It's hard to define and tone only one area of your body. Spot training is difficult and next to impossible. If you're interested in defining your abs you'll need to tone your core in addition to reducing any excess weight or fat you may be carrying. Even if you have strong and toned muscles, if you have a layer of excess fat over your abs, it will be difficult to physically see any definition. Incorporate a combination of both ab exercises, cardio and an appropriate diet to help you define and show off your abs.
Part One of Three:
Exercising to Define Abs
1Do cardio. Although cardio doesn't necessarily define abs or tone them, it's an essential part to losing any excess weight or decreasing any pesky fat that might be hiding your defined abs.
- Include at least 150 minutes of cardio each week. This is the minimum amount that most health professionals will recommended.
- However, if you are not seeing results or want to see results quicker, you may want to consider increasing your cardio to about 300 minutes per week.
- You can also increase the intensity of your cardio as well. If you're doing a higher intensity cardio, you can spend less time doing it. For example, studies have shown that if you do 75 minutes of high intensity exercises instead of 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercises, you can get the same benefit.
2Incorporate HIIT exercises. In addition to steady state cardio (any exercise you do continuously for at least 10 minutes at a constant intensity), some studies have shown that higher intensity interval training can help you lose more weight.
- A HIIT workout or high intensity interval training combines short bouts of very high intensity exercise with bouts of moderate intensity exercise. It's designed to increase your heart rate very high and push your body aerobically.
- An example of a HIIT workout might be alternating between sprinting and jogging on the treadmill or using the incline to help increase heart rate.
- HIIT workouts have also been shown to help burn more fat and keep your metabolism raised long after the workout has been completed.
3Include some compound exercises. Compound exercises are those that use multiple joints and multiple muscle groups. They help build strength and help you see results quicker. Include the following compound exercises to help define your abs:
- Dead lifts
- Overhead presses
4Give Tabata a try. Tabata is a high intensity workout that only takes twenty minutes. It does double duty by burning calories and building muscle, which will help you define your abs.
- To do Tabata, you will do 20 seconds of very intense exercise, then rest for 10 seconds. You will do this for eight rounds, or four minutes.
- You can do any exercise, though compound exercises will be most effective. Try things like squats, pushups, rows, or Kettlebell exercises.
- A Tabata workout could include pushups, squats, crunches, and burpees. For each exercise, you push yourself for 20 seconds, then rest for 10, then go again until you have completed the eight rounds. You can rest for one minute between rounds.
5Take a rest day. As much as cardio and lifting exercises are important, it's equally important to make sure you schedule adequate time for rest.
- It's typically recommended to include one to two days of rest during the week. Ideally your rest days will still be active, just not at a moderate or high intensities. Include relaxing, low-impact and low intensity activities just to keep your body moving. You can do stretching, restorative yoga, or walking.
- In addition, do not do ab exercises daily. Many people have suggested that abs are the only muscle group you can work out each day. However, most fitness professionals disagree and recommend doing an ab workout every other day.
Part Two of Three:
Incorporating Ab Defining Exercises
1Do planks. This exercise is great for toning your entire core (abdominal muscles, back and legs). You can increase the intensity or muscles worked with variations.
- Lay face down on an exercise mat to start. Lift yourself up into pushup position, but rest your body on your forearms. Your elbows should track underneath your shoulders.
- Rotate your pelvis forward slightly and keep your body in a straight, rigid line. Do not bend or curve your back. You should feel the entire front side of your body engaged to hold this position. Hold as long as you can.
- Try a variation of planks by rotating your hips side to side. While maintaining a straight line with your body, rotate your hips from left to right. Aim to almost touch the floor with the top of your hip bones. This helps engage your obliques or the side of your abs.
- You can also try a side plank. Start in the plank starting position and then roll your body to one side. Continue to rest on your forearm, but keep shoulders and hips stacked on top of each other. The arm closest to the ceiling should rest on your hip.
2Incorporate V-sits. This ab exercise is responsible for engaging much of your core. A few variations of this exercise and you can focus on both your middle and lower abdominal muscles.
- Start by sitting on an exercise mat with your legs straight out in front of you.
- Lean back slightly and slowly bring your knees into your chest. Keep your shins elevated so they are parallel to the floor.
- As your are bring your knees to your chest, keep your arms extended straight in front of you. Do not use arms or hands to stabilize your body.
- Slowly increase the width of the "V" made by your body by extending your legs in front of you and leaning back further. Pull back in so knees are close to your chest again. Continue with as many reps as desired.
- To increase the intensity of this exercise, you can straighten your legs completely.
- Increase the intensity of this exercise by elongating and straightening your legs so there is no bend in them. Keep your legs at the same angle and point toes towards the ceiling.
3Add in Russian twists. Russian twists are a slightly easier exercise to perform and specifically work the front and sides of your abs.
- To start, sit on an exercise mat with your legs out in front of you. Bend your knees so your legs are bent at a 90 degree angle in front of your body.
- Lean back slightly and lift your feet off the ground by a few inches. You should feel your core engage to keep you here.
- Grasp your hands together and twist your hands to the left, reaching back behind your body. Slowly rotate your hands back in front of your body and twist to the right reaching back behind your body once again.
- To increase the intensity of this exercise you can speed this up or use a dumbbell to great more resistance.
4Try lying leg lifts. Lying leg raises or lifts work the entire core, but focus specifically on your lower core and hip flexors. It's a difficult exercise, but produces great results.
- Lie down on your back on an exercise mat. Rest your arms next to your body or place your hands underneath your sit bones (this may help stabilize your body). Keep your legs extended out in front of you.
- Keeping your legs together, slowly raise them up in a straight line until they are perpendicular to the floor. You will need to engage your core to help keep proper form here. Make sure your lower back stays pressed against the floor and does not curve.
- Slowly lower your legs back down, keeping them again in a straight line. Repeat as necessary.
- If this exercise is too difficult, you can start by keeping a slight bend in your knees. As you become stronger, you can advance to the straight leg version.
5Do hanging leg raises. This is a more difficult exercise, however works your entire core. Start by:
- Grab onto a pull up bar letting your body hang still in a straight line.
- While engaging your core, slowly raise your knees up to your chest. Try not to swing your body or use momentum to help you lift your legs up.
- Hold your knees at your chest for a few seconds and then slowly lower your legs back down to the starting position.
- To repeat, slowly raise your knees again. Take note to not swing or use your momentum as you continue this exercise.
Part Three of Three:
Eating for Defined Abs
1Manage calories. Watching and monitoring your calories will play a big role in whether or not you meet your goal. Getting defined and noticeable abs will require you to have little body fat or little excess weight.
- If you feel that your abs are toned and you want to show their definition more prominently, you may want to cut out some calories from your diet. This can help you lose weight and decrease the excess fat tissue that is covering your abs.
- It's typically recommended to cut out about 500 calories daily from your diet (or burn them through exercise). This will result in about a one to two pound weight loss each week, which is safe and reasonable.
- Cutting out more calories may slow your weight loss eventually or cause your body to burn muscle mass instead of fat. This may prevent you from being able to see definition of your core long-term.
- If you feel your weight or body fat is appropriate, keep an eye on your caloric intake so you don't gain weight. Use an online calculator to help you figure out how many calories are appropriate for you to maintain your weight.
2Consider following a low-carb diet. Studies have shown that low-carb diets are great for losing weight quickly, decreasing fat mass and losing extra water weight. This is great for those who want their abs to be noticeably defined.
- Carbohydrates are found in a wide variety of foods including: grains, dairy products, starchy vegetables, legumes, and fruits. Do not cut out all these foods. If you do, your diet will be unbalanced and not supply your body with nearly the amount of vital nutrients it needs to function.
- Instead cut out foods that are mostly carbohydrates and whose nutrients you can consume from other foods. These include grains and starchy vegetables.
- In addition, choose fruits that are lower in carbohydrates or sugars (like berries). These provide fewer amounts of carbs, but a lot of fiber and vitamins. Dairy foods are high in protein, calcium and essential minerals and should be included as well.
- The initial weight loss seen from low-carb diets is typically only water weight. This is OK and expected. The weight loss that is seen after this generally comes from your fat stores.
3Go for lean protein and non-starchy vegetables. If you're limiting a wide variety of carbs, the majority of your diet should consist of lean protein foods, non-starchy vegetables, and low-sugar fruits.
- Aim to make half of all meals and snacks a low-sugar fruit or non-starchy vegetables. These foods are high in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants and are a crucial part of a nutritious diet.
- Protein is also an essential nutrient, especially when you're trying to tone your abs and decrease body fat. Focus on including one to two servings of lean protein daily (about the size of your palm). Go for: eggs, poultry, lean beef, pork, seafood, tofu, and low-fat dairy.
4Limit extra snacks and treats. When you're trying to define your abs, you may need to limit extra snacking. If you include too many snacks or choose more indulgent snacks, you may gain weight which will work against your goal.
- If you need to snack, stick to foods that are about 150 calories or less. Fit snacks into your workout plan or weight loss plan.
- Like your meals, make your snacks mostly lean protein with a little fruit or vegetable.
- In addition, only snack when you really need to. If you're truly hungry and your stomach is growling but your next meal isn't for over two hours, have a snack. But if you're bored or just in the mood to eat, try to pass on your snacks.
5Drink a lot of water. Adequate water is important for your general health. But it can also help you manage your weight.
- Aim for at least 64 oz of fluids daily (or about eight glasses). However, some health professionals recommend drinking up to 13 glasses daily. This depends on your age, gender, and activity level.
- Use water to help keep you satisfied and tame your hunger. Drinking adequate fluids can help decrease hunger signals throughout the day.
- Limit alcoholic beverages. Some studies show that excess alcohol can lead to increased fat storage around your midsection. Limit alcohol to one glass daily for women and two glasses daily for men. However, if your goal is to lose a little weight and tone your abs, it may be best to restrict alcohol further.