Getting your abs to show isn't as simple as finding a magical lantern and telling a genie you want abs. Ultimately, you're going to need to eat really clean (I don't make the rules), lower your body fat percentage (this number will be different for everyone), and do core-sculpting exercises.
A great core-sculpting exercise that will leave you sore after about five reps is the glider knee tuck with a pike. It requires a lot of stability, and will leave you shaking after your first set.
How to Do a Glider Knee Tuck and Pike
- Start in plank position with a glider underneath each foot. If you don't have gliders, you can use a towel on a hard surface to perform this exercise.
- Engage your core and bring both knees in toward your elbows. With control, return to the starting position. Then, raise your hips as high as they can go. Your core should be engaged and your back should be in a neutral position throughout the entire movement.
- This counts as one rep. Complete three sets of 10 reps.
I'm all about efficient workouts and exercises, which is why the glider knee tuck and push-up has become one of my go-to moves. The push-up will help you improve your upper-body strength, and the knee tuck targets your abdominal muscles. You don't need to do many reps to feel your muscles working, which is another reason why I love it.
Add this exercise into your next bodyweight workout or use it to activate your core and arms before starting your workout.
How to Do a Knee Tuck With Push-Up
- Start in a plank position with a glider underneath each foot. If you don't have gliders, you can use a towel on a hard surface to perform this exercise.
- Engage your core and bring both knees in, toward your elbows. With control, return to the starting position. Then, do a push-up. Your core should be engaged and your back should be in a neutral position throughout the entire movement.
- This counts as one rep.
- Complete three sets of 10 reps.
Push-ups are one of the most well-known strength exercises, and they're also one of the hardest to do. With that being said, I'm challenging you to up the ante of your push-up skills with this strengthening and stabilizing variation. If you're still working on perfecting your push-up, no worries. There's a modification for beginners.
The single-arm glider push-up is harder than a traditional push-up because it requires you to really stabilize your core and upper body as you put a majority of your weight onto one arm. If this sounds enticing and you're up for a challenge, continue reading.
Strengthening my abs is one of the most important parts of my training. Not because I want to show off my hard work on a beach in Bali, but because I want to prevent injuries. I learned the hard way how important core strength and stability are when I injured my back and spent a lot of money on physical therapy.
During my physical therapy sessions, I learned that my core - specifically my transverse abdominis - was weak and unstable, which meant my back was paying for it. Since getting injured, I've stepped up my core-strengthening game, and let me tell you, it's made all the difference.
One move that I like to do for strong abs is the hanging bicycle. It targets your rectus abdominis (aka the six-pack muscles), but you'll really feel it in the lower part of your rectus abdominis (aka your "lower abs").
How to Do a Hanging Bicycle
- Start by hanging on a pull-up bar with palms facing out, or use the ab straps and hang with your arms inside of them. Use a box or bench if you need help reaching the bar.
- Pull your shoulder blades down your back to keep your shoulders away from your ears.
- Engage your abs as you bring your left knee up to your chest (or as high as it can go) with control. As you lower your left knee, repeat the same motion on the right side. This counts as one rep.
- Without swinging, continue to cycle your legs. Complete two sets of 15 reps.
My style of training is all about strength, power, and speed. There are so many things you can do with strength, but one of my favorite things to work on in my personal workouts and with clients is unilateral movements. Why? Because you can isolate specific muscles and help reduce and eliminate muscular imbalances.
There are so many unilateral movements you can do such as pistol squats and a single-arm chest press (another great core move), and one of my favorites is the deadlift with a knee drive.
Deadlifts are one of the best exercises you can do for overall strength. With the addition of the knee drive, you're forced to work on your balance and core strength. Put it all together, and you've got yourself an intense compound exercise - multijoint movements that work groups of large muscle.
How to Do a Deadlift With a Knee Drive
- If you're a beginner, you can do this exercise without weight. For more advanced levels, grab a set of dumbbells. Ten pounds is a good starting point.
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand, and stand tall.
- Engage your core and keep your spine neutral as you begin to hinge at your hips, pushing your hips backward. At the same time, lift your left leg off the ground. Be sure to keep your left foot dorsiflexed (don't point your toes). Continue to hinge at your hips until your back is parallel to the ground; your leg should be in line with your back. Your back should be flat, and your head/neck should be in a neutral position.
- Return to your standing position without placing your left foot on the ground. Once you're upright, drive your left knee up, creating a 90-degree angle at your knee joint. Your left foot should still be dorsiflexed. Be sure to stay tall and keep your core engaged throughout the entire movement. This counts as one rep.
- Complete three sets of 10 reps on each leg.
Don't let a time crunch stop you from getting in a great workout. If you're short on time and in need of something that will have you feeling like a badass, you've got to try this quick TRX workout. There are only three moves, but I promise you, walking up the stairs and putting on your pants will be challenging. And that's a good thing; it means you were working. Continue reading for the 11-minute strength workout.
The Lower-Body TRX Workout
Before getting started, be sure to warm up your muscles - here's a great dynamic warm-up. Once you're warm, set up your TRX suspension trainer. This workout should be performed with little to no rest in between each exercise. Once you've completed one round, take one minute of rest and then repeat for a total of four rounds. Don't forget to cool down and stretch once you're done.
- TRX squat jump (or standard squat): 30 seconds
- TRX pistol squat: 30 seconds each leg
- TRX hamstring curl: 30 seconds
One key to strength training and building muscle is to make sure your muscles are being challenged. If you never change the stimuli (weight, reps, sets, exercises), your muscles will adapt and eventually stop growing and getting stronger. Because our glutes are the biggest muscle group in our body (our quadriceps and hamstrings also top that list), it's important to have an arsenal of ways to work them.
Squats are great for improving your lower-body strength, and one of my favorite variations is the pistol squat. It's a unilateral exercise (a single-leg movement) that will help strengthen both sides of your body equally (goodbye, imbalances), and it will improve your strength and stability.
How to Do a TRX Pistol Squat
- Start facing the anchor point with the straps at midlength and your hands on the handles.
- Step back so there's no slack on the suspension trainer.
- With your feet about hips-width apart, lift your right leg off the ground.
- With your arms fully extended and tension on the suspension trainer, lower down into a squat. Be sure to keep your weight shifted back on your heels while maintaining a neutral spine. Your arms should be extended throughout the entire movement.
- Drive your left heel through the ground as you come into a standing position. There should be a slight bend at your left knee. Be sure not to pull yourself up with your arms. Instead, push yourself up with your leg. This completes one rep.
- Complete three sets of eight to 10 reps on each leg.
Machines definitely get a bad rap at the gym, but when used correctly, they can help you improve your overall fitness levels and strength. One machine that's great for increasing your lower-body strength, but can be insanely intimidating if you aren't familiar with how to use it, is the leg press machine.
The leg press machine is hard to miss - it's that big thing sitting in the middle of the gym floor - and this is your guide on how to use it.
How to Use the Leg Press Machine
- Before getting started, add weight to the machine; 25- to 35-pound plates on each side is a good starting point. If this is too heavy or too light, feel free to adjust the weight.
- Sit on the seat, and place your feet hips-width apart on the footplate.
- Once your feet are in place, press the footplate with both feet as you simultaneously disengage the safety latches on the side of the seat with your hands.
- With your feet still on the footplate, bend your knees, letting the footplate come toward your body. Once your knees are at a 90-degree angle, press the footplate up and straighten your legs. Be sure not to lock your knees.
- This counts as one rep. Complete three sets of 10-12 reps.
- Once you've completed a set, press the footplate and engage the safety latches.
Deadlifts are arguably one of the best exercises to strengthen your core, legs, back, and glutes - hello, booty. A common way to perform a deadlift is with a barbell, but if you're new to strength training, you'll want to start with something a little easier in order to get the form down.
To help you perfect your form, Michael B. Jordan's trainer Corey Calliet showed me a Romanian deadlift variation to teach you the basics.
How to Do a Cable Machine Romanian Deadlift
- Adjust the carriage so that it's at the bottom of the cable machine. Attach a triceps rope handle to the pulley on the carriage of a cable station. You should be facing the pulley.
- Next, select the amount of resistance you want - 20 to 30 pounds is a great starting point. As you begin to become more comfortable with the movement, feel free to increase the weight.
- Facing the pulley, grab the rope, and step approximately three feet away from the machine.
- With a slight bend in your knees, slowly bend at your hips (this is a hinge movement pattern) as you simultaneously extend your arms forward. Your core should be engaged, and your back should be flat.
- Then squeeze your glutes to stand back up as you simultaneously pull your elbows back (like you're performing a bent-over row). Pull with power, and continue to squeeze your glutes at the top to get full hip extension. Be sure to keep your core engaged.
- This counts as one rep. Complete four sets of 12 reps.
When done properly, strength training is one of the best ways to build lean muscle. If you're new to lifting weights, things can seem a little complicated, and that's why we're here. For some, starting out with dumbbells is easy, but others will find that they aren't really sure what to do. If you're the latter, we recommend starting out with your bodyweight to perfect your form, advancing to machines, then incorporating dumbbells into your routine.
If you've already got bodyweight movements down, a great machine to begin learning basic movements on is the Smith Machine. It's similar to a traditional squat rack, except the bar doesn't come off the machine. You can do a variety of exercises with it, like the upright row. It really works your trapezius muscles (the muscles in the upper middle part of your back) and is a complementary exercise to back and shoulders workouts.
If you're ready to strengthen your upper body and master another move at the gym, continue reading to learn how to do a Smith Machine upright row.
How to Do a Smith Machine Upright Row
- Adjust the bar of the Smith Machine so that it's at the middle of your thighs.
- Start with a loaded bar; five-pound plates on each side is a great starting point. Beginners should start with just the bar and gradually add weight as they become familiar with the movement.
- Position your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart on the bar, and lightly grip the bar with an overhand grip.
- Unlock the bar by lifting it up off the rack. Next, lower the bar so that your arms are fully extended.
- With a slight bend in your knees, brace your core. Leading with your elbows, pull the bar straight up to your chest. With control, lower it back down to the starting position. That's one rep.
- Complete three sets of 10 reps.