penny barnshaw garage fitness girl

My Top 9 Core Exercises for Getting a Six Pack


Getting a six pack isn’t as simple as losing some fat around your midsection through diet and cardio, and hoping the core muscles will magically appear. Nor is it worthwhile only doing one type of core exercise, like endless sit ups. 

The anatomy of the core is made up of many different muscles: the transverse abdominis, the rectus abdominis and the internal and external obliques, which means that one exercise isn’t going to get the results you’re looking for! Just like any other muscle group, you have to build up the abdominals to actually see a six pack. 

For a well rounded routine I recommend incorporating exercises that target each of the individual muscle groups that make up the abdominal area. Targeting mostly the rectus abdominis and the obliques will help define and give shape to the stomach, while targeting the transverse abdominis will help to build a strong foundation from the inside out. 

Progressive overload should be used to “build” a six pack, so using weighted exercises for 3 sets of 12-15 reps is ideal. Of course, to see visible abs it’s important to have a healthy clean diet too. I’m a huge fan of the 80/20 rule and don’t believe in being super-strict. I’ve written more about this in my blog, Healthy Over 40: What I Eat in a Typical Day. But the main thing to remember is that you can get results by eating real foods most of the time, without having an all-or-nothing approach. 

Here are my top 10 core exercises to really build those abdominal muscles and get that six pack, I highly recommend adding these into your routine: 

Dumbbell Reverse Crunch

The dumbbell reverse crunch primarily works your rectus abdominis. One of the benefits about this particular move is that it takes strain off your neck and back, while really targeting your core muscles. To a lesser extent, reverse crunches also activate your transverse abdominis and your external obliques.

Box Crunch 

Box crunches are great for building the rectus abdominis, and you’re certainly going to feel the burn when including them into your routine. 

Dumbbell Reverse Crunch/Leg Lowers

The reverse crunch hits all the exterior abs muscles you need to work for a well-defined six-pack, but predominantly the lower abs. The reverse crunch also puts your abs under tension for a long period of time, maximising the benefits to your stomach muscles. As with all exercises, just make sure you keep the movement well-controlled. 

Bicycle Crunch 

The good old bicycle crunch is one most of us are well-familiar with. It’s easy to do and targets the obliques as well as the rectus abdominis, and has the added bonus of getting your heart rate up. 

Dumbbell Bent Knee Woodchopper 

This movement targets obliques and rectus abdominis. It’s a good move that will help you really notice your progression as you slowly shift up the weight of the dumbbell. 

Heel Taps 

This simple movement is an easy way to target your obliques, which are important when working towards a well-defined core. 

Side V Ups 

Side v ups are an effective way to target the obliques as the primary muscle, while also hitting the rectus abdominis. This move also improves core and trunk balance, but be warned: it can be quite difficult in the beginning! 

Plank Hold 

Plank holds are a great way to target your transverse abdominis. While some say that it’s important to keep your body completely straight, you’ll actually get better results by having the butt very slightly lifted to really activate that core. 

Hollow Body Hold 

This one is definitely harder than it looks! The Hollow body hold predominately targets the transverse abdominis.

I hope you enjoy these moves! You’ll be happy to know that I incorporate many of these exercises into the follow-along workouts I upload every week on my YouTube channel, so head over there and tick the notification bell so that you never miss a new workout. 

If you’d like your weekly workouts all planned out for you, sign up for my free monthly workout calendars to take the guesswork out of getting fit, lean and strong! 

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