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[WOTM, 06/2014] Tear Your Core Inside Out With The Superset Circuit Abs Workout

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HERE. WE. GO. 2 rounds, 4 hyperfast supersets, zero rest — absolute abdominal incineration.

Mentally prepare yourself for one of the most intense ab workout gauntlets we’ve ever concocted. It’s about to contort your conception of core training and push your midsection to places it’s never even fathomed. The abdominal burn will feel like a shower of pure napalm and your abs will feel like they were hit with a wrecking ball (not Miley’s), but you’ll be rewarded with a turbocharged metabolism, sweat streams galore, and an explosion of aesthetic new core growth.

Gulp.

The Superset Circuit Core Workout is a unique routine built from 4 distinct multi-exercise supersets, or “pillars,” each comprised of 3-5 killer exercises circuited back-to-back (supersets = no rest). Every superset is designed to demolish a specific section of the abs, and when chained together, to carve out a picturesque, well-rounded, rippled core. In aggregate, it blasts the rectus abdominis (the upper abs or six-pack muscles), lower abs, obliques, and transverse abdominis (the inner abs).

Here’s what you’re getting yourself into:

  • 1. The Swiss Ball Ab Shredder — Leverages 4 Swiss ball exercises to smash the upper abs and rectus abdominis, and chisel out visible six-pack definition.
  • 2. The Lower Ab Trifecta (LAT) — Combines 3 lower ab exercises to flatten the bottom half of the core and carve out a plunging V-cut.
  • 3. The Plank Power Progression — Uses 5 plank-based exercises to steamroll, tighten, and compress the entire core. Planks beat up the transverse abdominis, which sucks the midsection in like a vacuum.
  • 4. The Oblique Obliterator — Attacks the obliques and serratus, the finger-like muscles running along the sides of your upper abs, with 3 different exercises to create deep, zig-zagging cuts and phenomenal definition.

It’s going to hurt, it’s going to burn like 1000 hells, and you will manufacture sweat like a faucet. But persist. The rewards are rather lucrative.



The Superset Circuit Abs Workout


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Image: Women’s Health and Fitness

Here are the rules to complete the Superset Circuit Abs Workout like a pro:

  • Do each superset without rest. To the best of your ability, move from one exercise to another without stopping.
  • Take 1-2 minutes of rest in between each superset.
  • Complete 2 rounds. That means do all 4 supersets, and then do it again.
  • Do the workout 2-3x per week, with at least one day off in between ab workouts.

The workout is designed to be incredibly difficult. Do your best to complete it as intended, but I fully expect that you won’t get through it. As with any of our workouts, tailor it to your own individual level of fitness. Reduce the # of reps, increase the rest time, or nix round 2 — the goal is always to push yourself, progress over time, and do it with style.

And conversely, if you’ve got an irrationally strong core and can tear it up, add weights and/or up the reps. Or go back for round 3.

*Click on each applicable exercise name for a full pop-out video demo.

 

1. The Swiss Ball Ab Shredder


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How To:


Protocol: 2 rounds — 15 + 12 + 10/side + 12.

Target Muscle(s): Rectus Abdominis (the upper abs, aka six-pack muscles)

  • (1) Swiss Ball Crunches, 15 reps — Rest the middle of your back on a Swiss ball. Crunch all the way up, hold the squeeze for 1s, and hyperextend over the top of the ball on the way down. Do 15 reps.
  • (2) Swiss Ball Rollouts, 12 reps  Stand on your knees and place your wrists on a ball. Slowly roll the ball out and let your arms glide over it, until your body is completely straight. Contract your core and return back up to start. Repeat for 12 reps.
  • (3) Swiss Ball Side Crunches, 10/side — Lie sideways on a ball and anchor your feet firmly against a wall or weight. Fall all the way over the ball and crunch back up to start. Hold the squeeze for 1s. Repeat 10 reps for both sides.
  • (4) Swiss Ball Overhead Crunches, 12 reps — Extend your arms out overhead. Bend all the way back and powerfully crunch up to the sky. Keep your arms long at all times. Complete 12 total reps.

 

 

2. The Lower Abs Trifecta (LAT)


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How To:


Protocol: 2 rounds — 12 + 12 + 30 seconds

Target Muscle(s): Lower Abs

  • (1) Ab Pulse Ups, 12 reps — Lie on a flat bench or on the floor. Raise your legs up, contract your lower abs, and thrust your feet straight into the air. Your butt should come off the floor. Tap down and repeat for 12 reps.
  • (2) Ab Reverse Crunches, 12 reps — Bend your knees, contract your lower abs, and pull your knees up into your chest. Complete 12 reps.
  • (3) Ab V Holds, 30 seconds — Lie flat on the ground or a bench and raise your legs up to 45º. Raise your torso so that your body forms a V. Hold it for 30 seconds.

 

 

3. The Plank Power Progression


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How To:


Protocol: 2 rounds — 30 seconds + 10/side + 10/leg + 20 seconds/side + 10/side

Target Muscle(s): Transverse Abdominis

  • (1) Plank, 30 seconds — Do a traditional flat plank. Keep your core tight and back straight. Hold it for 30 seconds.
  • (2) Side Plank Knee Tucks, 10/side  Roll over onto your side and prop your body up on your elbow. Bring your bottom knee into your waist and squeeze the contraction. Repeat 10 reps per side.
  • (3) Plank Leg Raise, 10/leg — Roll back over into plank position. Kick your right leg into the air and hold it for 1s. Repeat 10 reps per side.
  • (4) Elevated Side Plank, 20 seconds/side — Extend into an elevated side plank position, with your right hand firmly on the floor. Throw your left arm into the air and hold for 20 seconds. Repeat for the opposite side.
  • (5) Plank Arm Reach, 10/side — One more. Roll back over into plank position. While keeping your body flat, stretch your right arm out in front of you as far as possible. Hold it for 1s and return back to the ground. Repeat 10 reps per side.

 

 

4. The Oblique Obliterator


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How To:


Protocol: 2 rounds — 12/side + 30 + 12/side

Target Muscle(s): Lower Abs

  • (1) Cable High Woodchoppers, 12/side — Connect a cable as high as possible. Maintain strong posture and pull the handle diagonally downward across your body, contracting your obliques and abs in the process. It should feel like you’re chopping wood. Repeat 12 reps per side.
  • (2) Mason Twists, 30 reps — Balance on your butt with your back flat and feet raised. Vigorously twist from side to side, tapping the ball/weight against the floor. Each tap counts as 1 rep. Complete 30 total.
  • (3) Elevated Knee Tucks, 12/side — Get into push up position. Keep your left leg straight, pull your right knee into your chest, and crunch your oblique into it at the top. You should feel a massive squeeze. Repeat 12 reps per side.

…and then run it back for round 2.

Bryan DiSanto

Bryan DiSanto

Founder & Editor-in-Chief at Lean It UP
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.

Come be friends with me on Snapchat (BRYDISANTO).
Bryan DiSanto
Follow Lean It UP on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest for real-time fitness/nutrition tips, advice, info and updates.

  • uzi

    do you have a spreadsheet format for this workout?

  • Excellent routine! That’s what i call an ab workout. Great share! I’m going to try it on my next session.

    • Thanks Walter! Keep me posted on how it’s going.

  • Benjamin Spikes

    After one year layoff back in the fitness and lifting weights. I was searching for an Ab workout. This one look promising and will keep you posted on the progress. Will do this one time a week (also do some ab exercises after other workouts). Great site btw. Thanks!

    • Thanks a ton Ben, definitely keep me posted on how it’s going. If possible, shoot for 2x/week.

      • Benjamin Spikes

        Did the routine today and really love the variation throughout the workout. My core is really getting an allround workout, not just the lower abs or the obliques. I had never done the woodchoppers and was pleasantly surprised by their effectiveness. Being that this was the first time, I lost a lot of time with finding the right position of the exercises. Next time it’s gonna be harder I think, because less time will be lost and the sets will come faster. Love it!

        • I’m glad you’re taking the time to learn the moves and get the form down. You’ll benefit MUCH more long-term and see better results for it (including injury resistance). Keep it up!

  • Gr8jimmy

    Hi Bryan,
    I am going to follow this routine to get rock solid abs. I was dreaming to have abs like the top pic model, but due to busy work schedule I had almost forgot about it and gained belly fat and look like pregnant. What you recommend for diet plan?? I Desperately want to workout with proper guidelines and diet, and to keep motivating myself I will put my before and after pics on my personal blog.
    Please advice and keep sharing man, it was nice to be here 🙂

  • Mike

    Hi Bryan: Thank you for sharing these excellent moves. I am 5′-8″ and 55 years old as of Jan 10th. In Dec 2011 I weighed 243 lbs and had a 42.5″ waist, I was so disgusted with myself and looked like a short fat azz that in Jan 2012 I re joined the gym and started eating better. By June 2012 I lost about 38 lbs and around 4 inches around the waist, but I always wanted a 6 pack. I found a trainer and learned all about processed foods – since June 2012, I stopped eating all processed Foods. I gave up; white flour, sugar, wheat, corn, dairy (except for certain aged cheeses and my organic Greek low fat yogurt) any and all juices, I pretty much eat a completely clean and organic diet of all good lean protein’s, carbs ,good fats nuts and seeds drinks lots of water and green tea. (I learned to “eat your fruit, and drink your water — as opposed to juice) I work out every other day, lots of core work, that includes SOME of your moves, free weights, resistance training, light cardio, and Bootcamp on Saturday mornings. The shape is evident, and you can see a SHADOW of a 6 pack, but I’m not quite there yet. Today I weigh 185 and have a 33″ (some days 32”) waist – I feel better than I ever have, but am ready to do your circuit. The only moves I can see having trouble would be the Ab V’s and Mason Twists – for some reason moves like those affect my lower back – but I thought I would modify them by keeping my feet on the ground? Either way, thank you for sharing these moves – I hope in time I will reach my goal so this old man can finally show off what I worked so hard for when I go to the beach next summer HAHA

    • WOW. What a massive overhaul! I’m so happy that you decided to make such an impressive life change. As you’ve noticed, diet is SO important. Looks like you’re on the right track.

      That makes sense — twisting motions can aggravate the lower back. Feel free to modify anything that’s uncomfortable, and definitely check out our other plans as well if you get bored/want to switch it up/they feel better for your back. (http://www.leanitup.com/category/muscle-it-up/workout-of-the-month/ab-workout-plans/)

      Keep pushing and busting ass, the fact that a 6-pack is in sight is stupidly exciting, it doesn’t sound like you’re that far off at all.

      -Bryan

      • Mike

        Thanks Bryan – I still have a way to go before they are visible completely – but they are showing which is amazing to me at least. My favorite is seeing some of the guys at my gym who work out EVERY day and look exactly the same as they did 3 1/2 years ago – and they are half my age haha – big fat arms, no definition at all, their waist is the same dimension as their shoulders and they have huge love handles, yet they are lifting heavy weights – too many tacos, pizza and beer I think…

  • Mike

    One more thing Bryan – I tried the side plank as shown in the first photo, and it is nearly impossible to keep the ball steady while both feet are on the ball – I have to say out of all the moves, that plank is the hardest thing I have ever tried to do and I do planks ALL the time – I know that ball is not resting against the wall behind him (I think) because it would defeat the whole purpose – I wish there was a trick to it, I just cannot seem to balance myself for more than a second and there goes the ball….kind of embarrassing, but it is hard as hell to do. Thanks, Mike

    • Hey Mike,

      Pssssh, that’s not embarrassing at all. They’re hard as all hell and require IMMENSE full-body strength and stability. One little trick — stagger your feet on the ball, don’t stack them. It’ll give you a wider platform to balance on.

      Once you’re nailed that, try to progress to stacked feet.

  • Mike

    Thanks Bryan!

  • jason

    hi please can i ask are you saying to do one of the workouts for 2 rounds such as the swiss ball ab shredder,or do you mean do all 4 workouts for 2 rounds one after the other thanks

  • MikeHillMadeIt

    Just stumbling upon this, but I was wondering.. How often a week should I do this exercise? Also, I don’t have access to a machine for cable high woodchoppers so is there anything you recommend to replace it? Thank you!