The key to getting a ripped six pack involves mostly treating them like any other muscle. For whatever reason this is the only muscle that fell under several myths that you’d never even consider applying to other muscle groups. At the end of the day, it’s a muscle like the rest in your body and it needs to adhere to the same principles.
Let me preface this by saying the one unique thing that applies to and a little more than other upper body muscles is body fat. Most of us tend to hold more fat in our gut than anywhere else. It doesn’t matter how many crunches you do. If you want to visibly see your abs you’re going to have to diet down somewhere to 10-12% for men and 15-18% for women.
Train Them Appropriately
A common myth with ab training is to train them in only higher reps. You wouldn’t exclusively train your chest or legs in 15+ reps so why would you do that for abs? They need a mixture of ranges to maximize growth, although like many isolation exercises, they tend to do better in the 10-20 rep range.
Overall, they need enough tension and overload placed on them to elicit muscle growth. If you aren’t progressively overloading the muscle, then you will hit a plateau. Also, while you can train the abs more frequently (2-3 times a week) they don’t need to be trained everyday. If anything, this may be overkill for the muscle and unnecessary.
Choose the Right Exercises
Choose movements you can easily load. Exercises such as:
Weighted sit up
Captain’s chair leg raise
These exercises allow you to make the movement easier to challenge as you get better at them. I find most people don’t see ab growth because they choose these body weight exercises that while at first may provide enough stimulus, quickly become not enough to elicit any new growth. This leads many to spin their wheels doing wild amounts of volume with nothing to show for it.
Be wary of exercises that bend at the hips. Any exercise that does isn’t hitting the abs properly. Abs hit their peak contraction by flexing at the lumbar spine. If you’re bending at the hips, the lumbar spine is staying neutral. If you do an exercise like a hanging leg raise, or captain’s chair leg knee raise, make sure to curl the pelvis up towards your chest. Don’t just lift the knees up otherwise all you are doing is overworking the hip flexors.
Slow and Controlled
When performing these exercises it’s of the utmost importance that you do them slowly and controlled. If you find yourself racing to get the set done, or rushing the rep, you’re losing the connection. As you flex, make sure to feel the abs actually contracting and then getting into a loaded stretch position.