How many times have you seen a photo of a man or a woman with their abdomen exposed showing fit 6 pack abdominal muscles? Such photos go around the world constantly and they get pined in motivational boards, wish lists, fridges, gyms or just looked at with admirations. We let a sight and say I wish or that will need loads of hard work if not surgery.

Well in all truth it does take hard work to get ripped abs but you don’t need to go to extremes or buy all the ‘special’ equipment in the world just to get them. If you are not a fan of the gym machines here are a few ways to get a 6 pack without equipment.

Diet

Diet alone will not give you a 6 pack but it will help in improving the condition and the fat stored in your abdominal area. Why is this important? Well health to start from. Having loads of fat stored in your belly has been connected with increased risk of developing conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Also what is the point in killing yourself exercising if you eat all the wrong foods and fighting against your own efforts?

There are foods which you could avoid and foods which you could add to your diet for the belly fat battle. In simple steps add plenty of fruit and vegetables and avoid processed and sugary foods.

Exercise

No you don’t have to do 100 crunches a day to get a six pack. If anything a lot of people argue that crunches are ineffective for your abdominal muscles. Well I wouldn’t go that far but let’s say they are not the only exercise for abdominal fitness and that some other exercises are more effective.

When it comes to toning those muscles any form of exercise which uses the abdominal muscles will be as good. For example if you cycle to work and you go up and down hills etc then you are likely to notice a six pack forming slowly. Ok technically the bike is equipment as well but not your standard gym equipment (this is not a static bike obviously).

Similarly if you take on swimming it will be working on your abdomen as well; especially if you are swimming in the sea as there is more resistance. Now the later, swimming in the sea, is not always easy. If you are lucky to live in a location with a beautiful swimming friendly beach, then you can put it to good use.

Functional exercises; push ups and pull ups

There are numerous functional exercises to choose from and add to your routine. You can chose from side bridges with or without leg lifts, side lunges with torso rotation etc. Which one is better than others, depends on your personal preference and what you want to achieve.

I personally like pull ups and push ups as they tend to work most of the muscles in the body. Functional exercises aim to train the body for specific ‘functions’ and movements rather than isolated muscles. It is always better to aim to exercise surrounding and antagonist muscles rather than one group in isolation.

Muscle imbalances can lead to injuries, postural defects and other problems. For example when you want to get a six pack, exercise your back and hip muscles as well as your abdomen.

Pull ups

You can argue that you need equipment to perform pull ups. Indeed you do need to hang from somewhere in order to pull yourself up. However, you don’t have to have a pull up bar in your door or go to the gym to find one. Use your imagination.

I recently visited Wales (UK) and along the promenade they had different stations for kids to play, so I used the station with the bars to do a couple of pull ups. Job done! Do make sure that whatever you chose to perform your pull ups can support your weight and the movement and that it is safe. Do avoid rusted, half broken bars, weak tree branches etc.

How to perform: Quite easy and straight forward exercise. Hold from a bar and pull your body upwards. Different grips will work slightly different muscles but for the purpose of your six pack it will not make massive difference. You will be working abdominal, side and back muscles along with arms and shoulders.

Do as many as you can if a novice; you may find that even 1 is hard work. There are many ways to progress pull ups. You can add a crunch by bringing your legs upwards with every pull up, one handed, with jumping to the bar to hold and perform the pull up and then jump back down to a squat (explosive power) etc.

Push ups: Like the pull ups the push ups work majority of the muscles in the body. If you are a novice you can keep your knees bend or try panther push ups. For more advanced options you can elevate your legs, perform one handed, etc.

 

Pilates

Pilates exercises mainly target the core muscles. I am sure that you may have seen ‘The core’ being mentioned in many places. Although technically is not a 100% correct expression what is usually referred to as ‘the core’ is the abdominal and back muscles.

So Pilate’s exercises are designed to work specifically those muscles. At the beginners level you may not get a 6 pack but you will definitely notice a flat and toned tummy coming on. Other benefits are good posture (which in turn will improve tummy appearance amongst other benefits), improved balance, reduced back pain and more others.

In the more advanced levels where the difficulty increases then you will start noticing that 6 pack. How good Pilates is in giving you a 6 pack or how fast will depend on how often you do it and the quality of the exercises, and how much effort you put into it. This goes for all exercises. 

The plank

Quite a straight forward but not easy exercise. The plank is a static isometric exercise and it is good for abdominal and back muscle. There are many variations and levels of difficulty in performing the plank. However, if you are a beginner start with the basic one (see below) and perform for 20-30 sec intervals. Then work on building on the time.

How to perform: Lay prone on the floor (on your tummy). Place your forearms directly under your shoulders and lift your body off the floor by taking the weight on your forearms. Tuck your toes in. Make sure your body is in a straight line; do not bend towards the floor or arch your back. If you contract your transverse abdominis muscle (tummy muscle) it will help you stabilise and hold the plank easier.

Keep the position for 20 sec. Lower to the ground and repeat x 3. It may not sound as much but you will be surprised how difficult it will feel to keep to that position.

Variations: Plank with arm/leg lift, side planks, with the legs elevated into a bench/medicine ball etc. Some people will perform aerial side planks with holding from a pole (i.e. pole flag). Build your abdominal strength slowly with a basic plank before attempting to perform the more complicated ones.

If you are not strong enough you could be placing pressure through your back or not performing the exercise in a correct technique. Either way you could end up with a nasty injury.

Crunches

Like the plank there are a number of different crunches and variations which target different muscles and elements. A lot of people argue that crunches are a waste of time. They will not do miracles on their own and some styles are more effective than others. Don’t aim to perform 100 crunches a day, aim to do a few, in conjunction with other exercises. Here are some examples:

Reverse crunch: Reverse crunches are meant to be good for posture if performed correctly. They are also good exercises for pole dancing in getting stronger muscles for inverts.

How to perform: Lie supine (on your back) on the floor with your legs extended and your arms on each side. Use a mat preferably for hard surfaces. You can bring your arms above your head and hold on to something stable (i.e. leg of a table or couch, a pole, a heavy dumbbell) if finding it hard to stabilise your body during exercise. Make sure you hold on to an object that can take the pressure and it is safe.

Bring your legs up by bending on the hips and knees. Your knees should be directly above your hips and in a 900 angle with your lower legs and feet kept together and parallel to the floor.

Tilt your pelvis upwards and pull your legs towards your torso raising your hips and lower back from the floor. Move your hips and lower back to the starting position on the floor. Repeat.

Common mistakes: Movement comes from the hips rather than the abdomen. Keep your hips and legs stable. It is better to perform the exercise slowly and controlled, especially if you need to learn it.

If you have weak abdominal muscles you could be potentially placing a lot of strain in your lower back. Bring your hips up as far as you comfortably can even if it is a very small movement and build on that slowly.

Keep your back on the floor and avoid arching it. This could lead to back injuries if not careful. Also, keep your head to the floor and avoid lifting up or forward.

Bicycle crunch

Apparently, according to a study carried out by San Diego State University, bicycle crunches were shown to be the best exercise for your rectus abdominis muscle.

How to perform:  Lie supine (on your back) on the floor with your legs extended.

Place your hand behind your head.

Lift your legs of the floor at approximately 450.

Start performing a pedalling movement with your legs; bend one knee towards your chest while slightly extending the opposite leg and vice versa.

As you perform the cycling movement try to touch the opposite elbow to opposite knee. Alternate.

Common mistake: Don’t push your head forward with your hands. Try placing them by your head in that your fingertips touch ears to avoid placing pressure at your neck.

When touching your elbow to your knees do it by rotating your back (slightly, do not force) rather than rotating your elbows.

Perform slowly and controlled.

Sport

You don’t have to necessarily do specific exercises to get the six pack you want. If you take on an activity or sport you can easily have the same result. Cycling and swimming are 2 good examples.

As long as there is reasonable resistance and challenge for the muscles then it is as good as anything else. Well, take your bike and try to go up a hill. If you are not used to it you will not go too far. Try that for a week and you will soon see your tummy getting fit.

Surgery

By far a recommended method, but it is one way to get 6 pack abs without equipment. To be more specific it would be without exercise equipment but to be fair you will need surgical equipment, a hospital and an appropriately qualified surgeon. So it will be the most complicated and the most expensive option not to mention risky, painful and all the rest issues connected with having a major surgical procedure.

What it involves:

1. Abdominal etching – a liposuction procedure in the abdominal area. Fat is removed from the abdominal then grooves are creates in the remaining fat layers to give that 6 pack definition.

2. Abdominal implants: Implants (often 6 or 8) are inserted on top of the abdominal muscles. These are designed to sit on the muscles and give the look of a 6 pack. The idea is similar to having breast implants. Often tummy tuck procedures may be done as well.

Risks: as with any surgery both procedures come with multiple of risks such as infection, rejection of the implants, disfigurement especially if the surgeon is not competent, side-effects from general anaesthetic and more.

Other issues: ok so you could be walking around with a permanent 6 pack without moving a muscle but in all fairness you will also lack of power and strength. Remember they are not real muscles. Moreover, having them doesn’t mean that you can do whatever you want. I’m sure if you have an unhealthy and fattening diet the end result could look…not quite right I would think.

To keep the rest of your body in proportion to your 6 pack you will have to either Robocop your whole body with implants and surgery (by far a wise or recommended option) or keep exercising to have muscles coupled with a healthy diet.

Now if you are going to exercise and keep your diet at check you are likely to get that 6 pack anyway.