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CNA Lifestyle

Next-Level Workout: How to get six-pack abs and strengthen your core

In this new eight-part series, CNA Lifestyle brings you trainer-certified moves to help you reap more results from your workouts.

To help you get out of your workout rut, CNA Lifestyle spoke to various trainers to highlight the specific exercises that will let you break out of your fitness funk. This week, we focus on the abs.


Rock-hard, well-defined six-pack abs – who doesn’t want them? But we hate to break it to you: Washboard abs are just good for looks, that’s all. “They actually do very little for core stability. Their job is just to hold your guts in,” said Marcus Fam, 38, head of UFit bootcamps.

WATCH: Next-Level Workout: How to strengthen your quadriceps

What you want is core stability and strength – what abdominal exercises target. A strong core is what provides better balance and stability, both on the playing field and in your daily activities. In fact, most sports and other physical activities depend on stable core muscles.

I like the simplicity of this exercise. There’s no need for fancy equipment.

“When it comes to the core, we’re talking about the three main muscles: Rectus abdominis, internal and external obliques, and transverse abdominis. Together, they act as a natural corset,” said Fam, who is a former competitive bodybuilder, and a two-time Singapore national champion.

WATCH: Next-Level Workout: How to bolster your upper back against neck and shoulder aches


Crunches are a no-brainer for targeting the abs but you can level up with Fam’s sit-up kettlebell press. The movements are similar to crunches, except you’ll be upping the workout by holding a kettlebell above your abs and raising it as you sit up. Get someone to keep your feet on the ground if it helps.

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“I like the simplicity of this exercise. There’s no need for fancy equipment,” said Fam, who added that the kettlebell action also lets you work the shoulders and upper back. But to wring the maximum benefits out of this workout, you need to activate the right muscles. “Some people may not feel the workout in the abs but in the hip flexors instead if they don't activate the right muscles,” said Fam.

WATCH: Next-Level Workout: How to build bigger biceps and a stronger core

Here’s his tip for sussing out if you’re hitting the right muscles. Place a finger 2cm below the bellybutton, then move it 2cm out to the left or right. Press in with your finger and cough. “You’ll feel your muscles contracting. That is the sensation you want when you’re doing this workout,” he said.

(Photo: nonlinear)

As for the workout regime, Fam said that the abs are a small muscle group. “They respond differently from say, the way you train your back. Small muscle groups respond better to high repetitions. So I would say perform three sets of at least 15 reps.”

Next-Level Workout is a fitness series from CNA Lifestyle. Consult your doctor before starting any training programme.

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Source: CNA/bk