The Elite Six — 6 Advanced Six-Pack Ab Exercises To Build An HD, Razor Sharp Core
Up your ab game. We’re gunning for cover model status.
Elite, exceptional six-pack abs require a MASSIVE amount of work and dedication. It’s a hardcore commitment. But if your diet is on point, you’re following a vigorous full-body workout routine (legs included), and indulging in occasional HIIT sweat tsunamis, then you’re en route to the abdominal promised land.
But for most, that formula hits a ceiling. A natural gap opens between the mere mortals with a solid core and the true gladiators with drool-inducing washboard abs. At a point, a flat, defined stomach needs a higher stimulus to evolve, ascend, and progress into a full-blown six-pack (or eight-pack, if you’re genetically gifted).
Call it NEXT LEVEL status.
Next level abs require high-octane, advanced moves. Between endless crunches, sit-ups, and leg lifts, people often abuse a few foundational exercises and increase the reps, and then wonder what happened when growth crashes straight into a brick wall.
Reality: there’s no new challenge to produce further results. No stimulus or impetus. Push yo’self.
To help propel your core to new heights we’ve hand-picked The Elite 6 — a group of supercharged, advanced ab exercises that are tailored to galvanize growth and carve out ultra high-definition. They’re the hardcore power tools in your abdominal arsenal—the jackhammers—that slowly chip and chisel away until the musculature starts to POP.
Plow through all 6 in your ab workouts and you’ll obliterate your core and gradually construct a six-pack that lights beaches up like a roaring bonfire.
GETTTTTTTT IT, baby.
6 Advanced Six-Pack Ab Exercises To Build An HD, Razor Sharp Core
*Click each ab exercise name for a video demo.
Hanging Leg Raises (HLRs) are THE best all-around ab exercise in the abdominal kingdom, assuming you have the baseline core strength and flexibility required to do them correctly.
When it comes to demolishing everything from the upper abs (rectus abdominis) to lower abs in one fell swoop, no ab exercise lays more carnage than the Hanging Leg Raise (HLR). It’s abdominal muscle fiber massacre.
HLRs are unique, like a unicorn, in that they marry three different types of muscular contractions — concentric, eccentric, and isometric. Because you’re dangling without a rock-solid source of support (e.g. the floor or a bench), they force your abs to simultaneously A) engage and stabilize, B) contract against gravity, and C) release in a controlled fashion.
Extrapolate that across 15 reps and it translates into one eviscerated core.
- How To: Dead hang from a pull up bar. Contract your lats to stabilize your upper body, engage your core, and slowly raise your legs up to chest height. Pause for .5 seconds at the top and SLOWLY lower back down.
- Technique Tips: DO. NOT. SWING. Momentum serves as a crutch and decreases the effectiveness. Raise and lower your legs under control for maximum effect. Try to keep your lower back straight, too.
- Baby Steps: Can’t do HLRs? Progress from Reverse Crunches → Captain’s Chair → Hanging Knee Raises → Hanging Leg Raises.
Aim for sets of 10-15. And if your abs are beastly enough, hold a light dumbbell between your feet.
Advanced Six-Pack Ab Exercise #2 — 1-Arm Planks
Think of 1-Arm Planks as a traditional Plank on steroids. By raising one arm—and staying perfectly flat—it incorporates an element of stability that’s noticeably absent from the original version.
Because you’re off balance, that translates into a massive, deep contraction across the ENTIRE core just to maintain strong posture. Additionally, it further amplifies the burn throughout the obliques and serratus muscle. SIZZLE SIZZLE.
1-Arm Planks are your vacuum packing mechanism — they help suck the entire core in tight and produce a look that’s flat and rippled.
- How To: From a plank position, raise 1 arm straight in front of your face. Squeeze your core, keep your back STRAIGHT (no leaning), and hold the contraction for 10-15 seconds. Alternate arms back and forth
- Technique Tips: Keep your back FLAT and your body perfectly straight throughout the movement. Don’t lean to one side or let your butt droop.
Start with holds lasting 10-15 seconds and gradually progress to longer intervals. You can also mimic the motion by doing 1-leg planks, or planks with your opposite arm AND leg raised at the same time.
Want BIGGER, Hulk-status abs? Do Cable Crunches.
Cable Crunches are the single most effective way to apply heavy weight to your abs without compromising the integrity of your core. No other direct ab exercise permits as much force from a leveraged position (which is also why squats are such a killer core builder, they actively compress the region).
Just like when you’re smashing your chest or legs, it’s mandatory to progressively increase the weight you’re benching or squatting. Weight is the chief catalyst for muscle hypertrophy (AKA size growth), and the main requirement if you’re hoping to slap on new muscle mass and build formidable strength.
The abs aren’t exempt from that — increasing rep counts is NOT enough of a stimulus to produce advanced growth. If you want larger, blockier, more pronounced abs—and you may not—going heavy is an essential factor.
- How To: Set-up a cable stack with a rope attachment. Start on your knees, hold the rope by your ears, crunch down, and bring your elbows in towards your body. SQUEEZE at the bottom and slowly release back up to a full extension.
- Technique Tips: Sit back into your ass and don’t move it. Use your abs — not your arms or upper body to drive the movement.
For maximum results, do sets of 15-20 and gradually increase the weight used.
Channel your inner gym lumberjack.
Cable Woodchoppers are an advanced movement that specialize in the generation of rotational force, aka torque. It’s a powerful, explosive exercise that’s not only stellar for your weekend golf game, but also one that OBLITERATES the obliques and churns throughout the entirety of the core.
Similar to Cable Crunches, they’re a smart way to apply heavy weight to the obliques without destroying your lower back. And because they’re fast, vigorous, and highly intense, Woodchoppers naturally manufacture sweat and attack fat.
- How To: Set-up a cable stack with a handle attachment just below chest height. Grab the handle, take a few steps away from the stack (it should be directly on your right), and pull it straight out in front of your body — that’s your starting position.
- Sit back into your butt, tighten your core, and powerfully pull the handle across your body, as if you’re swinging a baseball bat.
- Hold for 1 second and slowly release all the way back around. Repeat.
- Technique Tips: Keep your feet further than shoulder width to form a strong base, and don’t pivot when swinging. Really SQUEEZE and grind your core throughout the movement.
Do sets of 15 per side with a given weight and gradually increase it as your core strength grows.
Ab Pulse Ups are your go-to exercise if you’re looking to build pancake flat lower abs and carve out a deep, razor sharp V-cut. AKA beach candy.
Unlike Leg Lifts and Hanging Leg Raises that use the hip flexors and upper core, Ab Pulse Ups specifically isolate the lower abs and dig away at the region directly. Because they require minimal assistance from surrounding muscle groups, you’re purely driving the movement—an upwards pelvic thrust—with your lower core.
That stimulates extensive breakdown directly on target, slices away at the obliques, and actively works to build a gorgeous V-cut.
- How To: Lie on a mat or flat bench. Anchor yourself with your arms, raise your legs until they’re straight up in the air, and powerfully thrust your feet up into the air. SQUEEZE your lower abs, hold the contraction for 1 second, and slowly lower back down.
- Technique Tips: Tap your butt against the bench in between reps. As you thrust, make sure that your feet ascend straight up.
Do sets of 15-20 reps. Once your lower abs are strong enough, hold a light dumbbell in between your feet.
Advanced Six-Pack Ab Exercise #6 — Ab Rollouts
Ab Rollouts are the only ab move you’ll ever do with an “As Seen On TV” ab gizmo. The Ab Wheel facilitate Ab Rollouts, which are killer for streeeeeeeeeeeeeetching out the core into a state of hyperextension.
At the peak, they put tremendous pressure on the rectus abdominis and serratus—the gorgeous finger muscles along the rib cage—which helps chisel out a ripped upper core. They also build tremendous core strength, suck the core in tight, and work the inner abs.
When you roll out into a full extension it puts the entirety of the core in an unstable, weak position—which forces the abs to contract in order to stabilize—otherwise you’ll crumble like a rusty, dilapidated bridge.
- How To: Sit on your knees with a tight core and upper body. Slowly roll the wheel all the way out until your back is straight. Powerfully contract your upper abs, press through your lats, and roll the wheel back in.
- Technique Tips: Don’t allow your lower back to droop — your torso should form a straight line, not a U. Also, don’t drop down to the floor.
Shoot for sets of 20 reps. If your gym doesn’t have an ab roller, pick one up for cheap. $12, Amazon (or use a Swiss ball and/or TRX straps).
ELLO ELLO I'm Bryan DiSanto.
I'm the Founder & Editor-in-Chief of Lean It UP
, a CPT/CSN/Fitness Coach, Chef trained at Le Cordon Bleu – Paris, NYU graduate, ex-fat kid
, and all-around fitness junkie.
I also contribute to Men's Health Magazine
When I'm not working on my abs (or somebody else’s), whipping up avocado roses
and avocado toast, or running a Tough Mudder, I'm probably yelling at a Carolina Panthers game somewhere.
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