Chisel Out a Six-Pack With This 20-Minute HIIT Ab Routine

Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S.

From Men's Health

You want a ripped, chiseled core, the kind that looks great when you take your shirt off, and also lends you stability and strength in all situations. And building that core is a two-step process.

First off, you have to build the muscle and strength underneath it. You can’t have six-pack abs if you don’t have fundamental core strength, so that means hitting your core from a variety of different directions. You need to teach your abs to rotate, fight rotation, brace in general (think planks), and flex your spine (think situps). That builds the all-around ab strength that sits beneath the best of six-packs, and the strength you need to battle through sports and lift things around the house.

The other half of that, of course: You need to trim bodyfat. That means doing some sort of conditioning training, pushing your heart rate high and challenging heart and lungs. This bolsters your overall health, and it’ll help those abs show, too.

Now, you could do separate ab workouts and separate conditioning workouts to hit both those goals and march towards washboard abs. Or, you could attack both goals at once with an interval training session that blends core work and conditioning ideas into one workout.

Why Core and Conditioning Pair Well

You won't do pure HIIT in this workout so much as you'll blend conditioning ideas with core training. And this works well because your core is the target. The world has this endless love affair with high-intensity interval training workouts, but, truth be told, HIIT doesn’t work for everything. If you want to beef up your bench press or really chisel out John Cena-level arms, that’s not happening with a HIIT workout. And HIIT won’t help you truly bolster your squat numbers or dunk a basketball either, even if mainstream fitness media tries to claim it will.

HIIT workouts don’t always let you hone technique in movements, because, especially in the mass-market version of HIIT, you’re constantly out of breath, never really focusing on technique.

But blending interval training and ab training is perfect if you’re pursuing a six-pack. You can push your heart rate into the stratosphere with a conditioning-style move (think of mountain climbers or burpees), and then immediately after that, you’ll do a focused core move. You can do this because you’re not aggressively loading in this workout; you’ll focus mostly on bodyweight moves, leaving you some margin for error.

The key in this workout is not just surviving the core move but focusing on technique when you do it. Yes, you can do a sloppy plank for 30 seconds after you’ve done a boatload of burpees. But can you do a clean plank, with a tight core, and control your breathing? To get the most out of this workout, that’s what you must do.

The Workout

Do this workout four or five times a week. You can do it as a standalone session, or at the end of other strength training. Remember to focus on technique on the core movements. Your goal is to balance the overall fatigue you feel after the conditioning moves with precision while doing the core movements. It’s easy to be sloppy on them, but then you won’t get the most out of this session.

You'll work 40-on, 20-off intervals throughout this workout, and you'll pair a conditioning move with a core move. First, do 40 seconds of Move A, then rest 20 seconds. Then do 40 seconds of Move B, and rest 20 seconds. Do 3 sets like this (so you're spending six minutes at each pairing), then move onto the next pairing. Remember to stay focused on technique, especially on the core piece; don't mistake a ton of sloppy reps for good work.

Pairing 1

Mountain Climbers: Start from a plank position, and own the plank, then hit these mountain climbers.

Hollow Rock: Flip from the mountain climber into position for a hollow rock, continuing to hammer away at core bracing ideas.

Pairing 2

Situp Roll Burpee: Blend the athleticism of the burpee with the classic situp for abdominal frying.

Russian twist: Now create rotation through your core with the classic Russian twist. Use a light load or bodyweight.


Pairing 3

Kettlebell Swing: This move will ratchet up your heart rate. Don't go heavy on it, though, because you are working for time, not reps, and focus on form.

Plate Plank Push-Pull: Grab a plate or any item you can push and pull across a rug. Get in plank position; work 20 seconds on one arm then 20 on the other. Focus on keeping hips and shoulders square.

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