It’s summertime, and you know what that means — time to hit the beach and show off your six-pack. But sculpting a sexy six-pack is one of the most common and difficult goals in the gym. And as a trainer, that’s probably the top question I get from guys. Which ab exercises are the best? Which are the worst? How important is nutrition? And what should we really be eating?

Well, put away that copy of Six Minute Abs! For this roundtable, I gathered the ConFITdent staff to share their expertise on sculpting abs you can use to grate cheese. But I needed a little more awesome for this feature, so I also invited three of the smartest people in the fitness industry to the party:

Jeremey DuVall – ConFITdent all-star, personal trainer, and fitness writer. Rob Sulaver – certified fitness badass who’s been featured at Schwarzenegger, Men’s Health, Men’s Fitness, Huffington Post, and countless other awesome sites for ConFITdent-type dudes. And Marc Perry – an NYC fitness expert and Founder & CEO of BuiltLean, which is a health and fitness website that attracts over 1 million visitors per month from over 190 countries.

Enjoy the beach a little more with these six-pack tips. Please comment if you want more advice — we read every comment and help you as soon as possible.

Here we go!

Your Take: Which Ab Exercise Should Be Banned?

Marc Perry (BuiltLean)

Standard crunches with feet on the ground and machine crunches.

Jimmy Girot III (JimmyGirot.com)

Generally speaking, I don’t contraindicate exercises. However, I do contraindicate specific exercises for specific clients. With that political correctness aside, there are certainly exercises that simply aren’t optimal. The danger of a standard sit-up or abdominal crunch is overstated in the fitness industry—if they were really so bad for spinal integrity and posture, society would have millions of crippled Physical Education graduates and Yoga/ Pilates gurus. To ban the sit-up and/ or abdominal crunch is extreme but there are undoubtedly more optimal choices.

Jordan Syatt (Syatt Fitness)

Crunches. You know, the stupid exercise where you lie on your back, hands behind your head, and crunch up towards your knees. ****, I hate those.

Jeremey DuVall (JeremeyDuVall.com)

Leg lifts where the partner throws your legs back down to the ground.

Alon Shabo (ShaboFit)

Crunches should be illegal. Seriously. Not only are they boring and ineffective for true core strength, most people are doing them wrong. Crunches promote poor posture just as much as they put your spine at risk for injury.

Rob Sulaver (Bandana Training)

Ab crunches with bands hanging from the ceiling on a spin bike. What is this, a ******* circus?

Kedric Kwan (KedricKwan.com)

I think that no specific exercise should be banned because most of them have a time and place in a program. However, the exercise that most people should not be doing is sit ups. Most people butcher the movement by using their hip flexors instead of their abs. Instead of sit ups, replace them with planks which is an awesome core exercise.

What Is Your Favorite Exercise to Build a Six-Pack?

Rob Sulaver (Bandana Training)

Dragon flags, skin the cat, standing ab roll-outs, & giggling. Mostly giggling.

Jordan Syatt (Syatt Fitness)

Body Saw variations. Holy **** those things are brutal. Lately I’ve been doing them in the TRX and I hate myself for it every single time. (Editor’s note: TRX Body Saws are ******* insane.)

Marc Perry (BuiltLean)

Hanging abs raise like gymnasts do, where you are holding a bar, and lift your legs up to the bar while keeping them straight. It works the entire abs musculature very intensely.

Alon Shabo (ShaboFit)

The Front Squat + Plank Superset. Not only is the front squat the most badass exercise of all time (second to the deadlift), it strengthens your core muscles about 469.37% more than crunches (Not a real statistic).

Jeremey DuVall (JeremeyDuVall.com)

Abdominal roll-outs

True Or False (And Why): Everything Is Core Training

Jimmy Girot III (JimmyGirot.com)

False: Based on research and my own field experience, I deem the “Core” as the synergistic anatomy from the scapulae to the pelvis. In its simplest form, most training is in fact, Core Training. Are calf raises training the “Core”? Probably not. There are truly no absolutes in the fitness industry — the undeniable truth is that not all training is Core Training.

Jeremey DuVall (JeremeyDuVall.com)

True. You can have a strong core through proper activation during big movements, but it’s silly to think you don’t need any direct core work in your program.

Rob Sulaver (Bandana Training)

That’s a bit much but collectively we could de-emphasize traditional ab specific work. Renegade rows, farmer’s walk, and front squats – all ridiculously effective core training.

Marc Perry (BuiltLean)

Yes, if the core is always activated, but few people properly activate their core as they exercise. Core activation exercises in the beginning of a workout can be very helpful, along with body awareness as one moves.

Will Owen (Travel Strong)

Everything can be core training. In almost all resistance exercises the typical advice will be to ‘brace your core as if you were about to receive a punch to the stomach’, or to ‘fill your belly with air and brace hard’. Done right you will engage your core and build a solid midsection.

If A Guy Wants A Six-Pack, He Should ____________

Raphael Konforti (Fit With Raph)

Make that his goal right now. You can’t casually get a 6 pack just like you can’t casually deadlift 500 pounds. Your nutrition and training needs to be firing on all cylinders. It’s totally achievable just don’t expect it to happen without putting in the work.

Jeremey DuVall (JeremeyDuVall.com)

Learn to cook well and stop eating all-you-can-eat wings and beer with his buddies.

Marc Perry (BuiltLean)

Focus on losing fat without losing muscle, which is mostly a nutritional challenge. Instead of spending that extra 10 minutes in the gym doing abs exercises, go home and plan your meals.

Rob Sulaver (Bandana Training)

Walk to the grocery store. Get some meat, vegetables, and fat and cook a delicious meal. Then do it again. And again. And about 100 times again. Boom. 6 pack.

Kedric Kwan (KedricKwan.com)

Stop focusing on getting a 6 pack. You need to nail down your nutritional habits. Losing weight comes down to calorie balance. A million of crunches will not give you abs if you eating habits suck. Instead of focusing on abs, focus on well tailored program and create a calorie deficit with a balance nutritional plan. Also, abs on a skinny guy doesn’t count.

True Or False (And Why): Six-Packs Are Made In The Kitchen, Not On The Training Floor

Raphael Konforti (Fit With Raph)

False! I tell my clients this: “Abs are revealed in the kitchen but built in the gym.” The fact always remains that if your body fat is too high (At most 7-8%) your abs won’t show through. All that core training will help you on your lifts but not in the mirror. At the same time if you don’t take core training seriously you’ll end up with a flat lean stomach, you’ll just be missing the 6 pack. To make sure this doesn’t happen check out these exercises.

Jeremey DuVall (JeremeyDuVall.com)

True. I’ve never met a guy that wanted abs that wasn’t motivated to do abdominal work in the gym. They always are hitting up every abdominal variation they know, but they suck at eating.

Rob Sulaver (Bandana Training)

Shoot. I suppose I just answered that. Absolutely true. Show me a guy with a 6 pack, I’ll show you a guy who’s food is on-point.

Will Owen (Travel Strong)

Training and nutrition go hand in hand. The muscles that make up the abs are built up just like any other muscle in your body; by training hard. That said, you might have the best abs in the world, but they will not be visible if you are carrying too much body fat. The best way to shed body fat is through your diet, and good nutrition is therefore essential to having killer abs.

Marc Perry (BuiltLean)

True. If a low enough body fat percentage level is not reached, all the abs exercises in the world will not help someone get a six pack.