Sculpt Your Abs With This Four-Move Routine

Man holds forearm plank position in gym
(Image credit: G-Stock Studio / iStock / Getty Images Plus)

Getting a six-pack requires more than just including abs workouts in your training. You have to be smart with your diet too, because only a low body fat percentage will reveal your abs. That said, a good six-pack workout is also an essential part of the process, and this will involve a lot more than just smashing out as many crunches as you can.

The workout below has just four abs exercises in it, but it’s designed to target your core from all angles and to put your abs under different kinds of pressure to help them grow and become more defined. 

You’ll need access to a gym for the workout because it involves using a cable machine to add some resistance, which is an oft-neglected part of effective abs workouts. If you’re looking to build bigger muscles it’s better to do sets of eight to 12 reps with resistance, with the final couple of reps being difficult to complete, rather than powering through 30 reps—that’s true of the abs as much as any other part of the body.

The Workout

Dragon flag

Man peforms dragon flag exercise in gym

(Image credit: LStockStudio / Shutterstock)

Sets 4 Reps 6 Rest 90sec

Lie on a decline or flat bench, holding the edge of it behind your head with both hands. Swing your feet upwards until your body is almost vertical, then keep your core tight and your body as straight as possible while pointing up in the air. Slowly lower your feet under control until they are just above the bench.

2 Six-second plank

Sets 3 Time 6sec Rest 30sec

Get into the plank position with your body in a straight line. Tense your abs and glutes and hold for six seconds, then lower your hips to the ground for two. Repeat this six times, then rest for 30 seconds before your next set.

3 Cable crunch

Sets 4 Reps 12 Rest 90sec

Kneel below a high pulley rope attachment. Hold the cable rope and lower the rope until your hands are either side of your head. Keeping your hips still, flex your waist as you contract your abs so that your elbows travel towards the ground.

Pallof press

Sets 4 Reps 12 Rest 90sec

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a cable with both hands directly in front of your chest. Press the handle straight ahead. Ideally the handle should not shift sideways at all during the movement. Bring the handle back to your chest.

Abs Training Tips

Use isometrics

“If your abs are constantly in a contracted position it can pull your body into bad posture – so it’s important to strengthen them but in an elongated position,” says Ben Scott, a former professional cricketer turned performance and fat loss specialist. “Planks and other similar holds are ideal, but don’t just hold for as long as you can because your technique will give up way before you do. Short holds, done correctly, are much more effective.”

Don’t just hip flex

“The old sit-up with someone holding your feet the ground is dead,” says Scott. “It distorts your hip tilt and you’ll end up using your hip flexors to actually do the move, over-activating a muscle that is shortened anyway. Most people know not to do sit-ups for abs, but watch for the same problem in leg raises and other moves—ensure you do them with correct form.”

Load the muscle

“People tend to bang out abs exercises for 20-plus reps—even though everyone understands that for hypertrophy in other muscles between eight and 12 reps is best,” says Scott. “Yes, it can be harder to load the abs safely, but you do need to apply some load to get adaptation for growth. Fuller abs will be more visible once the fat melts off.”

Joel Snape

From 2008 to 2018, Joel worked for Men's Fitness, which predated, and then shared a website with, Coach. Though he spent years running the hills of Bath, he’s since ditched his trainers for a succession of Converse high-tops, since they’re better suited to his love of pulling vans, lifting cars, and hefting logs in a succession of strongman competitions.

With contributions from