This content is from the experts at Men's Fitness magazine.
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A six-pack is top of the list when it comes to desirable body parts for men, yet the abs muscles often cause confusion when it comes to training. Here, we outline the science behind the six-pack and the best exercises for building yours.
The first mistake a lot of men make is thinking that more is always better. They crank out hundreds of crunches a day and wonder why those squares of muscle aren't developing properly. The reason is that, like any other muscle, the way to build your abdominals is to keep the reps per set fairly low - in the region of 10-12 - and increase the resistance when you find it too easy, not the number of reps. That means adding weight when doing crunches or using a cable machine.
The other mistake that men often make when hunting for abs is to forget about the layer of fat that covers them. Men tend to store fat around the gut, so you really need to work hard at lowering your overall body fat percentage if you want to see your abs. This means watching your diet and doing plenty of big muscle moves, such as squats and deadlifts, that torch calories.
Your six-pack is actually one sheet of muscle, called the rectus abdominis, which extends from your ribcage to your pubic bone. So any abs-specific exercise will work the entire area, but your rectus abdominis is supported by your external obliques, internal obliques and erector spinae. Together they support and manipulate your spine to form your 'core' - the muscular region that connects your upper and lower body. A strong core is vital for performing any dynamic movements in sport and for preventing back pain. So abs training is not just for show. It will make you stand taller and perform better in all areas of life.
Here's a selection of the best exercises for beginners to experts in building a rock-hard six-pack, plus variations so that you (and your muscles) don't get bored.