perform as many sets as it takes to reach 50 total reps, resting 30 seconds when needed.

Control It: When performing the Roman chair twist, make sure to rotate to the same spot on each side on every rep to avoid injury.