Whether you’re looking to get ripped abs or just looking to lose a little extra baggage you’re carrying around your midsection, there are 3 “key” areas to focus on to get ripped abs.

Strong abs not only help strengthen your lower back, but they also improve posture. Believe it or not, most lower back injuries occur due to weak abdominals. Focus on these three areas and you will see better results over time.

Key #1- Adequate cardiovascular work

You can have the best, most muscular abs in the world, but if they’re covered in a layer of body fat, who cares. To get rid of extra body fat around your abdomen, you need to incorporate effective cardio sessions into your fitness plan.

You cannot spot-reduce your midsection by doing additional abdominal exercises like crunches or sit-ups. You must first burn body fat through proper cardiovascular exercises to properly define the area. abdominal training alone will not do much. Cardio needs to be intense enough to do the trick.

Three to four sessions a week, 20 minutes each, of hard jogging, running, Stairmaster, elliptical, jump rope, or biking should be enough to kick-start the process. Swimming, hiking, and aerobics classes are also beneficial.

There is nothing better than jogging or running. It is the most intense, efficient and effective method to burn calories. If running outside hurts your joints, try running inside on a treadmill or outside on a dirt path. It’s definitely easier on the body.

Again, you NEED three to four intense cardio sessions a week, at least 20 minutes per session, to help create a calorie deficit and help shed fat that covers the body and reduces your chances of getting six pack abs.

Key #2- Proper Nutrition

Don’t sabotage your results at the gym by giving yourself a passport to eat. Ridding the body of fat once and for all is accomplished with proper nutrition rather than the addition of cardiovascular exercise. At the end of the day, if you have consumed more calories than you have expended, you add body fat. So you need to burn more calories than you consume.

Nutrition is important because you can reduce the number of calories you eat, which has a big effect on the amount you have to expend through cardiovascular exercise. Eat five to six small, well-balanced meals spaced every three to four hours. Try to have something healthy on hand.

If not, when you are very hungry, you will opt for something that is not so good for you. When you’re too hungry, all rational thought goes out the window. But it’s important to get something out of you. Not eating on time or at all is almost as bad as eating too much.

Keep your protein intake high (approximately 50% of daily calories), carbohydrates moderate (40%), and fats minimal (10%). Muscle fiber is made of tightly coiled protein molecules that are damaged during a workout, so it needs more protein than the sedentary person to help repair muscle tissue.

Carbohydrates play an important role in the body, but don’t base your meals on them. Try to avoid simple sugars like cane sugar, honey, fruit juices, syrups, and even lots of fruit.

Drink at least a gallon of clean water each day as well. It will aid in the absorption and digestion of nutrients and will help eliminate toxins from the body.

In a nutshell, make sure you are providing your body with healthy, well-balanced meals every three to four hours. To ensure that you are creating a calorie deficit, you need to find out your daily caloric requirements that you only need to maintain your current body weight.

Since you’re looking to reduce your current body weight by shedding some fat, you want to speed up creating a calorie deficit. One way is like we talked about earlier, doing cardio.

The other is by reducing the number of calories you consume by 150-200 calories per day from your daily maintenance allowance of calories.

For example, if you need, at your age, weight, activity levels, etc… 2,000 calories just to maintain your current weight, start reducing that number to 1,800 to 1,850 over a couple of weeks.

If after a couple of weeks you still don’t see results, lower that number back down to 150-200. Now you would be at 1600 to 1650 calories.

Once again, the key to getting ripped abs is to remove the fat that covers the abs.

The only way to do this is by creating a calorie deficit so that your body burns calories for the fuel it needs. When you burn stored calories, you are burning body fat. The proper way to do this is a combination of more intense cardiovascular exercise and a gradual reduction in calories.

Key #3- Train the abs with weights

This is where most people go wrong in their attempt to develop their abs. I often ask those I train, “Would you train your biceps with sets of 50 reps without weights?” Of course they say no. “How’s your chest, 50 reps with no weight?” Not another. I then ask, “Then why would you do that to your abs?”

Here is an important key. If you want proper abdominal development, you need to add resistance (weight) to your abdominal exercises. Abs are muscles like biceps, triceps, pecs, glutes, you name it. You need stamina to strengthen and build them properly. The same goes for the abs.

Here are some effective abdominal exercises to incorporate for proper abdominal stimulation.

Weighted crunches. Grab a dumbbell, hold it in front of your face or let it rest across your upper chest, under your chin, and perform regular crunches. You are now using your abs more to work against the leverage that the dumbbell has created. Stick with a heavy enough weight where you can handle 10-15 reps, but no more. Remember, you need to create enough resistance where your abs are forced to work.

Cable Rope Crunches: Grab the triceps rope, kneel on your knees, and lean down, forcefully contracting your abs on the way down. It’s basically a crunch, only you’re on your knees. But the contraction is the same. Don’t swing your hips, you’re not using your abs much if you do. Just a slight 30 degree contraction until you feel your abs contract, hold for a couple of seconds, then come back up.

Weighted Leg Raises: Lie on your back, with your hands tucked under your butt. Wrap your feet around a small dumbbell and perform leg raises. Start with your feet about 6 inches off the ground, then raise them about 12-16 inches off the ground, then slowly lower them down. This can also be done at the end of a bench.

Seated Ab Machine – Again, don’t rock all the way down, just far enough (30 degrees) to fully contract your abs, hold for a couple of seconds, then back up. This is very similar to cable rope crunches.

Stability Ball Crunches: Working on the stability ball will incorporate balance into your abdominal work. They are effective for strengthening the core region, which is the abdominals and lower back.

You lie on a stability ball as if you were going to perform a crunch. Position yourself on the ball so that your lower back rests on it. Keep your feet together on the floor making your body less stable (helps incorporate more balance on your part) and place your hands behind your head or folded across your chest. Pull your upper body in toward your knees, exhaling as you squeeze your abs. Under muscular control, lower yourself back down to the starting position, keeping full tension on your abdominals.

Regardless of the exercise you do, the key is to add weight/resistance. If not, you will never increase the amount of lean muscle tissue in the area. You only need to train your abs twice a week to get the best results. Again, treat them like any other muscle group (meaning you wouldn’t train them more often). Combine this weight training with proper diet and intense cardio and that elusive six pack is yours!