I’m here to tell you that you can find your 6 pack and make that dream of toned abs a reality. Take a look at my three simple 6 pack exercises and make time in your busy day to warm up and squeeze in a few repetitions. You’ll achieve results that will make you proud or at least make it easier to fasten that button!
When you think back to your school days, do you remember doing sit-ups where you lay down and then sat all the way up? Well, exercises evolve. The beauty of this is that you can benefit from our improved understanding of the human body to focus your efforts, get visible results faster, and avoid injury.
Research in the fitness industry is constant; there are always new ideas and new methods under development to help improve and maintain the human body. It’s hard to keep up with the latest fitness trends, but I can tell you which exercises are the most effective, the easiest to do correctly and the most fun!
Think of fitness like fashion. In the fashion industry there are some items that seem to always be in fashion, like jeans. But, hang-on, jeans are always changing aren’t they? With a wider or slimmer leg and a different pocket style, you can suddenly date a pair of jeans to a decade if not a specific year. And, just like your favorite pair of jeans, there are some exercises that are simply too good to give up.
What happened to the good old-fashioned ‘sit up’?
A sit-up is an abdominal and hip flexor strengthening exercise that used to be performed by lying down with your back flat on the floor, your arms behind your head and your knees slightly bent. For a long time this was the go-to exercise for a 6 pack. The aim was to sit up until your chest touched your thighs then lower all the way back down to the floor. You may have to think back to gym class where you might have had to perform a sit up test, or think of old army movies where soldiers were sometimes shown doing full “all the way up, all the way down” sit ups in the mud.
Research and common sense eventually taught us that this move puts a lot of un-due stress on your lumbar spine. The risks to your spinal health out-weighed the benefits of this move, but by slightly modifying this old reliable exercise, you get a sit up that is as safe as it is effective.
Suddenly a ‘sit up’ became a ‘crunch’
We may call the modern version of a sit up a crunch, but it is not really a brand new exercise. A crunch is simply that old pair of jeans with a new set of buttons! You can add many variations to the crunch or abandon lying on the floor completely and crunch standing up.
Improve your abs and hip flexors by trying my three variations of the famous sit up because a flat and toned six pack will always be in fashion.
6 pack exercise one: crunch with twist
Lie on the floor and do a pelvic tilt to ensure your back is flat on the floor. Lift one knee up at a time so that you have a 90 degree angle at the knee. Place the tips of your fingers behind your ears, but don’t pull your neck forward.
Make sure you complete each rep mindfully and engage your abs rather than letting your back do the work.
6 pack exercise two: standing crunch
Standing abdominal exercises challenge your balance and can keep you out of the mud, which means there is no need to skip your abdominal work if you are outside on a wet day!
You can do this move with or without a weight depending on your fitness level. Start by standing with your feet about shoulder-width apart and place your arms overhead.
The added benefit of using weights is that you tone your shoulders at the same time. Think of it as a bonus exercise!
6 pack exercise three: ‘V’ sit (on or off a half ball)
If you have one, sit on your half ball or sit down on the floor with plenty of space around you. To get started you need to practice lifting one bent leg at a time and holding, before lowering your leg back down. Beginners should aim for three to five seconds while more advanced exercisers can hold for longer.
Once you have mastered holding both legs at a bent angle, you can attempt to make a full ‘V’ shape with your body. Hold onto your knees for balance until you feel comfortable progressing to a full ‘V’ sit.
Do not strain your neck muscles, you must fully engage your abdominal muscles and remember to breathe.
Practice makes perfect. During some workouts I feel like I get more of an abdominal work out from laughing and falling off – even us professionals have to practice the advanced moves!
Fitness should be fun, it’s great to challenge yourself but always remember to take it one step at a time and work out safely.
Written by Samantha Clayton, AFAA, ISSA. Samantha is Director of Fitness Education at Herbalife.