Fast Abs in a Crunch

The workout that will get you abs in 20 minutes


Let’s face it: You can’t take your shirt off to impress a girl if your overhang drops below your belt. Your low-impact day job doesn’t help either. Nice abs require blood, sweat and tears. Now, we understand your 40-hour workweek, so we’ve devised a workout that’ll burn your abs and quickly show results using the most renowned ab exercise, the crunch.

You’re excited, but before you don your gym gear and try out our Rest-Pause Ab Burner, read these rules to prepare yourself.

1. Breathe in and out slowly for each exercise.

2. Don’t be a cowboy and overdo it. Know, understand and respect your limits. The only headache you’re giving anyone is your doctor.

3. You have to contract your abs on the exhale if you want magic.

4. Eat clean. Sorry, these exercises won’t do you any good if you’re scarfing down burgers from McDonald’s. Choose–abs or burgers.

Rest–Pause Secret
The rest–pause technique was popular during Arnold Schwarzenegger’s muscle days, long before there was the Terminator, the Governator or The Simpsons movie. Its purpose is to push a muscle to the limit to facilitate faster growth or to break through pesky training plateaus. Add this technique to your abs plan and see if you can get that sculpted six–pack quicker.

Here’s what to do: Significantly shorten your rest time between sets down to as little as 10 to 20 seconds–-or even less. This is barely enough time to restore only a portion of the contraction chemical ATP before launching into another set. With this workout, you will use the rest–pause technique with your first and last ab exercise.

You will do four sets of crunches with legs raised and crossed. You should reduce the number of reps by one on each succeeding set, rest-pausing only 15 seconds between sets. You will follow the same descending reps/rest–pause scheme on your final exercise, the pulley ab crunch, for a for total of 11 sets. Feel the burn.

Oblique Crunch with Legs Crossed
Side bends with weights only add thickness to your frame. This exercise helps carve out your obliques. The object here is to have your elbow almost touch the opposing knee. Keep your abs flexed throughout the entire movement if you want to see those abs of steel.

Ab Crunch with Legs Raised and Crossed
This exercise is the easiest of the five. Start in the classic ab crunch position–on your back, with your hands behind your head–then elevate and cross your legs 90 degrees from your torso. Find a focal point on the ceiling and tuck your chin in. Slowly raise your upper torso while contracting your abs. Hold the contraction while you return to the starting position and as you repeat the set.

Pulley Ab Crunch
Keep the grip of the pulley level and in front of your forehead and slowly pull in the direction of the mat. Hold your abs throughout the move and when you return the weight to the starting position. Don’t forget to breathe or you’ll pass out.

Hanging Lower-Ab Crunch
Your upper and lower abs make up one long, continuous muscle–this exercise works both. Using an overhand grip, slowly bring your knees up to 90 degrees, hold for two seconds and return to the starting position. Repeat. The fat on your lower abs is hard to lose, so this one is a must.

Hanging Oblique Crunch
Your obliques are part of your abs and need to be strengthened to help prevent lower-back pain. To do this exercise, raise your legs to the right (keep those obliques flexed) and hold. Slowly lower and return again. Repeat on your left side. If your arms need rest, give it to them–try to improve your grip strength and the power in your abs.

Expert Advice: Cardio Works
“There are still a lot of misconceptions about fitness. A common misconception I often encounter is when clients ask what exercise moves will give them a six-pack. Until there is minimal abdominal fat, there is no way you can see any ab muscles. Moderate resistance and endurance training are the most effective for fat loss. Even though you won’t be able to see your abs, it is still important to incorporate core exercises into your workout. I believe that fitness and nutrition go hand-in-hand. Without a clean, healthy diet, you’re only working at 50 percent of your potential. ”
– Allison Sharpe, CPT

Expert Advice: Abs with Thickness
“If you are looking to really see those abs with significant thickness, grooves and lines, incorporate weighted ab moves that challenge you in about 15 reps. Lose the 200 half-effort crunches. Many people do their crunches between TV shows at night or throw a set or two in at the end of a workout. Work your six-pack like you would train your chest or your other body parts: with good form and intensity. Make each rep count. When you feel like you want to quit the set, do four more. Quality and consistency are more valuable than quantity. Aim for hitting your abs two or three days a week with some oomph.”
– Tara Minacs, OFC, CPT in, CFC


Exercise Sets Reps
Crunch with Legs Raised and Crossed 1 15 (rest-pause 15 seconds)
1 14 (rest-pause 15 seconds)
1 13 (rest-pause 15 seconds)
1 12 (rest-pause 15 seconds)
Oblique Crunch with Legs crossed 3 10 to 15 (rest 45 to 60 seconds between sets)
Hanging Lower-Ab Crunch 3 10 to 15 (rest 45 to 60 seconds between sets)
Hanging Oblique Crunch 3 10 to 15 (rest 45 to 60 seconds between sets)
Pulley Ab Crunch 1 20 (rest-pause 15 seconds)
1 19 (rest-pause 15 seconds)
1 18 (rest-pause 15 seconds)
1 17 (rest-pause 15 seconds)
1 16 (rest-pause 15 seconds)
1 15 (rest-pause 15 seconds)
1 14 (rest-pause 15 seconds)
1 13 (rest-pause 15 seconds)
1 12 (rest-pause 15 seconds)
1 11 (rest-pause 15 seconds)
1 10
*Train for three days with cardio, then add two cardio-only days.

Originally featured in Maximum Fitness #9, Winter 2007

The information in this article is presented for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice or attention of any healthcare professional. Consult your physician before beginning or making changes to your diet, nutritional, supplement, or exercise program.