Best abs exercises for a solid six-pack

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Floor flag: This floor-based variation on Bruce Lee’s classic dragon flag will solidify your six-pack and develop the muscles around your spine. The original move is done lying on a bench and gripping its sides to keep your upper body stable, and involves a controlled eccentric movement to grow muscle. But holding a bench makes it easier to lift your legs to the top of the move. With the floor flag you use more brute core strength during the concentric (lifting) phase, so the focus is on the fast-twitch muscle fibres in your abs. Working these builds dynamic strength and spinal support ideal for contact sports such as rugby and MMA, which tend to leave you flat on your arse.

How to do it

  • Lie on the ground with your hands by your sides and palms flat on the floor.
  • Lift your legs and core off the grounds until they're pointing straight up at the ceiling.
  • Lower under control, putting some weight through your hands to stabilise yourself.

Gym ball pike: If you can already see the top third of your six-pack but are struggling to get the crucial bottom part to break through into a full complement of abs, this is the move for you. Raising your body to form an upside-down V recruits all the muscles of the abs plus your deep-lying core muscles, while straightening your legs without allowing your feet to touch the floor places tension on your entire core. Keep each rep slow and controlled for maximum benefit.

How to do it

  • Start in the press-up position with both feet resting on a gym ball.
  • Draw your feet in towards your arms and bend at the hips until your body forms a V-shape, then return to the start.

Windscreen wipers: Many moves work your six-pack but few test your entire core as thoroughly as the humbly-named windscreen wiper. Just keeping your legs above your head – and under control – keeps constant tension in your abs and obliques, and rotating them from side to side toughens things up considerably. Keep each rep slow and controlled to work these muscles to their utmost capability.

How to do it

  • Hang from a pull-up bar with your hands shoulder-width apart.
  • Lift your legs until your feet are above the bar.
  • Lower your legs by 90˚ to one side.
  • Raise them back up above the bar and repeat to the other side.

Nick Hutchings worked for Men’s Fitness UK, which predated, and then shared a website with, Coach. Nick worked as digital editor from 2008 to 2011, head of content until 2014, and finally editor-in-chief until 2015.