“Burning body fat heavily relies on what you put into your body in the kitchen,” says strength coach Lee Boyce. But, another key player is how you catalyze that process through metabolically challenging workouts that can aid fat loss.
Seeing your abs requires compound movements that activate multiple major muscle groups and burn the most calories—both in and out of the gym.
So, yeah, your basic biceps curls and leg extensions aren’t cutting it. Neither is banging out 5000 crunches. But these workouts, Boyce provided, certainly do. Couple them with these 10 best moves to build the best abs in the gym and you'll be well on your way to a six-pack.
Workout 1: Double Kettlebell Complex
Directions: Perform the following exercises in succession, without putting the weights down between movements. Perform 7 rounds, taking 2 minutes rest between rounds.
Double Kettlebell Swing – 15 reps
Double Kettlebell Clean – 10 reps
Double Kettlebell Front Squat – 8 reps
Double KB Push Press – 8 reps
Workout 2: Sprint
Directions: Warm up with the drills indicated below, then complete one round of the sprint circuit.
Warmup: Jog 400m, then perform 2x10m of A-Skips, Running A’s, and bounding.
A-Skips: Drive your front knee to your waist as you bring your back leg’s foot onto your toes. Skip forward and continue alternating this pattern.
Running A’s (a.k.a. running high knees): Stand tall up on your toes. Alternating legs, raise one knee to waist-level or higher so knees are bent at 90 degrees. Swing your arms in an exaggerated running form, driving your elbows back as you meet opposite arm and leg.
Bounding: Exaggerate your running form by launching off one leg, driving one knee up to waist-level as you float mid-air. You want some hang time before softly landing on the ball of your foot and propelling yourself forward again, pumping your arms as you go.
- 2x50m @ 95% of your top speed/effort. Rest 3 minutes between runs.
- 2x100m @ 90% of your top speed/effort. Rest 3 minutes between runs.
- 3x150m @ 80% of your top speed/effort. Rest 4 minutes between runs.
Workout 3: Horizontal Push/Pull
Directions: Perform each pairing of exercises as a superset, taking 1 minute rest between each.
Inverted Row/Incline Dumbbell Bench Press – 5x10
Inverted Row: Position a bar in a squat rack to waist-height. Position yourself underneath, face up. Position your hands wider than should-width and extend your legs straight out with your heels on the floor. Extend your arms fully, then begin flexing your elbows to pull your chest toward the bar. Pause at the top of the motion, then lower.
Incline Dumbbell Bench Press: Grab a dumbbell in each hand and lie on an incline bench. Press the weights simultaneously.
Ab Wheel Rollout/Seated Row – 5x10
Ab Wheel Rollout: Begin on your knees with your hands on either handle of the ab wheel. Press forward and roll the wheel forward, keeping your abs engaged, until your arms are extended. Reverse the motion.
Seated Row: Begin in a seated position with a dumbbell in either hand, palms facing each other. Hinge slightly forward at your hips. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and draw your elbows back to row the dumbbells up your sides.
Dumbbell Walking Lunge/Feet Elevated Pushup 4x20
Dumbbell Walking Lunge: With a dumbbell in ether hand, lunge forward. Bring your forward knee close to the floor, then drive up through your heel to take the next step. Alternate as you go. (10 reps per leg.)
Feet Elevated Pushup: Rest your feet on stairs, a ledge, or any other elevated surface. Perform bodyweight pushups.
Finisher: Perform a leg press with your 12-15 rep max, and allow yourself to rest with straight legs for as long as you want over the course of 2 minutes, Boyce says. Don’t rack the weight until the full two minutes has elapsed. Aim for 50 reps as a guide; complete one round.
Workout 4: Vertical Push/Pull
Directions: Perform 7 rounds as a circuit, using your 12-rep max where applicable. Rest 2 minutes between rounds.
Barbell Deadlift – 10 reps
Barbell Overhead Press – 10 reps (Stand with the bar resting on your front shoulders using a narrow grip. Lock your hips and knees, and lift your chest. Inhale, then press the bar directly overhead, shifting your torso forward once the bar passes the top of your head. Make sure not to press it in front or behind your head. Lock your elbows and shrug your shoulders toward the ceiling.)
Bodyweight Pullup – 10 reps
Workout 5: Kettlebell and Bodyweight Circuit
Directions: Perform 7 rounds of the following circuit, resting 90 seconds to 2 minutes between rounds.
One-Arm KB Snatch – 10 reps (Place a kettlebell between your feet. Bend your knees and hinge your hips to push your butt back. Swing the kettlebell back, then immediately bring it through your legs, driving through your hips and knees. As the weight rises to your shoulder, rotate your hand and punch straight up to lock the kettlebell overhead. Do not alternate arms.)
Bodyweight Dip – 10 reps
One-Arm KB Snatch (other arm) – 10 reps
Bodyweight Pullup – 10 reps
Workout 6: Barbell Complex
Directions: Perform 7 rounds of the following complex, without putting the weight down between exercises. Rest 2-3 minutes between rounds.
Barbell Deadlift – 8 reps
Barbell Bentover Row – 8 reps
Hang Clean – 6 reps (Stand tall with the bar in your hands. Hinge over at your hips until the bar is just above your knees. Extend your hips forward and shrug your shoulders forcefully, bringing the weight up along your body. Stop the barbell at your shoulders.)
Front Squat – 6 reps
Push Press – 6 reps (Clean a barbell to your upper chest and shoulders or unrack a barbell from a power rack. Assume a partial squat and dip your knees, then swiftly bring the weight overhead. Lock the weight overhead, then pause at the top position.)
Workout 7: Contrast Set Workout
Directions: Rest 2 minutes between each circuit, and perform 4 total rounds of each.
A1) Barbell Back Squat – 10 reps
A2) Bodyweight Squat Vertical Jumps – 10 reps
A3) Dumbbell Flat Bench Press – 10 reps
A4) Plyometric Pushup (hands on bench) – 10 reps
B1) Barbell Deadlift – 10 reps
B2) Standing Broad Jumps – 10 reps
B3) Chinups – 10 Reps
B4) Medicine Ball Slams – 10 reps
Workout 8: Tabata Workout
Directions: “To perform Tabata training, time 20 seconds of work, and then allow for 10 seconds of rest,” Boyce says. “Repeat this 8 times, so your total time spent on one exercise is 3 minutes, 50 seconds.” Perform all 8 20-second sets of one exercise before moving on to the next one. “Have the intent to perform as many reps as possible in a set, as quickly and explosively as you can while maintaining good form.” But never sacrifice your form or range of motion to beat the clock; take time to gather yourself for quality reps. Between exercises, rest for 2-3 minutes while preparing for what’s next on the list.
Push Press (empty bar or no more than 25% of your max)
Leg Press (25% of your max)
Workout 9: Ladder Workout
Directions: Using your 12-rep max, complete 2 reps then rack the weight for 10 seconds. Unrack it again, and then perform 3 reps. Rest for 10 more seconds, then perform 5 reps. Rest for 10 seconds and finally perform 10 reps. You’ve just performed a total of 20 reps with your 10 rep max, Boyce says.
Make this a total body workout by performing 4 rounds each of the following movements. Rest 2 minutes between rounds.
Barbell Back Squat
Seated Dumbbell Overhead Press
Barbell Bentover Row
Workout 10: 2-Minute Squat Challenge
Directions: Put ¾ of your body weight on the bar. Position yourself with your feet shoulder-width apart (or closer depending on your frame), and back squat the weight. Choose whatever pace and tempo you prefer. There’s a catch, though: “You can’t put the weight back on the rack until 2 minutes has elapsed,” Boyce says.
Aim for at least 15 reps. Perform 2-3 sets, and rest for 4-5 minutes between sets.