Kirk Miller is one of the UK’s leading fitness models and a Physique Elite master trainer. He is based in London.
As a professional fitness model the one question I get asked above all others is ‘what’s the best way to get a great six-pack?’ So, I’ll let you into a little secret. There isn’t one. But here’s what I know because it’s worked for me and may work for you too. Firstly, I want to dismiss some of the most common six-pack myths. You may know them already, or you may not, but they are worth reinforcing.
Everyone can get the perfect six-pack
Unfortunately not. You can’t change the genetic appearance of your abs. They are pre-defined from the moment we are born. But we all have the necessary muscles that can be made stronger, thicker, and more defined by doing the right exercises and reducing body-fat levels. What that exact body-fat percentage is before your abs really start to show is again down to your individual genetics. If you are lucky that may be higher than 10%, for others it may be well into the single digits.
Crunches are the best abs move
It doesn’t matter if your favourite abs move is a crunch, hanging leg raise, or plank. And it doesn’t matter how many reps of this one move you do. The muscle fibres that make up the abs are predominantly fast-twitch, so hundreds of sit-ups won’t cut it. You need to work them hard with heavy resistance in low rep ranges, with correct form and under constant tension, to work them in the right way for them to respond and grow. This will result in thicker abs, which are more likely to really stand out, once body-fat levels are low enough.
Abs are made in the kitchen
A lot of people agree with this, but I am not one of them. Admittedly for most of us diet is critical to getting lean enough for the six-pack to show, but there are some genetic freaks out there who will always have impressive abs without ever training them, or being super-strict with their diet. I know, it’s not fair, but that’s the way it is. If that’s not you, then diet does take on a higher significance.
What I know about abs
The majority of my abs workouts begin with training the lower abs and core. I am yet to see anyone with better developed lower abs than middle or upper abs, and that’s because it’s easier to start with the upper portion of the muscle group because that’s likely to be your strongest part. But, like any other muscle group, your primary focus should be on the weakest part of the muscle. This is what I do because I believe that the key to a great physique is proportion.
Here’s is one of my favourite abs workouts that I have found to really push me out of my comfort zone. And that’s where you need to go to develop a strong, thick six-pack.
1 Hanging knee raise
Lower your legs and just before lockout at the bottom bring your knees up as high as you can by pulling with your lower abs. Performing a strictly controlled eccentric and squeezing your lower abs hard for two seconds at the top of the movement will maximise tension and develop a better mind-to-muscle connection. Add a dumbbell between your feet when you are able to complete three sets of 12 reps.
2A Reverse cable crunch
Lie flat on the floor and hook two handles from the bottom pulley of a cable stack over your feet. As you bring your knees towards your chest and your lower back starts to curl up from the floor, powerfully push up from your core until just before your legs lock out. Squeeze your lower abs hard then slowly lower down. This will pre-fatigue your abs so they’ll have to work even harder by going straight into a plank.
3A Med ball Russian twist
3B Med ball pelvic raise
Begin in a V-sit up position with your feet between 5-10cm off the floor. Get a partner to powerfully throw a medicine ball towards you, catch it, then keeping your core tight and keeping your feet still, perform a full oblique rotation each side with the ball without touching the floor. Throw the ball back to your partner, keeping your feet off the floor, then perform a crunch. That’s one rep. This is one of the hardest exercises you will ever do but it is incredibly effective because it works the abs and obliques, and holds them under tension for a long time. Performing med ball pelvic raises – like a glute bridge but with the med ball between your legs – immediately afterwards will stretch out any potential strain on the hip flexors and prevents shortening your abs.
4 Weighted oblique twist
Sit up at a 45-degree angle throughout. Your head needs to follow the weight plate as you rotate. Squeeze your obliques on each rotation just before the weight touches the floor. I find twisting motions far better for great obliques than side crunches.
5A Weighted crunch
By this point your lower abs should be screaming. By the time you come to this last superset your lower abs will be torched! The weighted crunch will allow you to overload your upper abs and hyperextensions will work the lower back to keep it strong – vital for all big lifts – and keep your midsection muscularly balanced.