Ever since 3-D movies burst onto the scene, sometimes seeing things in 1-D just won’t cut it. And the same goes for ab training—work your abs in only one dimension, and you cheat yourself out of your full, six-pack potential.
"Most exercises only work in a single plane," says Irv Rubenstein, PhD, exercise physiologist and founder of S.T.E.P.S., a fitness facility in Nashville, TN. "Incorporating 3-D moves includes muscles such as the obliques, which provide a 'girdling' effect, pulling the waist inward and enhancing the definition of the rectus abdominis to give you that six-pack appearance."
[See: The Science of the Six Pack]
To understand how to incorporate this principle, you'll need to visualize the planes of the body. Backward and forward motions, such as crunches and reverse crunches, work in the sagittal plane, which divides the body into right and left halves. Lateral movements work within the frontal plane, which separates the body into front and back. And twisting movements occur in the body's transverse plane, which divides the body into upper and lower halves.
"In addition to fully developing your abs, working your abdominals in three dimensions also helps prevent injuries by correcting imbalances," says Joe Bellistri, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and owner of Bellistri Training Solutions in Whippany, NJ.
[See: Eat Your Way to a Six Pack]
Ready to get started? Add these exercises to your ab routine and watch your six-pack appear—no special glasses required.
DIMENSION 1: THE SAGGITAL PLANE
1. Barbell Rollouts
A. These mimic the ab rollers of yesteryear: To start, get on your hands and knees, then place hands shoulder-width apart on a barbell that’s on the floor in front of you, at shoulder level.
B. Brace your abdominals and keep your back straight as you allow the barbell to roll forward. Go as far as you can without allowing your hips to sag, then roll the bar back in. That’s one rep; do 12-15.
2. Band Belly Press
A. Attach medium-resistance tubing to a door hinge (or secure it around a stable object) at just below shoulder height. Stand with feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, then extend arms straight out in front of you to grasp the handle with both hands.
B. Brace your abdominals as you bring the band back and forth from chest, at the midline of your body. Repeat 10 to 15 times on each side.
DIMENSION 2: THE FRONTAL PLANE
1. Suitcase Carry
This is a one-armed version of the Strongman Farmer's Walk: Simply grab the handle of a kettlebell or a dumbbell (start with 30 lbs; increase only if you can maintain good posture) and walk with it for the length of a room, as if carrying a suitcase, keeping abs engaged and torso upright and in good posture throughout. Switch sides and repeat, for a total of approximately 100 feet each set. Do 2-3 sets.
2. Side Plank Snatch
A. Lie on your side with legs straight, bottom arm straight under shoulder and top arm holding a kettlebell. Support your weight on your forearm, with elbow directly under your shoulder and top arm holding onto the kettlebell on the floor in front of your chest.
B. Activate core muscles, then raise hips up and forward so body forms a straight line in the sideways plank position.
C. Extend top arm to raise the kettlebell overhead quickly, until arm is fully extended and straight up towards the ceiling; slowly lower back down. Do 10 reps, then switch sides and repeat.
DIMENSION 3: THE TRANSVERSE PLANE
A. Stand with feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, holding a medicine ball with both hands.
B. Bend knees and hips to drop into a squat as you bring the ball down to touch your left foot, shin or knee (depending on your flexibility).
C. Rise up out of the squat as you simultaneously rotate, raising the ball up and across your opposite side (as if throwing it over your opposite shoulder). Do 2 sets of 10 lifts to each side, alternating sets.
2. Russian Twists
A. Sit on top of a fitness ball and walk out until your head rests on the ball in a tabletop position, knees bent at 45-degree angles.
B. Hold a medicine ball with both hands straight up over the chest; engage core muscles.
C. Without moving hips, keep arms straight and rotate upper torso while you roll onto one shoulder, all the time keeping head eyes and head focused on the ball.
D. Pause when ball and arms are parallel to the floor, then rotate back to starting position. Repeat by rolling on the opposite side. Do 10–15 reps on each side.