A woman lies on a mat while doing a reverse crunch to get washboard abs. Share on Pinterest
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If you want washboard abs — also known as a six-pack or chiseled abdominal muscles — you’re going to need to focus on a solid core training program and a healthy diet.

Men usually need a body fat percentage below 10 to 14 percent to see definition in their abs, whereas women need about 15 to 19 percent.

Along with staying relatively lean, you’ll also need a consistent ab training program and regular cardio exercise.

In this article, we’ll look at six abdominal exercises and other lifestyle strategies that can help you work toward getting washboard abs.

Generally speaking, when people talk about washboard abs, they’re referring to being able to see the individual bumps of their rectus abdominis muscle. This abdominal muscle resembles an old-fashioned laundry washboard.

Your rectus abdominis muscle runs from your pubic bone to your sternum, also known as your breastbone, in the middle of your chest. The main function of this muscle is to flex your trunk and stabilize your spine.

Along with being aesthetically pleasing, strengthening the abdominal muscle can also help reduce your risk for injury.

You’ll also improve your:

  • athletic performance
  • balance
  • posture

Although the following six exercises are among the best for training your rectus abdominis muscle, don’t feel that you need to limit yourself to only these exercises.

Adding variation to your workouts can help keep your routine fresh and interesting, and also work other muscles in addition to your abs.

The flat bench leg raise is a great exercise for working your abdominals. Your core needs to work to raise your legs and to resist gravity when you lower your legs.

You can make the exercise more challenging by slowing down the lowering of your legs.

How many reps and sets? Aim for 2 to 3 sets of 10 to 20 reps.

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Instructions:

  1. Lie on a flat bench and hold the bench on either side of your head. Alternatively, keep your arms straight and grip the sides of the bench for balance.
  2. Take a deep breath and exhale as you raise your straight legs upward from the bench.
  3. Continue to raise your legs until they’re at a 90-degree angle with the floor.
  4. Slowly lower your legs to the start position and repeat.

Safety tip

Make sure the bench is stable. You can put weights on the base of the bench to keep it from rocking.

Healthline

Flutter kicks are a great exercise for specifically targeting your lower rectus abdominal muscles. This exercise also works your hip flexors, which can help reduce tightness in your hips.

How many reps and sets? Try to do 2 to 3 sets of 15 to 20 reps.

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Instructions:

  1. Lie on a flat bench and place your hands beneath your glutes. You can also perform this exercise on a soft surface on the ground.
  2. Raise your legs straight to about 30 degrees.
  3. Flutter your feet by raising one foot up and dropping the other foot down so that they’re about 6 inches apart.
  4. Switch your feet and repeat for your desired number of reps.

Safety tip

Stop the exercise if you feel discomfort in your lower back or anywhere else.

Healthline

The toe reach is similar to a traditional crunch except that your abs also have to work to keep your legs in the air. You can perform this exercise either on a bench or a soft surface.

How many reps and sets? Aim for 2 to 3 sets of 10 to 20 reps.

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Instructions:

  1. Lie on a flat bench or another soft surface with your arms and legs straight and vertical.
  2. Crunch your upper torso by contracting your abs and reaching toward your toes.
  3. When your hands reach your toes, or as far you can reach, pause for a moment and return to the starting position.
  4. Repeat for your desired number of reps.

Safety tip

Avoid the temptation to crunch your neck forward. Instead, try to keep your neck neutral through the movement.

Healthline

The reverse crunch is a variation of the traditional crunch. During this exercise, your abs have to work to bring your knees to your chest and to resist the downward motion of returning your feet to the floor.

Slowing down the exercise is an easy way to make it more difficult.

How many reps and sets? Try to do 2 to 3 sets of 10 to 20 reps.

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Instructions:

  1. Lie down on a mat or other soft surface with your feet flat on the floor and knees bent at about 90 degrees. Rest your hands with palms down along your sides for balance.
  2. Brace your abs and exhale as you raise your knees toward your chest. Try to keep your knees at about 90 degrees throughout the movement.
  3. Stop the crunch when your hips come off the ground but your mid-back is still in contact with the mat.
  4. Pause for a moment and return to the starting position.

Safety tip

Avoid this exercise if have a back or neck injury.

Healthline

The bicycle crunch is one of the best exercises for targeting both your rectus abdominis muscle and your obliques — the muscles on the sides of your core.

The closer you keep your heels to the floor, the more difficult the exercise becomes.

How many reps and sets? Aim for 2 to 3 sets of 10 to 20 reps on each side.

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Instructions:

  1. Lie on a mat or another soft surface with your hands behind your head and your knees bent 90 degrees, stacked over your hips.
  2. Lift your shoulders off of the floor and twist one of your elbows toward your opposite knee as you extend the other leg out about 45 degrees.
  3. Switch the position of your legs while continuing to twist your opposite elbow to the bent knee. Try not to bring your bent knee past your hips to your chest. It’s OK if your elbow does not touch your knee.
  4. Repeat for your desired number of reps.

Safety tip

Place only your fingertips behind your head instead of using your entire hands. This can help you avoid pulling your head toward your knees.

Healthline

The twisting motion in this exercise is great for chiseling your oblique muscles on either side of your core.

You can make the exercise more challenging by holding a weight plate or some other heavy object.

How many reps and sets? Aim for 2 to 3 sets of 10 to 20 reps on each side.

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Russian twist

Instructions:

  1. Sit on a mat or other soft surface with your feet off the ground and lean back for balance.
  2. Cross your hands over your chest and twist to the right as far as you comfortably can.
  3. Pause for a moment and switch to the other side.
  4. Repeat for your desired number of reps. If when performing this exercise you feel it mostly in your hip flexors, try repeating it with your feet on the floor instead of lifted off the ground.

Safety tip

Twist in a slow and controlled motion to avoid strain on your lower back, especially when using weight.

Healthline

No matter how much muscle you have around your stomach, you won’t be able to get visible abs unless you’re lean enough for them to show through your belly fat.

Including cardio in your workout program, eating a balanced diet, and getting plenty of sleep can all help reduce body fat.

It may come as a surprise, but exercising your core muscles won’t help you spot reduce belly fat.

What can help, according to research from 2013, is to regularly include cardio in your training program. This can increase the number of calories you burn, which in turn, can help reduce belly fat.

You can perform any type of cardio you enjoy. Here are a few options:

Try to perform cardio exercise at least 5 times a week, for at least 30 minutes. If you’re short on time, you can break it up into two 15-minute cardio sessions in a day.

You don’t need to use special supplements or follow fad diets to get washboard abs.

Instead, eating an overall balanced diet as often as possible can provide you with the essential nutrients your body needs to build muscle.

Try to build your diet around whole foods filled with fiber, protein, and other essential nutrients.

Foods to avoid or limit include:

Getting adequate sleep helps support your body’s hormone levels, which can affect weight loss. Getting enough sleep also gives your body time to repair itself after you’ve exercised.

Aim for at least 7 hours of sleep each night, but if you’re training hard, you may find that you need more.

To achieve washboard abs, you’ll need to regularly train your rectus abdominis muscle. You’ll also need to keep your body fat percentage relatively low in order to see the muscle definition in your abdomen.

The exercises we looked at in this article are a great starting point but try not to limit yourself to only these exercises.

Look for ways to add variety to your training program, and also be sure to regularly include cardio exercise in your routine, and follow a healthy, well-balanced diet.