Abs 101: Variety is Key to That Summer Six-Pack

6 tips to keep your abdominals toned...and guessing

Achieving a rockin’ core requires more than just isolation exercises. A hundred sit-ups is not the road to take, despite what rumor may say. Here are six tips for sculpting the abs-olute six-pack.

1. Full-body strength training is important. You will indirectly engage the core in so many exercises without realizing it, as long as you maintain proper form. For squats and lunges, make sure that you keep the abs pulled in. The same goes for upper body exercises. Keep tension in the abs; do not allow them to relax just because the focus is on other muscle groups.

2. Switch up your cardio routine. Plyometric exercises, running, the elliptical, kickboxing, etc. will all work the core in different ways. Cardio also burns fat, and lower body fat means a sharper six-pack.

3. Proper nutrition is essential. As indicated above, the key to visible abs is leanness. There is a point where exercise will not be enough to make the difference on its own; diet plays a critical role. Make sure you are eating balanced meals and taking in plenty of protein. The website fitday offers a great resource to log your food intake and determine your nutritional breakdown for a typical day.

4. Isolation exercises are certainly beneficial if you do them correctly, but remember, quality over quantity. Avoid the tendency to rush through, to swing while doing crunches, to force yourself up too high, etc. Slow down and focus on the muscle contraction. Think about pulling the abdominals down and in before going into the movement, whether it is a basic crunch, stability ball crunch, oblique crunch, etc. The natural tendency is to drop down from the top point of a crunch, but lower with control, maintaining the tension in the abs.

5. Incorporate more challenging exercises to boost the six-pack potential. Hanging leg/knee raises, v-ups, hip lifts on a bench, variations of planks, woodchoppers and kneeling rope cable pull-downs are among many abdominal exercises that are not as widely known as the traditional standard crunches, but are highly effective.

6. Exercise variety. Do core isolation work three or four times per week following your regular cardio or weight training routine. This does not have to be extremely time-consuming—just choose between three and five exercises, and change them up each time to continue challenging your core.

This story is originally seen on Karina's Fit Zone.