Get Six Pack Abs: Your Total Program

Best Exercises and Diet to Look Ripped

Diego Sebastian’s shredded midsection has graced the cover of virtually every men’s fitness magazine in the world. He’s become a walking billboard for guys looking for the blueprint to the Holy Grail of ripped abs. What makes the 6-foot-4, 220-pound Sebastian even more impressive, though, is that even today, at age 51, he shows no signs of slowing down.

That isn’t to say some things haven’t changed over the years. “I need to make sure to warm up a lot longer,” he jokes. But Sebastian iss savvy enough to know if it ain’t broke, there’s no need to fix it. He follows the same basic principles he did when he was in his 20s and doesn’t claim to have any secrets to share – just an old-school approach that combines intensity, isolation and consistency in both the gym and the kitchen. 

TRAINING

Sebastian typically trains abs two to three times a week, which isn’t all that unusual. What makes his approach unique though, and where he sees others making mistakes, is the days on which he trains them.

“I normally like to train abs by themselves, on a day when I’m only doing cardio and no other body parts,” Sebastian says. “That way I can focus on them and train them with intensity. I see a lot of people training abs at the end of their workout where it’s almost like an afterthought. Abs are like any other body part – you need to completely focus on them if you want them to improve.”

Each session lasts around 15 minutes, depending on the workout. If Sebastian’s getting ready for a photo shoot or an appearance, though, he’ll transition into his “Beast Mode” ab workout that can take up to 25 minutes. For those killer sessions, Sebastian mixes in both weighted and bodyweight movements.

“I’m known for the thickness of my ab walls, and that was not genetically given to me,” he says. “The abs are a muscle and – just like any other body part – if you don’t use resistance, they’re not gonna grow. Weighted exercises have really helped me get that three-dimensional look.”

Sebastian also stresses the importance of hitting the abs from a variety of angles, with a number of different movements, selecting exercises that target the upper, lower, serratus and obliques. As far as exercise order, Sebastian will typically place heavier weighted movements – like decline crunches with a 45-pound plate – first in his workout.

“I like to have the most intensity and explosiveness for the heavier weighted exercises,” he says. “Then I work the other angles and floor exercises that require lighter weight, where I’m focusing more on conditioning and trying to fry them to fatigue.”

Sebastian’s typical training session is a straight-sets routine with a few intensity techniques thrown in to up the degree of difficulty, and to add a conditioning component that completely fatigues the entire abdominal region. Supersets, drop sets, partial reps and negatives are all incorporated at one time or another.

“Right from the start I’ll superset decline weighted crunches with bodyweight crunches on the Roman Chair,” he says. “As soon as I finish my first set of 25 weighted, I’ll drop the plate and move immediately to bodyweight decline weighted crunches.”

Rest periods are short – 30 to 60 seconds on most exercises to keep the intensity up. Although he doesn’t have a specific tempo he adheres to, Sebastian will slow things down on the eccentric part of an exercise. “The better and stronger I feel, the slower I’ll go,” he says. “I like to torture myself.”

CARDIO

Let’s face it – cardio is no fun for anyone, and Sebastian is no different. But it’s a necessary evil if you’re looking to showcase that six-pack, and Sebastian has learned a few tricks over the years to make it more bearable. Sessions typically range from 30 minutes to an hour, with the longer variations involving a combination of HIIT and steady-state cardio.

One of the tricks Sebastian likes to employ during his hour-long sessions is to jump from machine to machine every 15 to 20 minutes, starting out on the treadmill and moving on to the StepMill, bike or rowing machine to prevent boredom from setting in and make the time go by faster.

He also swears by HIIT, something he’s been employing since his days of running suicides with his high school basketball team. “I was doing HIIT before anyone knew what HIIT was,” he says. “I just took those principles and applied them to cardio.”

A typical HIIT session is 30 minutes long, but Sebastian prefers not to adhere to your typical 1:1 or 2:1 interval ratios. Instead, he’ll employ another trick he’s learned over the years.

“I look at RPMs, but I just go until I’m gassed,” he says. “I know if I get my RPMs to 150 on the bike, which is a full-on sprint, I’ll just keep it there as long as possible and then take the shortest rest possible. Usually if I’m watching a football game, I’ll time it every few downs and sprint for two to three minutes.”

NUTRITION

The metabolism of a 20-year-old is a lot more forgiving than that of a 51-year-old, and Sebastian will be the first to tell you he wouldn’t be where he is without a clean, structured daily meal plan. His consists of six meals spaced every three to four hours throughout the day, each one consisting of roughly 30 to 40 grams of protein and 40 grams of carbs.

“I don’t count calories, but I do count protein and carbs,” he says. “My carbs will fluctuate according to what my training is like and how close I am to a shoot. I will eat most of my carbs in the morning and start to taper them off at night.”

Sebastian will take in around 400 grams of carbs on a typical high-carb day and will go as low as 100 grams on a low day. As he gets closer to a shoot he’ll also start to cut down on the amount of healthy fats in his diet. “I’ll go gluten-free as much as possible,” he says, “because I feel it helps speed my metabolism up more.”

SAMPLE DAILY DIET

6:00 a.m.: Meal 1

½ cup oatmeal

30g whey protein powder

9:00 a.m.: Meal 2

½ cup brown rice pasta

6-8 oz ground bison

2 tbs tomato sauce

10:00 a.m.: Train

1:00 p.m.: Meal 3 (post-workout)

30g whey protein

1 cup almond milk

1 cup mixed berries

3:00 p.m: Meal 4

6-8 oz grilled chicken breast

Small salad

6:00 p.m.: Meal 5

6-8 oz white fish

1 cup mixed vegetables

9:00 p.m.: Meal 6

30g whey protein

1 cup almond milk

1 tbs almond butter

½ cup kale

DIEGO’S 5 RULES TO RIPPED ABS

1. Diet is King.  “Abs are made in the kitchen. You can do all of the crunches you want, but your nutrition has to be on point. You can’t see abs under a layer of body fat.”

2. Be Consistent. “If you’re not on top of it, you’re just regressing. You need to be consistent to build endurance and strength and carry that week by week. If you’re not, you’re consistently trying to climb up that hill.”

3. Don’t Skip Cardio. “I do cardio every day for at least 30 minutes, but usually an hour. If you aren’t consistently doing cardio, you’re never going to get lean.”

4. Focus and Isolate. “Give your ab training your full attention and hit every area from different angles. I see a lot of people who are counting reps more than anything and not establishing the mind-muscle connection you need in order to grow.”

5. Be Intense. “You have to train abs with the same intensity you do any other body part. I don’t mean go all-out every workout – know when to go full-throttle and when to maintain. But I keep that conditioning all year long so when I need to go hard, I’m ready to do that.”

DIEGO’S WEEKLY TRAINING SPLIT

Monday: Legs/Cardio

Tuesday: Abs/Cardio

Wednesday: Chest/Back/Cardio

Thursday: Arms/Cardio

Friday: Abs/Cardio

Saturday: Shoulders/Back/Cardio

Sunday: Off

DIEGO’S BEAST MODE AB WORKOUT

Rest for 30 seconds to one minute between exercises

Weighted Decline Crunches

2 sets x 25 reps

Superset with

Bodyweight Decline Crunches

2 sets x 25 reps

Cable Knee Kicks

2 sets x 25 reps

One-Arm Cable Pulldowns

2 sets x 25 reps

Weighted Leg Lifts

2 sets x 25 reps

Superset with

Bodyweight Leg Lifts

2 sets x 25 reps

Bicycle Kicks

2 sets x 50-100 reps

*Cable Floor Crunches

2 sets x 25/25 reps

*Done as a drop set, cutting the weight in half after the first 25 reps and immediately performing 25 more

 

EXERCISE DESCRIPTIONS

Decline Crunches

“I like to do these in a Roman Chair where I can really get my feet locked in. When I’m using weight, I prefer to use a 45-pound plate and push it up over my shoulder and head when I get to the top of the movement, because that motion creates a squeeze between the top two abs. I go very slow on the negative and I force myself to explode up to the top on the way up.”

Weighted Cable Knee kicks

“This is basically a MMA knee kick. These really bring out the lower ab area. It’s a quick motion and you don’t have to go super heavy, only about 20 to 40 pounds. You really have to find your range of motion on this one – make sure you don’t go past your opposite knee and you don’t go above waist level on the way up or you’ll involve too much of the hip flexors.”

Cable One-Arm Pulldowns

I’ll see some guys use weight plates or dumbbells, but I like using the cable because it doesn’t widen the waist. I find that the cable lets me isolate the serratus pretty easily with a partial movement. Make sure you don’t pull the weight down with your arm and engage the lats, really try to make that connection and pull the cable down by squeezing your serratus.”

Weighted Leg Lifts

This is a key exercise for me. I’ll normally use a 15- to 20-pound dumbbell between my feet and try to get 25 reps, which is really hard. Concentrate on using the lower abs to pull the weight up and keep the same slight bend in your knees throughout the exercise.

Bicycle Kicks

Lie on back, hands cupped behind head. Bend your right knee and bring to your left elbow. Then extend back out, and repeat with other leg in a twisting, bicycle pedaling motion. “This is an explosive exercise and more of a conditioning exercise that works a lot of the transverse muscles,” said Deigo. “I feel this is a more dynamic movement that involves a lot of conditioning.”

Cable floor crunches

“I concentrate on squeezing the abs on the way down and not arching too much on this exercise. I don’t like to bring my head above my waist at the top, which allows me to keep constant tension on the abs. On the way down I’m concentrating on squeezing the top two abs. This can be a partial movement too, to help with not losing the tension. I like to use a mirror on this because sometimes when you’re going up and down it’s hard to feel where you need to be.”

Follow Diego on Instagram at dsrawfitness

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