There is a common saying that abs are made in the kitchen. Having a strong core and abdominal muscles is not enough to get "six-pack" or "washboard" abs, because there will likely be a large layer of fat over the abdominal region. In fact, you aren't able to really see six-pack abs until you are in the 8-15% range of Body Fat Percentage.
Furthermore, the difficulty of getting six-pack abs is compounded by the fact that there is no way to target specific areas for weight loss, and the abs are the hardest place to remove your excess fat storage. This makes getting abs very difficult and also difficult to maintain as it requires a lot of diligence in keeping your diet and cardio routines.
Ultimately, the best plan for getting six-pack abs is a three-pronged approach of:
- Ab/Core Workouts
Your primary goal should be to cut your BF% significantly so that your abs can actually be seen without having to constantly suck in your gut XD. I personally use the Navy method for calculating my BF%, which is explained here. Naturally, the best way to cut your BF% is through proper dieting and cardio.
For dieting you'll want to remove overly fatty foods and eat healthy, but also make sure you are taking in enough protein/carbs/fat to support your current level of exercise.
For cardio you can do runs, swimming, pylometrics, martial arts... whatever interests you and keeps you engaged in the activity.
For ab/core workouts you'll want to do three a week. Abs are muscles too, and you need to make sure to give them a day of rest to rebuild, especially after rigorous workouts. A good thing to keep in mind when building your ab routine is to work the lower abs at the start of the workout when you are feeling good, because those are usually the most out of shape and hardest to workout.
Here is a sample ab/core workout that I am currently doing, some of which is borrowed from the P90X/Ab Ripper X routine.
- Bicycle - 25
- Reverse bicycle - 25
- In / outs - 25
- Leg raises - 25
- Reverse sit-ups - 25
- Alternating wide leg sit-ups - 26 (each move counts as 1)
- Fifer scissors - 25 (4 seconds each)
- Roll-up/v-up combo - 26 (each move counts as 1)
- Oblique v-up - 25 (do both sides)
- Mason twist - 50 (drops reps and add medicine ball if possible)
- Plank - 90 sec
- Side plank - 60 sec (each side)
- Bird dog - 60 sec (each side)
It should be noted that my two favorite ab workouts aren't even on this list: squats and deadlifts. If you plan on doing strength training outside of sculpting abs, I recommend you work both squats and deadlifts into your regimen as they are two of the best compound workouts, period (IMHO).