The Full Progression To The Only Exercise You Need For A Six Pack

Are you still far from developing that strong six pack core?

And do you struggle with finding the right exercises?

The fact is, everyone will give you 10 different exercises to develop a stronger core or to get you that six pack you are aiming for.


That’s why you are drowning in unnecessary ‘fancy’ and non-functional exercises.

It’s confusing to say the least.

The result? You are doing inefficient exercises, with an inefficient execution that don’t get you any results.

That’s the worst part, it’s like swimming against the stream, without arms.


And you want to ‘backlever/frontlever’ float in mid air?

This might sound harsh, but without the proper step-by-step process.

You are going nowhere.


If this key element in your training is either inadequate – or nowhere to be found – you will bump into a wall down the road.

But not on my watch.

I’ve been reviewing tons of workout routines recently, helping people to make better workout plans, and I’ve found that there is one major repeating obstacle.

Sticking to right progressions.



You Need To Focus On The Right Progressions


The one thing that will either pay off or make you pay for it is the time you have spent on perfecting, sculpting and optimizing your basics.

In that sense your core is a key piece.

When it comes to developing a stronger core, don’t just jump in the deep, but learn to swim.

The right way.


Eventually aiming for the most difficult and useful progression.

By dropping the ego and sticking to the process.

Here are the 5 exercises that will allow you to progress in the fastest possible way.



1. Bicycle Knee Raises




Main goal: Core strength & shoulder health


1) Grab the bar with an overhand grip

2) Slightly activate your shoulders by retracting your shoulder blades (Pulling them together)

3) Lift 1 knee to a 90 degree angle and hold it for 1-3 seconds

4) While lowering 1 knee bring the other knee up to a 90 degree angle and hold that position for 2-3 seconds

5) Keep alternating in a controlled way


Mastery at 5×10 repetitions



2. Knee Raises




Main goal: Core strength & shoulder health


1) Grab the bar with an overhand grip

2) Slightly activate your shoulders by retracting your shoulder blades (Pulling them together)

3) Lift both knees to a 90 degree angle and hold it for 1-3 seconds

4) Lower your knees while counting to 3 until they are completely hanging


Mastery at 5×10 repetitions



3. Half Leg Raises




Main goal: Core strength & shoulder health


1) Grab the bar with an overhand grip

2) Slightly activate your shoulders by retracting your shoulder blades (Pulling them together)

3) Lift legs while keeping your knees straight and hold it for 1-3 seconds

4) Lower your legs while counting to 3 until they are completely hanging


Mastery at 5×10 repetitions



4. Full Leg Raises




Main goal: Core strength & shoulder health


1) Grab the bar with an overhand grip

2) Slightly activate your shoulders by retracting your shoulder blades (Pulling them together)

3) Lift both legs completely upwards until your toes touch the bar

4) Lower your straight legs while counting to 3 until they are completly hanging

5) Extra requirement: To be able to do the full leg raise, you need a minimum amount of hamstring flexibility. Being able to touch the floor with your hands while keeping your legs straight should be enough.


Mastery at 5×10 repetitions



5. 1 Arm Full Leg Raises




Main goal: Core strength & shoulder health


1) Grab the bar with an overhand grip using only 1 hand

2) Fully activate your shoulder by retracting and depressing your shoulder blade (Pulling towards your other shoulder and pushing down)

3) Lift both legs completely upwards until your toes touch the bar

4) Lower your straight legs while counting to 3 until they are completly hanging

5) Use your opposite arm as a counter balance if you start rotating


Mastery at 5×10 repetitions



A Stronger Core Makes Everything Else Better


Whether you are doing it for aesthenics reasons or more functional ones, you will come to the conclusion that building a stronger core will make everything else better.

It’s not easy, it takes time and perhaps you need to start at progression 1.

Don’t be discouraged.

It isn’t easy to do what is hard, but if you keep doing what is hard, hard will become easy.


In the end, it’s worth the effort.

Stop drowning in those fancy pantsy ab exercises, stick to the functional, the progressions, the basics.

Because that’s where most of your progress will come from.

Soon you’ll see that while everyone is no-arm-swimming against the stream, you’ll be floating in mid air.


Beast mode ON!



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39 thoughts on “The Full Progression To The Only Exercise You Need For A Six Pack

    1. Hey Miller,

      Great question!

      Abs can be done every single day. So it really depends on your goals and the speed at which you want to achieve your goals.

      3 times a week is a minimum. If you are following the 6 month plan it’s already included ;).

      Beast mode ON!

  1. Hi, looking forward to trying this!

    I assume that in ‘progression 1’, both feet are off the floor?
    It’s just that in the photo it looks like the bottom foot is still on the floor


  2. Hi
    Thanks for uploading the progressions ! I wanted to ask one question – While incorporating this ab training in my program , do I need to add any additional oblique training ? If yes, please advice on what kind of oblique training can be added.

    1. Hey Yugaanshu,

      Great question!

      The final progression, will hit everything and even the full leg raises will hit the obliques in addition to your rectus abdominis.

      For beginners this is by far the ‘biggest bang for your buck’ over time and as you specialize you can add dragon flags, side raises etc, but if you can’t do a full leg raise yet, you have no business working on those too extensively.

      Then again, it really depends on your goals 😉 and there are always individual exceptions.

      Beast mode ON!

  3. Thanks for another great post Rich! 🙂
    One question regarding core – how about lower back and sides? Bet the routine above will get you that six pack, but for an overall strong core you need to develop more than just abs? Whats your thoughts about this?

    1. Hey Thomas,

      Thanks for your message!

      Once you hit that final progression ‘you will know what I mean by the only exercise you need’ 😉 for the anterior part of your core. Over time of course as you progress to more difficult stuff you might want to add some other exercises and just for variations sake there are tons of things you can do, but the leg raise is the biggest back for your buck as a beginner.

      Definitely more components play their part in developing an overall good core. The lower back for example is one of those areas which is problematic for tons of people.

      I’m a big fan of the crawling for lower back strength, try it for 3 minutes while balancing on 1 arm and 1 leg from opposite sides every 10-20 seconds and you will know what I mean.

      You can find it here: http://www.barbrothersgroningen.com/bar-brother-calisthenics-warm-up/

      There are many other things to add to this, it really depends on your goals. What do you need a stronger core for right now, what is your focus? This exercise is by no means exhaustive, BUT it’s definitely one of those key things that will make most other fancy machines and ab things ‘obsolete’.

      Beast mode ON!

      1. Thanks for the reply Rich,

        I feel like I have an overall weak core and I want to strengthen it to do exercises stricter. I want my core to stay in place when doing exercises like different variations of pushups, chis and pulls but also when I run, to prevent hurting my lower back. My short term goal is to do one muscle up and in the long run the human flag would be totally awesome. And as I read your 6 pack post I felt that this was a good way to start but I just wanted to ask you about exercises for sides and especially the lower back since I already have problems there.

        I’m already doing crawling for warm up, but not that slow as you suggest. I’ll try that variation for sure. Thanks for the advice 🙂

  4. Hi, when hanging from the bar are your arms supposed to be relaxed or tensed? I always seem to tense up the arm muscles and after I do the leg raises my arms kill after.

  5. I can do 25 knee raises. I’ve tried and tried but I can’t get to the half leg raises. I often see people doing it without moving their upper body but I can only do them if I do them “crossfit” style, as in raise my legs up while I push forward on the bar. Any suggestions?

    1. Hey Jamie,

      Great question.

      There is a difference between doing 25 knee raises and doing ’25 knee raises’. Unfortunately I cannot see your execution so I’m assuming you are lifting your knees up in a controlled way, holding it for 1-3 seconds and lowering them to repeat the sequence.

      If that’s the case…’crossfit style’ hmmm..,makes me wonder. Crossfit focuses on quantity in addition to lack of technique, but to be completely honest, that’s the best way to build strength and there are many reasons why.

      There is actually a very simple thing which you can do to keep a static position. Basically slightly activate your shoulders by pushing your shoulder blades together this will prevent you from swinging.

      Let me know if it worked.

      Beast mode ON!

      1. Yes it worked, I feel very stable when doing knee raises. But I still can’t do strict leg raises in the sense that my arms are pushing against the bar when pulling my legs up. But thanks for the great tip!

        1. Hey Jamie,

          More than welcome!

          Keep it up, as with any skill it takes ‘time’ ;). Thankfully there is no need to be in a hurry.

          Make sure you also work on that flexibility, it’s usually lacking in most people, not the strength :D.

          Beast mode ON!

  6. Hey Rich,
    Thanks for the interesting article. At the moment I am doing twice a week an ab routine, but it takes quite long. Therefore this seems very interesting and effective.
    One question though, would you say it is enough core training if you do these progression excercises (I assume you do only max 5x 10 reps of the excercise of your level) after e.g. a pull up routine?
    So let’s say I can do half leg raises, I should try to do 5 sets of 10 reps, and then it’s done? (Not that I am saying it is easy;))


    1. Hey Rob,

      Thanks for your feedback!

      Yes, of course this might differ per person. But if you stick to the right progression, with enough time under tension, this is definitely the biggest bang for your buck.

      Just look at the range of motion you go through while doing the move, while at the same time improving your shoulders which translates to more advanced lever work.

      Now I’m not saying this is ‘an end all be all exercise’, but I like to cut away the crap as much as possible and stick to the things that will give you the best results. But execution is everything ;).

      Beast mode ON!

  7. Hey Rich, long time no see(talk) 🙂
    I’ve been busy, working hard and seeing some results.
    I got my backlever, cleaining it up, got the muscle up almoooost, atleast not the clean one, I can rep out chicken muscle ups but I want the real deal. Also been working the dragonflags and I rep them out now, doing weighted pull ups, only 10 kg atm but I am building my way up, I am only 60 kg. I guess I want to thank you for all the help, I remember exactly how confused I was at first trying to start calisthenics but not knowing how. Your 6 month plan gave me the how and I just had to add the why. Thanks a lot bro’

  8. Hey BRO Rich!

    First; Tnx so mutch for doing this! Im following you, i think you are autentich and i am telling my friends about you and youre work here. Hope they check it out!! I’ve read the starter guide. NOTE people!! I AM NOT A READER! I read Rich’s book in 2 days without falling asleep. That IS a GOOD BOOK!

    Im in the beginning of youre 6 month program Rich. I can do a half leg-raise, but i dont feel it in my abs. I would like to add some ab routine to my training, like the one you are describing here. Im doing youre fullbody program (ref.6 month prog) every 2.day.

    Would you think it’s okay to do it so frequently? and could you help me incorporate a ab routine?

    Once again, tnx!!!!! Youre a brother! –

    sorry for bad english!

    – Peace

    1. Hey Peace,

      WHOO WHOOOP! Haha, messages such as yours make me a happy person ;).

      Haha, without falling asleep, well that’s one hell of an achievement, I must be a pretty good writer :P.

      Initially stick to the basic routine, you can optionally add some more ab work, but be carful because doing too much ab work without building the necessary lower back strength will lead to imbalances.

      Start off with 3 times a week, build it up slowly and optionally add some ab work. With regard to ab work I personally recommend this exercise 5×10, focus on your execution and time under tension.

      Thanks for the positive comment and for taking the time to send me a message, it is very much appreciated :D!

      Beast mode ON!

  9. i have trouble doing the half leg raise. i just started doing them but am having trouble getting my body at 90 degrees. help.

  10. Hey Rich,
    Great post!
    My English is bad because I’m just a German student ;)…
    At the moment I’m working on my pull ups and my leg raises. I can only do a few leg raises with barely 90°. For the 6 month plan, I want to do because I’m highly motivated, I need to be able to do 5 full leg raises. I think I will need a lot of time to progress to this step. Also, I have got the same “problem” with my pull ups (max 2). Should I start the 6 month plan anyways and for example repeat month 1? My idea was to replace the full leg raise in the routine with progression exercises and do the pull ups and when I can’t do anymore, I’d stick to the pull up “progression routine”… Any advice?

    1. Hey Ben,

      Great questions.

      That’s exactly what you should do. Find your progression level and add it to the routine until you reach the minimum amount of 5 reps of 3-5 sets of that specific progression and then move forward.

      Keep up the good work.

      Beast mode ON!

  11. Rich,

    What would you recommend to do instead of the full hanging leg raises for the 6 month system? While doing them I have been feeling a strain in my left shoulder and don’t want to further agitate it.


    1. Hey Justin,

      Great question.

      First of all, start investigating the pain and solving that issue, instead of simply doing another exercise to work around the problem.

      The leg raise is basically a progression for more advanced stuff so if the basics cause pain, you will have even more issues down the road.

      With that in mind, think about L sits, knee raises or half leg raises and at the same time work on strengthening your shoulder. My guess is you are using too much swing and not enough control, so basically doing something above your level of strength.

      So try either an easier variation or work on your pain source first.

      Beast mode ON!

  12. Hey Rich!

    I am quite skinny, 185 cm tall, and a Weight of 68 kg. So i would asume my bodyfat ℅ is low. But the thing is that i have visible abs, but not as visible as back in 2014 where i think i had even less body fat. At the moment, i am not sure if i have stretchy Skin, or if i really do have fat around my belly. The same goes for My lower back. I think it is called love handles.

    So my question is, if i should Focus on getting Lean MUSCLE Mass, to fill out the skin, or Focus on getting rid of the fat.

    It is Worth noting that i have not focused on abs excersises in a Long time, and maybe that is the problem. But i have recently started doing abs and Legs one Day, and upper body the following Day, and so on every Day.

    Although i’m not very Fond of losing weight since i would really like to pack on some Lean muscle Mass.

    Extra question: do these excersises target the obliques aswell?

    – Salute

    1. Hey Jakob,

      Welcome to the movement!

      Well, if you want more visible abs the fastest way to do it is to burn more fat. So basically get into a caloric deficit, usually this isn’t something you will be able to stick to for a longer period of time, so at the same time the quality of your nutrition plays a vital role in maintaining a certain percentage.

      Great job on getting started. If you want to pack on muscle, don’t focus on those abs right now too much, focus on gaining weight first in terms of muscle. As a consequence you will gain fat, but if you cycle through bulking and cutting you can gain more lean muscle.

      The leg raise -if done correctly- will do an excellent job of targeting your entire ab region. If you want to put more of an emphasis on your obliques however, try adding some minor variations. Moving your legs more left or right and doing a horizontal raise instead of just a vertical one. Those are called windshield whipers.

      Beast mode ON!

      1. Hey again Rich!
        Thanks for the fast reply!
        Actually, i’m not New to the movement, i started back in december, and i am 6 months (6 month program) in, although i have yet to complete month 4, because the leap was too Big for me from month 3 to 4 – i kinda gave . Instead i have experimented on my own, and have been able to achieve a muscle up.
        I have packed on muscle, my shoulders, Arms, chest and back has really developed since i started. Although in terms of weight, not much has happened, Ive gained about 3-4 kg.
        So, quick questions:
        – In month 4, is it Better to do all the reps and instead just do 1 cycle or is it Better to lower the reps to be able to do all 3 cycles? (I’m asking because i cannot complete the 3 cycles with the required reps – hard time with the clapping pullups – afraid to let Go of the bar, and the archer pullups.
        – How many reps to Focus on strenght and getting bigger?
        – How much protein should you eat to become bigger/stronger?
        Also, i want to thank you for your help and dedication to this site, your replies have motivated me alot through these months.
        I apoligize in Advance if i should have posted this in the 6 month program blog post i just thought i would be a good idea to continue my questions here.
        – Salute

  13. Hey came across Bar Brothers for the first time today and I’m thinking of starting up. One question. . Does the system come with the nutrition guide all for $47?

  14. Hey,

    I’ve just started the 6 month beginner routine, from the very beginning of month 1. I’ve found that the full body is relatively straight-forward except the leg raises. I can only do knee raises… Should I be doing this leg progession on days between the full body? Or same day?

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