If your goal is to get a six-pack, you're in for hard work and a disciplined diet—but according to Jeremy Ethier, fitness trainer, and founder of Built with Science, you can train your abs effectively without picking up a weight. In his latest YouTube video, Ethier shares his four-move, no-equipment ab circuit workout that he says is tough enough to do at home for real results.
First, he addresses three major issues that are prominent in bodyweight ab workouts. Ethier says that the key is to hit all four sections of your abs to avoid imbalances in your physique, and avoid doing a routine that favors certain regions over the others. He also adds that most bodyweight workouts fail to make exercises more difficult over time to continuously stimulate growth in your abs. In other words, there's no opportunity for progressive overload. Finally, he says that far too many bodyweight ab exercises that engage your hip flexors and lower back more than your abs—so his workout addresses that problem, too.
By handling these three problems, Ethier says you can use this workout for even more effective bodyweight ab training.
The No-Equipment 6-Pack Workout
Repeat for 3 rounds, with 15 seconds rest between each exercise. Rest for 2 minutes between each set.
Walkouts: 5 to 10 reps
Reverse Crunches: 10 to 25 reps
Crunches: 10 to 25 reps
Russian Twists: 1 minute continuously
This move hits your TVA (transverse abdominis), which Ethier notes is the least talked about ab muscle. While using an ab roller is a great pick to hit this, this workout isn't using any equipment. Instead, you can get a similar effect with walkouts.
To do it, get an all fours with your hands under your shoulders and knees under your hips. Rotate your hips and contract your abs, pulling your belly button into your spine to activate your TVA. Slowly walk your hands out, going out only so far as you can maintain this form without arching your back, walking your hands back.
This move targets the lower abs—Ethier calls it a "bottom-up exercise," one that raises your lower body upwards, like a leg raise.
To do it, lie on your back with your arms straight by your sides and knees bent to 90 degrees. To initiate your lower abs, squeeze your glutes and contract your abs to create that posterior pelvic tilt, flattening your back against the floor. Instead of thinking of raising your legs, curl your pelvis up toward you belly button. On the way down, avoid arching your lower back, keeping it flat against the ground when you reach the bottom. You can make this easier or harder depending on how much you tuck your legs in or out.
Crunches hit your upper abs, and Ethier considers it a top-down exercise, where the top half of your body is brought down.
But you shouldn't just flop down and bend up, as you might be accustomed to doing. To preform crunches that won't overtax your hip flexors, Ethier suggests using one tool: a rolled up towel. Start by lying back, with your knees bent and hands behind your head. Place the towel under your lower back to increase the range of motion your abs will go through. Lift the shoulder blades off the ground by flexing the spine, and come back down. Don't bring your torso all the way up to your knees, and avoid yanking your neck to avoid using momentum. Make the reps harder by placing your hands over your head, or (if you're wiling to break from the no-gear protocol) using a weight.
These hit the obliques, which Ethier says are targeted best by moves that rotate the torso.
Ethier also cautions that most people do this exercise the wrong way. To do Russian twists more effectively, angle your back to a 45 degree angle. The goal is to touch either side of the ground with your hands as you rotate your torso, letting your shoulders dictate your rotation. Focus on trying to line up your shoulder with your leg. (Left shoulder lining up with left leg as you twist to the right.)
To progress this move, raise your feet off the ground slightly and try to reach further and further out with your arms to force your obliques to work harder to stabilize your body.
Ethier recommends performing the workout two to three times per week, along with your other training. Most importantly, he says that you shouldn't just stick with the basic structure. As it gets easier, he says that you should ramp up the reps and add the progressions he demonstrates for the movements. That way, you'll actually be able to use progressive overload to promote growth without adding any weight.
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