Beyond the aesthetics of the six-pack, strong abdominal muscles give you endurance, strength, and efficiency – and most importantly, protect you against injury.
We’ve compiled some of the best six pack exercises for you. Master these moves, and reap the benefits of more explosive, efficient movements, healthier joints, and less back pain.
Here’s what you need to know.
You’ve got four main core muscle groups:
- Rectus Abdominus — these are your “vanity abs” – located closest to the surface of the skin, these are known as the six-pack and aid in trunk flexion
- External Obliques — Located on the sides of the waist, used in trunk flexion, and side rotation
- Internal Obliques — Located a few layers deeper underneath the external obliques, these muscles run in the opposite direction, helping with trunk flexion, and contralateral rotation
- Transverse Abdominis (TVA) – Located deeper still, these muscle fibers wrap completely around the spine, helping to stabilize and protect the back muscles, vertebrae, and discs.
Why the TVA Matters
The rectus abdominis muscles – your six-pack abs – develop outward. The transverse abdominis (TVA), however, develops inward.
So you might not see the aesthetic results of TVA strength, but it’s essential to tighten your muscular “belt” or “girdle,” protecting you against injury.
A strong TVA transfers the force and stress of body movements through your muscles, rather than through your vertebrae and joints. Thus, TVA strength improves literally every other movement, making your jumping, squatting, and lifting more efficient and explosive.
“The TVA is like the Spanx of the abdominal muscles!”
10 of The Best Six Pack Exercises
(sorted by muscle groups)
Rectus Abdominus (six-pack abs)
1. Hanging knee raises
This is the perfect excuse to pick up that pull-up bar you’ve been wanting for years!
FYI: ↑↑ Click on the name of each exercise to see an instructional video
The TRX straps are great, but obviously not necessary. If you’re trying to squeeze this routine in at home (or the office), simply drop down and knock them out sans equipment – like your P.E. teacher used to make you do all those years back!
External / Internal Obliques
5. Russian medicine ball twist
No medicine ball or weights? No problem! This is one of the best six pack exercises because all you need to do is grab a dumbbell, a heavy book, or just use your own body weight.
Transverse Abdominis (TVA)
*Do not attempt if you have any lower back issues, or experience any low back pain as you perform the exercise.
10. TRX / Ball pikes
Images courtesy of: Shutterstock, Riff Spliff, Bamboo Core Fitness, Fitneass, Kimberly Doehnert, Bodybuilding Wizard, Bodybuilding Wizard, Top.me, Sassy Fit Girl