The rectus abominis is known colloquially as the six-pack. This abdominal muscle is located on the anterior side of the abdomen. It’s main role is flexion of the trunk and to provide core stability.

Ideally to see the abdominals visually, you need to aim for <15% body fat. To increase the muscle fibre size to facilitate its aesthetic appearance, I suggest you complete abdominal exercises under resistance. To reduce body fat quicker than steady state training, I suggest high intensity training – examples below. This is key for the aesthetic appearance of the rectus abdominis.

I must stress that not everyone can visually see their abdominal muscles. I have worked with a high number of athletes with a bodyfat lower than 10%, however, their abdominal muscles aren’t as visible as you would imagine; genetics plays a huge role.

You will also want to make sure that your core muscles are strong on the lateral (obliques & transverse abdominis), posterior (multifidus, erector spinae, quadratus lumborum), inferior (pelvic core muscles) and superior (diaphragm). A balanced core programme will help make sure these muscles work together when completing specific movements. An imbalance could cause postural issues and dysfunctional anatomy slings.

Exploring the benefits, tips and articles below will help you achieve a healthy lean body, and hopefully see the visual lines of the ‘six-pack.’

Six-Pack Tips

  • Shocking the body with different stimuli helps activate fat metabolism. For example, during a one hour session, you may want to include short circuits of kettlebell activities, boxing repetitions, plyometric shock training, high-intensity circuits and short, fast shuttle runs. These are the activities I include in my personal training sessions that are extremely effective in getting the client fit and healthy quickly.
  • Hill sprints are another good example of high-intensity interval training for the core muscles and hip extensors. You only need a gradient between 1-3%. In addition, steady state running on uneven terrain helps make the core stronger and running on grass reduces the risk of injuries which I strongly advise.
  • Building the rectus abdominis up through slow and controlled movements helps increase the muscle fibre size. To do this, you need to make sure there is some resistance. For example, when performing a crunch, hold a weighted plate above your head, arms fully extended and crunch up, moving the plate completely vertical to put stress on the upper part of the rectus abdominis. However, whatever you do to the front you must also do to the back to balance out your posture. So, if you spend ten minutes flexing the spine doing v-sits, crunches and reverse crunches, etc; then you must do ten minutes extending the spine with exercises such as, prone back extension and variations of the superman exercise.

Core Exercises

  • Swiss Ball Roll Outs
  • Plank to Downward Dog
  • Plank with One Arm Rotation
  • Traditional Plank Body Saw
  • Side Plank on Elbow Lifting the Hips Up and Down
  • All Four Kick Outs
  • Prone Raises – Chest/Arms/Feet
  • Single Leg Bridges
  • All Fours Hip Extension Knee Bent
  • Straight Leg Sit Up

Benefits of Core Stability

  • Enhanced posture
  • Improved balance
  • Improves power to and from the extremities
  • Reduces the risk of injury
  • Strengthens and  improves torso stabilisation
  • Boosts stabilisation of the spine, ribs and pelvis
  • Improves the biomechanics of the body
  • Improves neuromuscular efficiency

Relevant Articles

  • Increase health benefits of exercise by working out before breakfast. Full article found at The University of Birmingham.
  • Meal timing strategies appear to lower appetite, improve fat burning. Full article found at Science Daily.
  • Contemporary perspectives of core stability training for dynamic athletic performance: a survey of athletes, coaches, sports science and sports medicine practitioners. Article found here at Liverpool John Moores University.
  • Study covers potential key to preventing back pain in runners. Article from Science Daily.