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Five reasons why you don’t have a six-pack

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You’ve been watching what you eat, training hard and still the set of defined abs you dream of are no more real than Wayne Rooney’s hairline. Don’t give up – we’ve asked Rich McKeating (6packmanifesto.com), personal trainer and former Royal Marines Commando, to reveal the ab exercises that’ll leave people trying to rub their dirty laundry on your stomach. Just be warned, even if you grit your teeth and make it through all of these exercises, no six-pack warrants a crop top.

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1. You’re not doing enough big exercises

“It turns out squats, deadlifts, barbell push presses and chin-ups are some of the best exercises for your abs,” reveals McKeating. “They give your abs a great workout, work your whole body and burn lots of calories, so you can get rid of the fat obscuring those abs from view. To get more ab involvement during chin-ups, prevent any forward motion of the lower body as you pull up, as using the legs for momentum takes away from the abs.”

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2. Your training isn’t tough enough

“When I walk into a gym and see people doing ab work, I see the same exercises,” says McKeating. “Rarely do I see anyone do dragon flags or Turkish get-ups. Dragon flags involve lying on a bench, holding on to steady yourself, and lifting your legs, lower back and upper back into the air, leaving you balancing on your shoulders, before lowering to a point where your lower back doesn’t quite touch the bench, before raising again. For a Turkish get-up, lie on your back holding a kettlebell. Raise it above your head, keeping it pointing to the ceiling at all times. Move into a sitting position, to a lunge position, to standing up, before returning to lying on your back. These are demanding.”

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3. You’re not doing cardio first

Many will tell you that fat loss and toning has to be body-wide, but McKeating says cardio could help you focus on one area. “Increasing blood flow and then contracting muscles in a certain area can increase specific fat lipolysis, known as spot reduction,” he says. “Do a session of HIIT – I use 20 sets of 30-second sprints with 30 seconds of rest – followed by a tough ab circuit, as it will develop the abs and target ab fat. For the circuit, choose five exercises that target different areas, and run through three times with no rest between exercises, and 90 seconds’ rest between sets.”

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4. You’re doing ab lean-outs wrong

Ab lean-outs involve leaning as far forward as possible, then returning to an upright position, with locked arms holding on to two hanging ropes or cables. “The ab lean-out is a beast of an exercise when done correctly,” says McKeating. “The most important technique point is that there must be a straight line from your knees to your ribs at all times. At no point should the hips move back or you’ll take the tension out of the abs.”

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5. You’re not hitting your lower abs correctly

Your paunch that crunches never touch? Only lower ab exercises will hit it. “One issue is the hip flexors being tight,” explains McKeating. “This causes the lower back to lift too high during lower ab work.”

To get around it, focus on the eccentric (lowering) phase of an exercise. Try this with the Garhammer raise. Lie on a bench and hold on to steady yourself. Usually you must keep a 90-degree angle in the hips as you lift them into the air. “You can cheat by pulling yourself up into the top position – with your knees at a 90-degree angle with hips and lower back off the ground – then slowly lowering your legs, thereby hitting the lower abs.”

(Image: Corbis; Shutterstock)

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