Like any body part, your abs eventually adapt to easy, repetitive exercises. This means your same old ab-day routine might not cut it anymore.
When the basics no longer work like they once did, follow these exercise tips to advance your ab game. Be forewarned, though. These techniques will work your core and make your six-pack sorer than it's been in a long, long time.
Use a Pull-up Bar Instead of a Captain's Chair
The captain's chair is that seat you support yourself on by pressing your back into the pad while keeping your forearms on the pads with the handles. This is a great apparatus for isolating the lower abs, especially for beginners. But eventually your abdominal muscles will outgrow it.
If you really want to improve your midsection, move your leg raises over to the pull-up bar. Hanging with straight arms from the pull-up bar forces your core muscles to work harder to keep your body stabilized—something you don't get while leaning against a pad. This added stress on the core carries over to the movement itself.
An added bonus of using the pull-up bar instead of the captain's chair: If you hold the bar without straps, your grip will strengthen while you work your abs.
Roll Out with the Ab Wheel
A favorite of MuscleTech-sponsored athlete Abel Albonetti, the ab wheel is a deceptively simple-looking device. In fact, it looks like a toy—just a wheel with a handle in the middle. But as soon as you try it, you'll quickly realize it's a more advanced piece of equipment than you ever thought possible.
That's because as you roll the ab wheel forward, your midsection must work harder and harder to keep your spine stable and your body up. Then, as you try to pull the wheel back while keeping your hips down and back straight, you'll feel your lats, shoulders, and arms all working with your abs to fight against gravity and bring you back to the starting position. It feels like every muscle in your body is put to work, but make no mistake—it's primarily your abs that pull you back in.
When you first try the ab roller, go as far as you can with good form before coming back. Be careful—it's very easy to overestimate your abilities and end up faceplanting on the floor. As your core strength improves, try rolling out farther until your body almost touches the floor.
Perform Weighted Movements
Remember, the abs are muscles, too. So why not treat them like every other muscle group? If getting those bricks to pop has been a struggle in the past, it's time to add resistance to your ab exercises.
If you're worried that using weight will make your waist thick and blocky, don't. It's a myth. In fact, if you want that brick-like appearance, you need to add weight.
Training your core with weight can improve other aspects of your fitness as well, namely balance, stability, and strength. To add weight, try using rope crunches, lying leg raises with ankle weights, or bottoms-up with a dumbbell between your feet. Many gyms also have specific ab machines you can try if you want to add resistance, so don't be afraid to add new machines to your ab routine.
Superset with an Aerobic Exercise
Even with extra exercises and more challenging moves, it can still be tough to work your abs enough to make them pop. Enter supersets. Adding an aerobic core movement to each exercise not only works your core in a different way, but also helps you burn extra calories. This is great when you're trying to shed the extra body fat that normally hides that six-pack.
To add aerobic supersets to your ab routine, follow hanging leg raises with mountain climbers. Rest as little as possible between exercises. Another option is to do burpees after a round with the ab wheel. You can also add knee lifts for 30 seconds after performing bicycles on the floor. Adding these extra aerobic exercises doesn't seem like much, but after 8-10 of these supersets, you'll know you did serious work!