Ab workouts are a popular type of exercise that targets the muscles of the abdomen. Ab workouts include a wide range of motions and positions, including crunches, planks, sit ups, and leg raises. Each of these exercises works the abdominal muscles in different ways, but they all require proper form and technique to be effective. Ab exercises help gym goers build muscle mass, increase muscle definition, improve functional strength, and aid in weight loss when performed correctly. However, the benefits of ab workouts go beyond physical appearance. A strong core can improve posture, reduce back pain, and enhance overall health and fitness.
Below are eight fundamental exercises to engage and develop the abdominal muscles.
- Crunches: Crunches work the rectus abdominis muscle, helping you get the coveted “six-pack” when you incorporate them into an effective fitness routine.
- Sit-ups: Sit-ups engage the abs, hip flexors, and lower leg muscles, helping develop a stronger, more defined core.
- Planks: The plank is an isometric ab exercise that improves posture, stability, and balance, and helps develop a strong core.
- Leg raises: Leg raises work the entire core, targeting the anterior hip flexors, rectus abdominis, quadriceps, and hamstrings.
- Russian twists: Russian twists are similar to crunches, but their twisting motion targets the obliques.
- Mountain climbers: Mountain climbers are a full-body endurance exercise that engages many muscles of the core, including the abs.
- Bird dogs: Bird dogs are a low-impact bodyweight exercise that engages the muscles of the abs, glutes, lower back, and thighs.
- Dead bugs: Dead bugs are a simple yet effective core-strengthening exercise that works out the abs and is often prescribed by physiotherapists for people with back pain.
The basic abdominal exercises above are versatile enough to fit into any ab or general fitness routine, whether you’re focusing on your lower or upper abs, or the entire core. These ab exercises rely on your body weight for resistance by default, but you may increase resistance on some of them by using resistance bands, cable machines, medicine balls, and other free weights.
The ideal frequency of abdominal workouts is 2-3 times per week, as exercising your abs any more than this is unnecessary and counterproductive. Rest is essential for muscle development, and exercising the abs more than 2-3 times per week deprives the abdominal muscles of a chance to rest and grow. There is no ideal duration for an ab workout. An ab workout should last as long as it takes you to perform 2-3 different ab exercises, which is the optimal structure for an abdominal workout routine.
Women and men have the same abdominal muscles, and gender shouldn’t dictate which abdominal exercises to perform or avoid. That said, women generally focus on strength, stability, and balance, whereas men are more interested in muscle mass and a well-defined six-pack. The difference in these workout goals may dictate which exercises men and women choose for their ab routine. Pregnancy and periods are generally not a reason to skip ab workouts. However, there are safety precautions and comfort considerations that a woman should take into account when performing ab workouts while pregnant or during a period.
It’s important to remember that ab workouts carry some risk of injury if not performed properly. It’s always best to start with low-intensity ab exercises and gradually increase the difficulty as your core strength improves. Cultivating a robust biomechanical understanding of the motions involved with your ab exercises is critical for achieving your fitness goals. Explore the benefits, mechanics, and risks, and the optimal frequencies and durations of healthy ab workouts below.
Crunches are a popular bodyweight exercise that targets the abdominal muscles. The crunches involve lifting the upper body off the ground while keeping the lower back in contact with the ground. There are two key athletic and health benefits to performing crunches. Firstly, crunches offer an effective way to strengthen the muscles of the abs, which improves core strength and muscle definition. Secondly, crunches improve posture and reduce the risk of back pain by helping develop abdominal muscles.
How to do crunches safely
Start a crunch by lying on your back with your knees bent, your feet flat on the ground, and your hands behind your head or across your chest. Then, lift your upper body off the ground by curling your shoulders towards your hips and lower it back to the ground.
Crunches are a safe bodyweight exercise that doesn’t generally pose health risks if you perform it correctly. However, crunches may strain your neck, back, or hips if your form is wrong or if you’re recovering from a musculoskeletal injury.
What are the best crunch variations for ab workouts?
Below is a list of eight popular crunch variations that let you increase or decrease the difficulty of abdominal exercises.
- Reverse crunch: A reverse crunch involves lifting the legs off the ground and curling the hips towards the chest while keeping the upper body on the ground. The benefits of the reverse crunch include greater lower abs strength and improved balance.
- Cable crunches: Cable crunches are performed using a cable machine, which adds resistance to the crunch motion. Performing crunches with the cable machine is more challenging than doing a regular crunch, but the added difficulty results in stronger, more defined abdominal muscles.
- Bicycle crunch: The bicycle crunch entails alternating between lifting the upper body and the legs while performing a crunch. Bicycle crunches engage more of the lower abs and help improve balance.
- Exercise ball crunch: Exercise ball crunches are standard crunches that are performed while lying on an exercise ball. Basing your body on an exercise ball instead of the floor during crunches helps you develop stability and engages a wider range of muscles, including hip flexors and the lower back.
- Toe tap crunches: Toe tap crunches involve raising the legs and tapping the toes with your hands while performing a crunch. This exercise challenges the lower abs by adding the leg raise component to a crunch.
- Crossover crunches: Crossover crunches are performed much like regular crunches, except that you cross one leg over the other while performing the exercise. Crossover crunches engage the obliques more than standard crunches do.
- Side oblique crunches: This exercise involves performing a crunch while twisting the upper body to one side to target the oblique muscles. The benefits of this exercise include improved oblique strength and improved core stability.
- TRX crunches: This exercise involves performing a crunch while holding onto TRX straps for added resistance. The benefits of this exercise include improved core strength and improved overall fitness.
Sit-ups are an abdominal exercise that targets the muscles of the abs, hip flexors, and thighs. Sit-ups involve lying flat and using the abdominals to lift the torso towards the knees, providing a comprehensive workout for the core. Sit-ups enhance overall body strength, balance, stability, and support daily activities like bending and lifting. Additionally, sit-ups are instrumental in athletic performance and contribute to maintaining good posture.
How to do sit-ups safely
Perform a sit-up by lying on your back with your knees bent, your feet flat on the floor, and your hands behind your head or across your chest. Engage your abs to lift your entire upper body off the ground while curling your shoulders towards your hips. Then, lower the body back to the floor for a single rep.
Sit-ups are generally safe, but they may cause two potential risks if you perform them wrong or if you’re injured. Firstly, you may experience strain on your neck, back, or hips if you perform the sit-ups with incorrect form. Secondly, sit-ups may aggravate any existing musculoskeletal injuries. Make sure you use the correct form when performing sit-ups and avoid exercising while injured if it’s against your physician’s advice.
What are the best sit-up variations for enhancing abs and posture?
Below are the five variations of sit-ups that promote better abs and posture.
- Weighted sit-up: A weighted sit-up is an ab workout that adds weight to a traditional sit-up. Performing a sit-up while holding a weight (such as a dumbbell or medicine ball) increases resistance and helps the abdominal muscles develop.
- Jackknife sit up (V sit-ups): Jackknife sit-ups (also known as V sit-ups) involve lifting the legs and upper body off the ground and reaching towards the toes. This sit-up variation helps better engage the lower abs.
- Stability ball sit-up: A stability ball sit-up involves performing a sit-up while lying on a stability ball. Stability ball sit-ups do more to improve core balance than standard sit-ups.
- Elbow-to-knee sit-ups: Elbow-to-knee sit-ups involve lifting the upper body off the ground and touching one elbow to the opposite knee. Improved oblique strength is the main benefit of this sit-up variation.
- Sit up with a twist: A sit-up with a twist is performed by lifting the upper body off the ground and twisting the torso to one side. The key benefits of this exercise include improved oblique strength and core stability.
The plank is a bodyweight exercise that involves holding a position similar to a push-up, but with the body held in a straight line from head to heels. Performing the plank offers the following three benefits. Firstly, the plank improves core strength, as it effectively engages the muscles of the core, including the abs, obliques, and lower back. Secondly, the plank improves posture. The plank helps enhance posture and reduce the risk of back pain by strengthening the muscles of the core. Thirdly, the plank improves balance and stability, since the exercise requires you to maintain a stable position.
How to do a plank safely
Start the plank in a push-up position with your forearms and your toes on the ground. Keep your elbows straight and your body in a straight line from head to heels. Engage your core muscles by pulling your belly button towards your spine. Hold the position for as long as possible without letting your hips sag or your back arch.
The plank is generally safe for most people. However, holding the plank poses four potential risks if performed incorrectly or while injured. Firstly, a plank may strain the lower back. Letting your hips sag or your back arch during the plank may cause you to experience strain on your lower back. Secondly, holding a plank may cause wrist pain, particularly if you have a history of such pain or if your wrists are weak. Thirdly, the plank exercise may aggravate any existing shoulder pain or injuries. Finally, holding the plank may cause neck pain if you do not position your head correctly. It is important to perform the plank exercise with proper form and to consult a healthcare professional if you have any pre-existing conditions or concerns.
What are the best plank variations to engage the ab muscles?
You’re able to modify plank exercise in a variety of ways to increase or decrease the difficulty. Below is a list of the nine most popular variations of the plank to engage your abs.
- Side plank: The side plank involves holding a plank position while supporting your body weight on one hand and the side of one foot. The benefits of this plank variation include improved core strength and balance.
- Knee plank: The knee plank modification entails holding a plank position with your knees on the ground instead of your toes. A knee plank is easier on the core and is more suitable for beginners.
- Incline plank: The incline plank is a bodyweight exercise that involves assuming a plank position with the upper body elevated on an incline, engaging core and upper body muscles. Your hands are placed on an elevated surface, such as a bench or step, when holding the incline plank. An incline plank is a bit easier to hold than a standard plank.
- Shoulder tap plank: A shoulder tap plank involves holding the plank position while tapping each shoulder with your opposite hand. The shoulder tap plank enhances balance as you strive to keep your body stable with a single hand.
- Plank with leg lift: A plank with leg lift is an exercise in which you’re lifting one leg off the ground while holding the plank position. The benefits of this exercise include improved core strength and balance.
- Medicine ball plank: The medicine ball plank alters the pose, with the forearms resting on a medicine ball rather than the floor. The medicine ball plank benefits core muscle development, balance, and stability.
- Plank reach: The plank reach exercise involves holding a plank position while reaching forward with one arm. The plank reach adds a challenge to the standard plank as it’s harder to maintain balance.
- Iron cross plank: The iron cross plank is a particularly challenging core exercise that involves lifting an arm and the opposite leg off the ground while in the plank position.
- Uneven plank: The uneven plank entails having one hand on the ground and the other hand on a raised surface, such as a medicine ball or yoga block. This exercise helps you develop stability as you learn to hold the plank with unevenly distributed weight.
4. Leg raise
Leg raises are a bodyweight exercise that targets the muscles of the lower abdominals, hip flexors, and thighs. The exercise entails lifting the legs off the ground while keeping the lower back in contact with the ground. Including leg raises in your fitness routine has two key benefits. Firstly, leg raises are an effective way to strengthen the muscles of the lower abs, and strong lower abdominals improve overall core strength. Secondly, leg raises engage hip flexors and thighs, thus improving overall lower body strength.
How to do a leg raise safely
To perform a leg raise, lie on your back with your legs straight and your arms at your sides. Engage your abs by pulling your belly button towards your spine. Lift your legs off the ground by raising them towards the ceiling. Lower your legs back down to the ground.
Leg raises are generally a safe exercise. However, you may experience pain or discomfort if you perform the workout with an existing musculoskeletal injury or if your form is incorrect. Make sure you follow the advice of a medical professional before attempting this exercise with an injury, and work on maintaining proper form throughout leg raise exercises.
What are the best leg raise variations to strengthen the abs?
Leg raises are easy to modify if you want to increase or decrease their difficulty, or if you’d like to target a specific group of muscles. Below are the seven best leg raise variations to strengthen and improve your abs.
- Hanging leg raises: Hanging leg raises are performed by hanging from a bar and lifting the legs towards the ceiling. Improved grip strength, core strength, and overall fitness are the key benefits of hanging leg raises.
- Hanging knee raises: Hanging knee raises are similar to hanging leg raises, but you only lift the knees while hanging from a bar. This exercise improves lower abs strength and balance.
- Side leg raises: Side leg raises involve lying on your side and lifting the top leg towards the ceiling. Improved balance and hip abductor strength are the key benefits of including this variation of the side leg raises into your gym routine.
- Toes to bar: The toes to bar exercise is done by hanging from a bar and lifting the legs towards the ceiling until the toes touch the bar. The toes to bar leg raise variation improves grip strength, core strength, and overall fitness.
- Standing leg raises: Standing leg raises are performed by standing and lifting one leg towards the ceiling. This leg raise variation engages the abs and hip flexors, and improves balance.
- Weighted leg raise: The weighted reg raise involves performing a leg raise while holding a weight, such as a dumbbell or medicine ball. Weights increase the resistance muscles experience during a typical leg raise, so this variation offers an effective way to challenge the ab muscles during a workout.
- Hollow body leg raises: Hollow body leg raises are performed while lying on your back with your arms and legs extended towards the ceiling. Lift your legs and upper body off the ground while keeping your lower back in contact with the ground. The benefits of hollow body leg raises include improved overall core strength.
5. Russian twist
The Russian twist is an abs exercise that targets the abdominals, the obliques, and the lower back. Russian twists involve rotating the torso from side to side. Russian twists offer an effective way to strengthen the obliques, improve posture, and enhance overall fitness.
How to do a Russian twist safely
Perform a Russian twist by sitting on the ground with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground. Hold a weight or medicine ball with both hands in front of your chest. Engage your abs by pulling your belly button towards your spine. Twist your torso to one side, keeping your back straight. Return to the center and then twist to the other side.
Russian twists are a safe exercise. However, the following two risks exist, especially if you perform Russian twists with a weight. Firstly, you may experience neck strain if you hold the weight too far away from your body during the twists. Secondly, you may aggravate existing musculoskeletal injuries by performing Russian twists, especially if your form is incorrect. Master the right form of the Russian twists before you add weights to the exercise and speak with a medical professional before adding this exercise to your routine if you’re injured.
What are the best Russian twist variations for targeting the abdominals?
The Russian twists exercise is easily modified to increase or decrease the challenge. Below are four common variations of the Russian twists.
- Weighted Russian twist: The weighted Russian twist variation adds resistance to the exercise, as you hold a weight while performing the twists. Adding resistance to the twisting motion further strengthens the oblique muscles.
- Decline Russian twist: The decline Russian twist is performed on a decline bench. Decline twists make the exercise more challenging by increasing the range of motion and adding resistance.
- Leg-cross Russian twist: The leg-cross Russian twist exercise involves crossing one leg over the other while performing a Russian twist. Greater balance and core stability are the key benefits of this Russian twist variation.
- Russian twist punch: Russian twist punch, or punch twist, is a type of Russian twist that’s performed by punching the weight or medicine ball to one side. Russian twist punches add a challenge to the standard Russian twist exercise and help improve stability.
6. Mountain climbers
Mountain climbers are a high-intensity cardio exercise that targets the muscles of the abs, shoulders, and legs. The exercise involves bringing the knees towards the chest while in a plank position. Mountain climbers are an effective way to work out the abdominal muscles, improve cardiovascular endurance, burn calories, and enhance overall fitness.
How to do mountain climbers safely
Start your mountain climbers in a plank position, with hands directly under your shoulders and legs extended behind you. Bring one knee towards your chest, then quickly switch to the other knee, and continue alternating knees as quickly as possible.
Mountain climbers are a safe exercise, as long as you maintain proper form and do not attempt it while recovering from musculoskeletal injuries around the core.
What are the best mountain climber variations for working out abs?
Below are three key variations of mountain climbers that let you control the level of difficulty, focus on specific muscle groups, and challenge your balance and stability.
- Cross-body mountain climbers (also known as “alternating mountain climbers”): Cross-body mountain climbers involve bringing your knee towards the opposite elbow instead of simply up to the chest. The benefits of this exercise include improved oblique and overall core strength.
- Sliding mountain climbers: The sliding mountain climber variation requires performing mountain climbers with your feet on a sliding surface, such as a towel or slider. Sliding mountain climbers come with increased resistance and improve overall fitness.
- Exercise ball mountain climbers: An exercise ball mountain climber involves resting your hands on an exercise ball while performing mountain climbers. The benefits of exercise ball mountain climbers include improved stability and overall core strength.
7. Bird dog
Bird dogs are a low-impact exercise that targets the muscles of the abs, lower back, and hips. Bird dog exercises involve extending the opposite limbs while in a tabletop position. Bird dogs offer a powerful yet easy way to improve core strength, stability, and balance.
How to do bird dogs safely
Start the bird dog exercise in a tabletop position with your hands directly under your shoulders and your knees beneath your hips. Extend your right arm and left leg simultaneously, keeping your back straight. Return to the starting position and then extend your left arm and right leg.
Bird dogs are a safe, low-impact exercise that shouldn’t come with any risks unless you’re recovering from a musculoskeletal injury or your form is completely off.
What are the best bird dog variations to improve abdominal stability?
Below are the three best variations of the bird dogs exercise.
- Bird dog with band: The bird dog with band variation requires you to place a resistance band around your ankles while performing the exercise. Using a band increases resistance and makes for a more challenging version of the bird dog.
- Bird dog with leg extensions: The bird dog with leg extensions involve extending one leg and holding it in the air while performing the exercise. Improved hip and leg strength are the added benefits of bird dogs exercise.
- Bird dog with weights: The bird dog with weights entails holding a weight (such as a dumbbell or medicine ball) while performing bird dogs. The added resistance gives your abs and core muscles a more challenging workout.
8. Dead bug
Dead bug is a low-impact bodyweight exercise that targets the abdominals, lower back, and hips. Dead bugs involve extending the opposite limbs while lying on your back. Dead bugs help strengthen the core without subjecting joints or muscles to excessive stress.
Dead bugs offer several major benefits to your ab workout. First, dead bugs place tension on your entire core, which improves balance, coordination, and posture. As a result, doing this ab exercise reduces the risk of injuries during various activities and sports. Second, dead bugs require no equipment and are adaptable to suit different fitness levels, making them accessible for everyone. Third, strengthening the core with dead bugs contributes to better athletic performance, improved hip mobility, and overall functional fitness. Finally, consistent practice of dead bugs encourages proper breathing mechanics and engages deep core muscles, promoting core stability and reducing the risk of lower back issues.
How to do the dead bug exercise safely
Perform dead bugs by lying on your back with your arms extended towards the ceiling and your knees bent at a 90-degree angle. In this position, extend your right arm and left leg simultaneously, keeping your back flat on the ground. Return to the starting position, then extend your left arm and right leg.
Dead bugs are a low-risk exercise that shouldn’t cause any injuries unless you have a pre-existing condition that may become aggravated as a result of the strain on core muscles.
What are the best dead bug variations for strengthening the abs and core?
Below are the two best variations of dead bugs that add resistance to a low-impact ab workout.
- Dead bug with a weight: Dead bug with a weight is an ab exercise that requires you to hold a weight while performing dead bugs. The benefits of weighted dead bugs are increased resistance and greater challenge for the core muscles.
- Ipsilateral dead bug: Ipsilateral dead bugs involve extending the same arm and leg simultaneously, rather than the opposite limbs. The benefits of this dead bug variation include improved coordination and balance.
How often should you work out your abs?
You should work out your abs 2-3 times a week with a routine that includes 2-3 exercises. 2-3 ab workouts a week place enough strain on your abdominal muscles to build strength without overtraining. Your abdomen is engaged by almost every exercise you do in the gym, so the amount of targeted ab exercises you need to perform depends on the rest of your routine. Cardio exercises like running and full-body weight training all use your abdomen, so you may not need as many dedicated sessions if you run or do resistance training. It’s important to not overwork your abs, as appropriate rest periods are crucial for muscle recovery and growth.
However, the optimal frequency of ab exercises varies depending on your goals and your current fitness levels. A professional personal trainer is able to guide you towards a tailored workout plan, ensuring that effective ab workouts are optimally integrated into your overall fitness regimen.
Can you work out abs every day?
Yes, you can work out abs every day, but it may not be the most effective way of structuring your workout routine for two reasons. Firstly, the abdominal muscles are used in almost all movements, so they already get plenty of exercise on a daily basis. Secondly, overtraining with targeted ab workouts every day slows down your progress because your muscles have no time to rest and recover. However, be sure to moderate the intensity of your ab workouts if you do choose to work them every day.
How long should an ab workout be?
An ab workout should be as long as it takes to perform 2-3 targeted abdominal exercises. Most abdominal exercises target all five abdomen muscles, so a routine that includes more than 3 workouts is unnecessary. Pick an isometric exercise, like a plank, and then 1-2 dynamic movements, like ab rollouts or woodchops.
What are the most intense ab workouts?
Below is a list of the 8 most intense ab workouts.
- Windmill: Windmills are an intense exercise that targets your obliques using dumbbells. Stand in an active stance (feet shoulder width apart) while holding a light dumbbell in one hand. Move your weight-laden hand over your head while rotating your course and touching your toes with the other hand. Repeat several times before switching sides.
- Hollow hold: The hollow hold is a challenging abdominal workout that targets your transverse and rectus abdominis. Perform the hollow hold by lying on the floor with your legs at a 90-degree angle. Stretch your arms forward so that your shoulder blades leave the ground, extend your legs, and hold the position for as long as possible.
- L sit: The L sit is one of the most challenging isometric ab exercises you can do. The L sit targets your rectus abdominis as well as your lats, triceps, and quads. Perform the exercise by holding yourself off the ground by resting both palms on surfaces on either side of your body (you could use exercise boxes or dip bars). Lift your legs off the ground so that they are parallel to the floor while keeping your arms straight and your shoulders activated.
- Barbell rollout: The barbell rollout is a classic ab workout that’s also one of the most challenging. Position a loaded barbell on the floor in front of you while holding it with your hands shoulder-width apart. Roll the bar forwards while keeping your spine and legs straight until your body is parallel to the floor. Then, roll the bar backwards to return to the start position.
- TRX pike: The TRX pike targets your transverse abdominis and your rectus abdominis while taking advantage of a TRX suspension system. Start the exercise by lowering the TRX straps to 1-2 feet off the ground and place your feet in the straps. Adopt a plank position with your hands on the floor. Then, transition to a poke position by lifting your hips towards the ceiling.
- Strict toes to bar: A strict toes to bar position is a bar exercise that focuses on your rectus abdominis. Begin the exercise by hanging from a pull up bar in an overhand grip. Then, raise your feet in a controlled manner until your toes touch the bar and then return slowly to the starting position.
- Weighted V up: The weighted V up works your rectus abdominis as well as your quads and shoulders with the assistance of a weighted medicine ball. Perform a weighted V up by laying on the floor while holding a medicine ball in your hands behind your head. Contract your abs and raise your legs so that your medicine ball touches your toes.
- Barbell wipers: Barbell wipers work out your rectus abdominis and your obliques and you will need a barbell with low weights. Begin the workout by lying on the floor with a lightly-weighted barbell resting on your chest. Execute a bench-press movement to raise the barbell over your chest until your arms are fully extended while lifting your legs to the ceiling so that your feet face the ceiling. Then, move your hips so that your knees move towards the floor before repeating for the other sides.
Intense ab workouts such as those listed above help strengthen core muscles, define abs, and help burn off belly fat. However, these intense ab workouts come with an increased risk of injury, especially for individuals with lower back pain, pre-existing injuries, or limited mobility. Alternatives like planks, regular crunches, and bodyweight squats help build a strong core and improve overall fitness without the added risk of injury.
What are the best ab workouts for women?
The best ab workouts for women are those that promote balance and stability. Men and women have the same ab muscles and can develop those muscles in the same ways, so there’s no such thing as “ab exercises for women” or “ab exercises for men.” The only difference between the ab exercises that work best for women rather than men is that women are generally less interested in building abdominal muscle mass, and are more keen on definition, strength, and balance.
The following five best ab exercises for women.
- Side plank: The side plank is one of the best workouts for women because it strengthens the core and protects the spine, promoting overall balance. Perform the side plank by adopting the side plank position by resting your weight on the sides of your feet and one of your elbows. Maintain a straight line through your legs, hips, and torso.
- Scissor kicks: Scissor kicks are a great ab workout for women because they promote strength and muscle control without necessarily adding a lot of muscle mass. Start the exercise by lying on your back with your arms extended at your sides and your legs raised a couple of inches off the ground. Raise one leg and lower the other by a couple of inches without bending at the knees. Then, swap the leg positions.
- V sit: The V sit is a great workout for women because it is a very intense isometric exercise that builds balance. Perform a V sit by beginning from a seated position with your feet flat on the floor. Move your legs off the ground and roll your weight back onto your tailbone. Extend your legs so that they are fully straight.
- Hip lifts: Hip lifts are a great exercise for women because they promote pelvic control and core strength. Begin hip lifts by lying on your back with your arms at your sides and your legs pointing straight up at the ceiling. Raise your hips off the ground, moving your legs towards the ceiling and then return to the resting position to complete one rep.
- Plank crawl out: Plank crawl-outs are a great ab workout for women because they add an additional dynamic movement and difficulty to the stability promoted by a regular plank. Perform the plank crawl out by starting from a standing position with your hips bent and the palms of your hands on the ground in front of you. Walk your hands forward until you reach an extended arm plank position.
There are some ab exercises that women should avoid or approach cautiously, especially if they have diastasis recti or potential core muscle injuries. For example, exercises that put excessive strain on the rectus abdominis, such as traditional sit ups, crunches, and leg raises, can worsen the diastasis recti condition, and should be replaced with safer alternatives that focus on core stability and transverse abdominis activation.
Can you do ab workouts when pregnant?
Yes, you can do ab workouts when pregnant. A strong core helps during pregnancy by reducing the strain on the back. Ab exercises are generally safe to perform in the first trimester. Below are four safe and effective workouts for pregnant women.
- Side planks: Side planks target the oblique muscles, offer support to the back and pelvic muscles, and enhance overall core stability.
- Pelvic tilts: Pelvic tilts help in improving posture and strengthening the lower back and abdominal muscles, and can be done while standing or lying down.
- Seated leg lifts: Seated leg lifts strengthen the lower abdominal muscles and hip flexors, and are performed while sitting on a chair with a straight back.
- Standing knee crunches: Standing knee crunches work out the upper and lower abdominal muscles, performed from a standing position with hands placed behind the head.
Caution should be taken to avoid certain activities that might increase the risk of injury or complications. For example, pregnant women should avoid the three exercises below, especially during the second and third trimesters.
- Double leg lifts: Double leg lifts should be avoided by pregnant women because they put excessive pressure on the lower back and abdominal muscles.
- Planks on hands: Planks on hands should be avoided because they can place increased stress on the back and abdominal muscles, and potentially lead to injury.
- Traditional sit ups and crunches: Traditional sit ups and crunches can strain the abdominal muscles and cause back pain.
It is advisable for pregnant women to consult their healthcare providers before engaging in any ab workouts. Likewise, they should listen to their body and stop any activity that causes discomfort or pain.
Can you do ab workouts during periods?
Yes, you can do ab workouts during periods. There’s no medical or scientific reason to avoid abdominal workouts while you’re on your period. In fact, there are three benefits to working out your abs during a period. Firstly, exercise alleviates menstrual cramps and pain by increasing blood flow to the pelvic region. Secondly, physical activity helps enhance the mood. Thirdly, consistent ab workouts aid in maintaining overall core strength and stability.
However, consider the two risks below when performing ab workouts during periods.
- Intense exercise may worsen cramps: Intense abdominal exercises, such as traditional crunches or leg raises, might cause discomfort or worsen cramps. It’s better to opt for gentler, low-impact exercises during this time.
- Heightened risk of injury: Heavy lifting or high-intensity workouts could increase the risk of injury due to potential hormonal fluctuations affecting muscle and ligament stability.
What are the best ab workouts for men?
The best ab workouts for men are those that add resistance to build muscle mass. There is no hard-and-fast difference between which ab workouts are better for men or women. Men and women have the same abdominal muscles and can build strength and muscle mass in the same ways. The only difference is personal preference and, since most men are more keen on building muscle mass, the best ab workouts for men are those that prioritize building muscle.
The five best ab workouts for men are listed below.
- Russian twists: Russian twists are a great exercise for men because they strain your muscles’ rotation ability and you can add additional resistance by using a medicine ball.
- Cable crunch: Cable crunches are a great workout for men because they employ the whole abdomen to contract your pelvis towards your ribcage and add resistance to the movement, helping men develop more muscle mass.
- Cable woodchopper: Cable woodchoppers are one of the best workouts for men because they add resistance in the form of a medicine ball.
- Barbell rollout: Barbell rollouts are an effective ab workout for men because they add a high degree of resistance to build muscle mass.
- Medicine ball slam: Medicine ball slams are among the best workouts for men because they focus on generating explosive force.
There aren’t any exercises that you strictly need to avoid or focus on because of your gender. The exercises we’ve included in this list will work to improve strength and stability for both men and women in equal measure.
What are the best lower ab workouts?
The best lower ab workouts are those that effectively target your lower abdominal muscles. The abdominal muscles include the pyramidalis, the rectus abdominis, the external obliques, the internal obliques, and the transverse abdominis. Each of the five abdominal muscles runs the full length of your abdomen from your rib cage down to the pelvis. The five best workouts that target the lower portion of your ab muscles are as follows.
- Mountain climbers: Mountain climbers are a bodyweight exercise that activates the lower abs and several other muscle groups. Start in a plank position with your shoulders directly above your wrists. Bring one knee towards your chest, then quickly switch legs, resembling a running motion.
- Reverse crunch: Reverse crunch exercises target the lower abs and help improve core strength. To perform a reverse crunch, lie on your back with your hands beside your hips and knees bent at a 90-degree angle. Lift your hips and legs towards your chest, then lower them back to the starting position.
- Bicycle crunches: Bicycle crunches are ab moves that engage the lower abs, obliques, and rectus abdominis. While lying on your back, place your hands behind your head and bring one knee towards your chest. Simultaneously twist your upper body, touching the opposite elbow to the raised knee. Alternate sides in a cycling motion.
- Hanging leg raises: Hanging leg raises challenge the lower abs and core stability. Hang from a pull up bar with a neutral grip, then raise your legs towards your chest while keeping them straight. Lower them slowly and with control.
- Plank with knee tucks: Palnk with knee tucks variation of the plank specifically targets the lower abs. Begin in a high plank position and tuck one knee towards the opposite elbow. Return to the starting position and alternate legs.
Strengthening the lower abs through exercise provides the following four benefits. Firstly, lower ab exercises create a well-defined midsection. Strengthening the lower abdominal muscles leads to a more defined and toned midsection. Secondly, exercising the lower ab muscles improves posture and reduces the risk of lower back pain. Thirdly, lower ab workouts lead to enhanced athletic performance, as they improve core stability and balance. Finally, exercising the lower abdominal muscles is a step towards better overall health. Strengthening the core muscles that support the spine and internal organs helps improve your overall well being.
Lower ab workouts are generally safe, but may pose health risks in the following three circumstances. Firstly, exercising the lower abs is risky for individuals with lower back pain, as the motions associated with lower ab workouts strain the lower back. Secondly, lower ab workouts are inadvisable for individuals with a hernia, since the mechanics of ab workouts strain the muscle walls and exacerbate the hernia. Thirdly, lower ab workouts may worsen existing musculoskeletal injuries. It’s important to consult with a personal trainer or medical professional before attempting lower ab workouts if you have lower back pain, a hernia, or any other injury. Explore alternative core-strengthening exercises such as pelvic tilts, bridges, and low-intensity planks if lower ab workouts are not ideal for you.
What are the best upper ab workouts?
The best upper ab workouts effectively target muscles in the upper region of the abdominal muscles, which extend from the rib cage to the pelvis. The following are the eight best workouts that target the upper part of the abs.
- Inchworms: Inchworms engage the upper abdominal muscles and improve flexibility. Perform inchworms by starting in a standing position, bending down, and placing your hands on the floor. Slowly walk your hands forward until the body is in a plank position before walking the hands back and standing up.
- Ab walkout: Ab walkouts strengthen upper abs and enhance shoulder stability. Begin an ab walkout in a plank or push-up position with your hands shoulder-width apart. Walk your hands out as far as you can while avoiding raising your hips. Then, walk your hands backwards until you are in a pike position, with your hips raised towards the ceiling. Ab walkouts are among the most challenging upper ab workouts to perform without equipment.
- Bear hold: A bear hold is a simple isometric exercise (meaning you don’t move) that offers a powerful improvement in core strength. Start with your hands and shoulders in a plank/push-up position while positioning your knees directly under your hip bent at a right angle so that your toes touch the ground. Then, lift your knees off the ground so that only your hands and toes stay on the ground. Hold for as long as you can.
- Unilateral leg lowers: Unilateral leg lowers are an effective ab workout for beginners targeting the upper abs and hip flexors. Begin on your back with your legs extended, lift both legs until they are perpendicular to the floor, and then lower your legs until they are just a few inches from the floor. Pause here before returning your legs to their upright position.
- Hanging leg lift: Hanging leg lifts help develop mass in the abdominals, including the upper abs. You need a pull up bar that can hold your weight to perform the hanging leg lift. You begin the hanging leg lift by hanging from the pull up bar as if you were about to do a pull up. Then, slowly raise your legs until they are parallel to the floor, and finally return them slowly to the hanging position.
- Lying medicine ball pass: The lying medicine ball pass is unique among upper ab exercises because it uses a quick movement. Perform the exercise by lying on the back with a medicine ball between the feet, then extend the legs and arms, and pass the ball from the feet to the hands and back again.
- Stir the pot: Stir the pot is a movement that improves your stability, balance, upper core strength, and the obliques. This exercise entails placing the forearms on a stability ball while maintaining a plank, then “stirring” the ball in a circular motion using the forearms.
- Pallof press: The Pallof press enhances core stabilization and engages the upper abs. Begin the Pallof press by attaching a resistance band to a squat rack at chest height. Then, stand with the squat rack to either the right or left of your hip, grab the loose end of the resistance band, and step forward so that the band stretches out between your hands and the squat rack without rotating your body.
Integrating upper ab workouts into regular exercise routines offers three benefits. Firstly, upper ab exercises enhance core stability and improve posture. Secondly, incorporating a variety of upper ab exercises into a workout routine maximizes the range of motion, targeting multiple muscle groups effectively. Thirdly, these exercises contribute to a more defined and visually appealing abdominal region.
Upper ab workouts put a great deal of strain on the core muscles, so these exercises are not suitable for everyone. People with pre-existing back or neck issues, those recently recovered from an injury, or pregnant women should consult with a healthcare professional before commencing a new workout routine. Alternatives to upper ab exercises include pilates, mild bodyweight exercises, or low-impact activities such as swimming or walking. The upper ab workout alternatives help maintain core strength without straining the core muscles too much.
What are the best ab workouts with weights?
The best ab workouts with weights add resistance and target all of your abdominal muscles. Weighted ab workouts involve various exercises using dumbbells, kettlebells, medicine balls, and barbells. Below is a list of seven highly effective ab workouts with weights.
- Triple extension med ball slams: Triple extension med ball slams engage similar muscle groups as crunches and help you burn calories. Start the exercise by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and holding a non-bounce medicine ball. Stretch your hands above your head while holding the medicine ball to fully stretch your corve. Then, slam the ball down as hard as you can while bending your knees and following through with the movement.
- Kettlebell windmills: Kettlebell windmills target the oblique muscles and strengthen the hips, shoulders, and back. Begin the exercise standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, with your right foot directly beneath your hip and your left foot out at an angle. Holding your kettlebell in your right hand with a straight arm, extend the weight about your head by rotating your core and extending your left hand towards your left foot to touch your toes.
- Med ball woodchoppers: Med ball woodchoppers exercise your transverse abdominis and obliques. To perform med ball woodchoppers, stand or kneel with a medicine ball in your hands. Move the medicine ball from the left side of your hip to the space over your right shoulder, keeping your left arm extended.
- Dumbbell leg raises: Dumbbell leg raises add resistance to traditional leg raises, increasing the challenge for the hip flexors and lower abs. Begin dumbbell leg raises by positioning a dumbbell firmly in the natural curve between your feet. Then, lie back so that your lower back is pressed against the floor and extend your legs off the floor until they’re upright, keeping your legs straight the whole time.
- Med ball Russian twists: Med ball Russian twists are a rotational exercise that targets the entire core, especially the oblique muscles. Begin med ball Russian twists from a sit up position holding a medicine ball in your hands. Lift your feet off the ground and rotate your torso as far as your obliques will allow, moving the med ball from hip to center to hip.
- Lying med ball compound passes: The lying med ball compound passes strengthen the rectus abdominis, the transverse abdominis, and the obliques. Perform lying med ball compound passes by lying on your back with a med ball held between your out-stretched hands. Move your hands and legs together to pass the ball from your hands to your feet.
- Barbell roll-out: The barbell roll-out is one of the most comprehensive weighted ab exercises, as it targets the entire core. Kneel in front of a landed barbell on your hands and knees. Grab the barbell with an overhead grip and roll it forward while bracing your core. Once you are fully extended, move the barbell back towards your body, maintaining contact between your knees and the floor.
The additional resistance provided by weighted ab workouts challenges the core muscles, leading to stronger and more defined abs. Adding weights to your ab routines gives you an opportunity to build more core strength and mass, especially if you’re already strong enough to complete bodyweight ab exercises with ease.
However, adding weights to an ab workout adds a risk of injury. It is easier to pull muscles or tear tendons if you’re using weights that you cannot safely control. Alternative, risk-free options for weighted ab workouts include bodyweight exercises like planks, side planks, and mountain climbers. These exercises provide a safe and accessible way to strengthen the core without additional weights.
Ankle weight exercises for abs and lower body
Angle weight exercises for abs and lower body are abdominal exercises that make use of weighted straps you can attach to your ankles. Almost any bodyweight exercise becomes more challenging with the addition of ankle weights. Adding weight to your lower limbs dials up the resistance of ab and lower body exercises, boosting muscle activation in the core and lower extremities, like the glutes, quadriceps, and hamstrings.
The following are six of the best lower body and ab exercises to perform with ankle weights.
- Downward dog leg lifts with ankle weights: Downward dog leg lifts improve core stability while working the hip flexors, glutes, and hamstrings. Begin the lifts in the downward dog position, then lift one leg up behind you while keeping your hips square. Lower the leg back and repeat with the other leg.
- Mountain climbers with ankle weights: Mountain climbers build overall body strength and endurance, with a focus on the core and lower body muscles. To perform, start in a plank position, then alternate bringing your knees up towards your chest as quickly as possible.
- Side leg lifts with weighted ankles: Side leg lifts activate the abs and strengthen the hip abductors and gluteus medius, thus improving balance and stability. Start the side leg lifts by lying on your side with your legs straight, then lift your top leg up as high as you can while keeping your hips stacked. Lower back down and repeat on the other side.
- Kickback pulse with ankle weights: Kickback pulses target the glutes and hamstrings while stabilizing the core muscles. Start a kickback pulse with ankle weights while on your hands and knees, then lift one leg up behind you while keeping your knee bent. Pulse your leg up and down while squeezing your glutes, then repeat on the other side.
- Fire hydrant with ankle weights: Fire hydrants strengthen the gluteus medius and lower back muscles, while enhancing core stability. Start your weighted fire hydrants on your hands and knees, then lift one leg out to the side while keeping your knee bent. Squeeze your glutes as you lift, then lower back down and repeat on the other side.
- Weighted bicycles: Weighted bicycles activate obliques and the entire range of core muscles, while targeting the hip flexors and quads. Start bicycles by lying on your back with your hands behind your head, then bring your knees toward your chest and simulate pedaling.
The downside of using ankle weights for your abdominal exercises is that they may push your body beyond its limits and cause musculoskeletal injuries. Consider how difficult the movements we’ve included in this list are with bodyweight alone before adding weights of any kind.
What are the best transverse abdominis exercises?
The best transverse abdominis (TVA) exercises target the deep core muscles that provide stability and support to a person’s core. The mechanics of transverse abdominis exercises often involve maintaining stability and resisting movement.
The four best transverse abdominis exercises are listed below.
- Dead bugs: Dead bugs improve core stability and reinforce proper movement patterns. Begin dead bugs by lying on your back with your knees bent and raised in the air. Raise your arms so that your fingertips point towards the ceiling. Either hold this position as an isometric exercise, or extend your legs one at a time towards the floor.
- Hollow holds: Hollow holds are a classic isometric exercise that helps activate your obliques and rectus abdominis. Perform a hollow hold by lying on your back with your legs and hands extended and your hands clasped above your head. Raise your legs and arms 6 inches off the ground and hold the position as long as you can.
- Single-leg slow lowers: A single-leg slow lower is a bodyweight exercise that targets your TVA and challenges the core muscles to stabilize the pelvis. Begin a single-leg slow lower by lying on your back with your legs extended and your palms to your side. Lift your legs until they are perpendicular to the floor, then lower one slowly to the floor before bringing it back up and then repeat with the other leg.
- Forearm (half) plank: A forearm half plank is the most basic transverse abdominis exercise, but it’s highly effective at enhancing stability in the entire core. Perform the plank by positioning yourself with only your toes and forearms in contact with the ground. Keep your back straight and your core tight and hold the position for as long as you can while maintaining good form.
Strengthening your transverse abdominis is key to reducing back pain and improving balance and stability. Incorporating transverse abdominis exercises into a fitness routine leads to improved posture and reduced risk of injury during physical activities. It is essential to focus on proper form and breathing techniques while performing these exercises to maximize their benefits.
Individuals with pre-existing spinal issues, those recovering from surgery, or those who experience pain during ab workouts should avoid transverse abdominis exercises. Alternative, less intense core-strengthening exercises (such as gentle pilates movements) help build a strong foundation for more advanced transverse abdominis exercises in the future without risking injury.
What are the best medicine ball ab workouts?
The best medicine ball ab workouts strengthen the abs and develop stability by adding resistance to core-specific movements. Med ball workouts target various muscle groups within the core, including the rectus abdominis, internal and external obliques, and the transverse abdominis.
The five best medicine ball ab workouts are as follows.
- Weighted Russian twist: Weighted Russian med ball twists challenge the obliques. The exercise involves sitting on the floor with knees bent, holding the medicine ball with both hands. Twist from side to side, tapping the ball on the ground next to each hip.
- Ball slam: Ball slams are a full-body movement that works the core. This exercise involves holding the medicine ball overhead and then slamming it down on the ground, thus engaging the abdominal muscles throughout the motion.
- Reverse crunch with medicine ball: The reverse crunch with medicine ball enhances the traditional reverse crunch by adding more resistance and challenging the lower abdominals. Start the exercise by lying flat on the floor with a medicine ball between your knees, then lift your legs up vertically and bring them back down.
- Medicine ball V up: The medicine ball V up strengthens the rectus abdominis and involves holding the medicine ball overhead while performing a V up by lifting both the upper and lower body simultaneously.
- Hollow rock with medicine ball: Hollow rock with medicine ball engages the entire core, assisting with balance and stability. Start the exercise by holding a medicine ball between the knees, then perform the hollow rock motion.
Engaging in medicine ball ab workouts has two benefits for the individual. Firstly, med ball ab workouts help build and define abdominal muscles by adding resistance to various core movements. Secondly, exercising abs with a medicine ball helps the overall health and stability of an individual by improving posture, enhancing athletic performance, and reducing the risk of injury.
Using a medicine ball that is too heavy relative to your strength significantly increases your risk of injury or muscle damage. There’s no shame in using a lighter medicine ball, especially when you increase the difficulty of the movements by performing them in a slow and controlled manner. A great alternative to medicine ball exercises is to perform the same movements unweighted but for a longer period.
What are the best cable ab workouts?
The best cable ab workouts are those that effectively utilize cable machines to generate resistance and focus on specific core muscles. The mechanism of cable ab workouts involves resistance from the cable machine, which aids in engaging and activating the abs. Cable movements may target all five of your abdominal muscles, but are particularly effective in strengthening your internal and external obliques.
The 16 best cable ab workouts are as follows.
- Standing cable pallof press: The standing cable pallof press targets your stabilizing muscles. Perform a standing cable pallof press by standing with a cable machine to your immediate right. Hold the cable in both your hands and move away from and towards your chest without rotating your spine.
- Kneeling cable crunch: A kneeling cable crunch puts pressure on your core by using the cable’s tension. Begin by kneeling in front of the cable machine while holding the tricep attachment in your hands, positioned right in front of your head. Bend your torso forwards until your elbows make contact with your thighs to complete one rep.
- Standing cable crunch: Standing cable crunches are a more challenging version of the kneeling cable crunch, which targets the entire core, and particularly the upper abs. Start the standing cable crunch with your back to the cable machine while holding the cables behind your head. Bend your torso forwards towards your forward legs.
- Kneeling oblique cable twists: The kneeling oblique cable twist targets your upper abdominals. Perform a kneeling oblique cable twist by kneeling facing the cable machine with the tricep attachment in your hands near your head. Twist your torso forward while moving your head wide on either your left or right thigh.
- Cable woodchops: Cable woodchops are a cable exercise that engages your entire core and enhances rotational strength. Start the exercise by assuming a wide stance with the cable machine to your left or right. Hold the cable in your hands with your arms fully extended towards the cable machines. Then, rotate your core away from the cable machine while lowering the cable below your waist without bending your elbows.
- Cable reverse crunch: The cable reverse crunches focus on your lower abs. Begin the exercise on your back with your feet elevated and your knees bent at a right angle so that the soles of your feet are parallel to the cable machine. Hook the cables over your feet and perform the crunching movement, moving your feet towards and away from the cable machine.
- Cable trunk crunch: A cable trunk crunch is a comprehensive abdominal workout that addresses both your upper and lower abdominals. Perform cable trunk crunches by lying flat on your back with your legs extended towards the cable machine. Attach the cables to your ankles and perform crunches so that your knees and elbows touch.
- Cable Russian twists: Cable Russian twists improve your abdominal strength and balance at the same time. Position yourself with your back on a medicine ball, your arms extended straight towards the ceiling, and hold the cables in your hands. Rotate your core so that you move the core across the body and towards the floor before returning to the start position.
- Plank cable row: Plank cable rows stabilize the core and strengthen the upper body strength for a balanced workout. Perform the plank cable row by adopting an elbow plank position facing the cable machine with the cable in one of your hands. Extend your arm towards the cable machine and row back towards your chest, moving parallel to the floor.
- Side plank cable row: The side plank cable row is a variation of the plank cable row that integrates balance and stability into a challenging cable ab workout, targeting the obliques and upper body. Start the side plank cable rows by adopting a side plank position with your chest facing the cable machine. Hold the cable in the hand furthest from the floor, extend your arm towards the machine and then pull back towards your chest to complete a rep.
- High-pulley side bends: High-pulley side bends effectively isolate the obliques. Perform high-pulley side bends by standing beside the cable machine while holding the handle in an underhand grip. Pull the cable downwards until your elbow touches your side before slowly extending your arm back towards the cable machine.
- Low-pulley side bends: Low-pulley side bends are similar to high-pulley side bends, but offer a different angle to stimulate the oblique muscles and improve balance. Perform the low-pulley by standing beside the cable machine, and holding the cable in the hand closest to the machine with the cable attached to the base of the machine. Bend your torso without twisting so that the hand farther away from the machine moves down your leg.
- Bosu ball cable crunch: The bosu ball cable crunch engages and develops core muscles. Begin the bosu ball cable crunch by sitting in a crunch position with your pelvis and back on a bosu ball facing away from the cable machine. Hold the cables behind your head in both hands and perform a crunching motion.
- Cable push-pull: Cable push-pulls strengthen the core and upper body simultaneously, increasing overall power and stability. Begin the exercise by standing between two cable machines to perform the cable push-pull. Hold the cables from each machine in the hand closest to the machine. Pull one cable towards your chest while extending the other forwards towards the machine before switching. Do not rotate your torso, and continue to face one machine.
- Standing cable lift: The standing cable lift is a cable exercise that works the whole body, similar to the cable woodchop. Begin the exercise by standing in an active position perpendicular to the cable machine with the cable attached to the base. Hold the cable in both hands and move it across your body and towards the ceiling before returning to the starting position.
- Cable judo flip: The cable judo flips challenge core stability and rotational strength for a dynamic ab workout. Start the exercise by standing beside the cable machine with the cables attached to the base. Pull the cables above your torso so that they run over your shoulder and hold them near your neck. Crunch your torso forwards so that your elbow moves towards the opposing knee.
There are three main benefits to performing cable ab workouts. Firstly, cable ab workouts help strengthen the core, which is essential for maintaining good posture and preventing injury. Secondly, these workouts sculpt the abdominal muscles, enhancing their visual appeal. Thirdly, cable ab workouts increase overall body strength and stability by challenging muscles to work against resistance.
Cable ab exercises may exacerbate existing musculoskeletal injuries. Individuals with existing injuries, particularly to the lower back or shoulders, should consult a medical professional before incorporating these exercises into their routine. Furthermore, proper form is crucial when performing cable ab workouts to avoid strain and injury. Those who are new to cable exercises consider starting with bodyweight exercises, like mountain climbers and planks, before working out their abs on cable machines.
What are the best ab wheel workouts?
The best ab wheel workouts create resistance and allow a wide range of motion to engage various muscle groups, including the core, hamstrings, and shoulders. The mechanics behind ab wheel workouts involve rolling the wheel forward and backward, while maintaining proper form and alignment.
The following are the eight best ab wheel workouts.
- Ab wheel plank: The ab wheel planks target the entire core and help with overall body stability. Start the ab wheel plank on your knees in a push-up position with your hands on the ab wheel instead of the floor with your arms extended. Hold the position for 40 seconds to a minute.
- Ab wheel knee tucks: Ab wheel knee tucks are an effective ab wheel exercise for targeting your lower abdominals. Start by strapping your feet to the ab wheel and adopting a plank position with your arms extended. Move the ab wheel towards your hands by moving your knees upward.
- Ab wheel pikes: Ab wheel pikes activate the upper and lower abs and improve flexibility and mobility. Begin the exercise by strapping your feet to the ab wheel and adopting the plank position. Move the ab wheel towards your hands without bending your knees. Keep your legs and spine straight while moving your pelvis towards the ceiling.
- Kneeling ab wheel rollouts: A kneeling ab wheel rollout is an entry-level ab wheel workout that works the entire core. Start the exercise in a kneeling position while holding the ab wheel out in front of you with your arms extended and the ab wheel touching the floor. Roll the ab wheel forward while keeping your back straight, your arms extended, and your knees in contact with the floor.
- Kneeling ab wheel “v” rollouts: Kneeling ab wheel “v” rollouts challenge the oblique muscles and add variety to your ab workout. Start the exercise in the kneeling position while holding the ab wheel in your hands with the ab wheel in contact with the floor. Move the ab wheel forwards with your arms and back straight, alternating between curving the ab wheel to the right or the left.
- Bird dog ab wheel rollouts: Bird dog ab wheel rollouts are an ab wheel rollout variation that improves stability. Begin the exercise by adopting a kneeling position with your back parallel to the floor (like a kneeling plank) and your arms stacked over the ab wheel. Lift one of your legs off the floor and extend it straight back to assume the “bird dog position.” Then, roll out the ab wheel forward and return to the starting position.
- Kneeling ab wheel single arm rollouts: Kneeling ab wheel single arm rollouts are a difficult rollout variation for advanced athletes, which increases core and shoulder strength and adds a balance challenge. Begin the rollouts by assuming the kneeling-plank position with your kneels on the floor at a right angle and one arm stacked under your shoulders holding the ab wheel. Roll out the ab wheel while keeping the non-active arm resting on your hip.
- Standing ab wheel rollouts: The standing ab wheel rollout is the most difficult ab wheel workout, which works the entire body. Start from a standing position and move towards a “toe-touching” position by bending at your hips and waist, making contact with the ground with the ab wheel. Keep your arms, legs, and spine straight while rolling the ab wheel out, and then return to the starting position.
The ab wheel provides resistance throughout the entire range of motion, which improves muscular endurance and enhances performance in other exercises. Engaging in ab wheel workouts helps to tone and define your abs, improves posture, spine health, and overall body strength.
Ab wheel workouts pose certain risks if not performed properly. Incorrect form during ab wheel workouts (such as arching or straining the back) may lead to injury and pain. Individuals with existing back or spine issues should exercise caution and consult their doctor before incorporating ab wheel workouts into their fitness routine.
What are the best pull-up bar ab workouts?
The best pull-up bar ab workouts are those that focus on the abdominal muscles while strengthening and defining your entire core. Pull-up bar ab workouts involve hanging from a pull-up bar and performing various movements that target the rectus abdominis, oblique, and lower back muscles. The nature of pull-up bar workouts requires greater body control and stabilization, which contributes to overall coordination and balance.
The six best pull up bar ab workouts are listed below.
- Hanging knee raises: The hanging knee raise is a beginner pull-up bar workout that helps you build strength for more advanced exercises. Start hanging knee raises from a hanging pull-up position with an overhand grip. Raise your knees towards your chest, moving beyond a 45-degree angle, and then return to the starting position.
- Hanging leg raises: Hanging leg raises work the lower abs and hip flexors, and are more advanced than hanging knee raises. Begin the workout in a hanging pull-up position with an overhand grip. Raise your legs to a 45-degree angle while keeping them straight at the knees.
- Toes to bar: Toes to bar targets the entire abdominal region, and is an advanced pull-up movement to employ once you’ve mastered leg and knee raises. Start toes to bar from a hanging pull-up position with an overhand grip. Raise your legs while keeping them mostly straight until your toes touch the bar, then return to the starting position.
- Windshield wipers: Windshield wipers are a dynamic and challenging pull-up bar ab workout that uses rotation to challenge your obliques. Begin the exercise from a hanging pull-up position with an overhand grip. Raise your legs towards the bar until your toes touch. Twist your torso so that your legs move across the bar, left to right, and then in the reverse direction.
- L sit hang: The L sit hang combines isometric work with the leg-raises workout to improve both strength and stability. Start the L sit and hang in a hanging pull-up position with an overhand grip. Raise your legs to a 45-degree angle and hold the position for as long as you can. Time each rep to be 40 seconds to a minute long.
- L sit hanging twists: L sit hanging twists are a variation on the L sits that incorporates rotation to improve stability and test your obliques. Start the L sit hanging twists in a hanging pull-up position with an overhand grip. Raise your extended legs beyond a 45-degree angle and hold the position. Then, rotate your torso so that your feet extend to one side of the pull-up rack and then switch sides.
The risk of taking pull-up bar ab workouts too far includes damage to your shoulders muscles and joints, as well as abdomen soreness. Make sure you’re able to perform easier variations without much challenge before moving on to more difficult exercises. Alternatives to pull-up bar workouts include planks, Russian twists, and crunches.
What are the best weight bench exercises for abs?
The best weight bench exercises for abs are weighted workouts that focus on the rectus abdominis, obliques, and lower back muscles. The following seven exercises are the best ab exercises to perform on a weight training bench.
- Triple extension med ball slams: Triple extension med ball slams are an effective conditioning exercise that equally challenges your abs and your cardiovascular system. Begin the exercise by holding a non-bounce med ball while standing with your feet shoulder-width apart. Move the medicine ball behind your head with bent arms and then slam it down in front of you as hard as you can. Repeat the exercise for reps.
- Kettlebell windmills: Kettlebell windmills target your obliques while stretching your hip muscles. Perform kettlebell windmills by starting in an active stance with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold a kettlebell in one hand and move it above your head by rotating your core and shoulders while keeping your arms straight. Simultaneously touch your toes or the floor with the other hand. Repeat for reps before switching sides.
- Med ball woodchoppers: Med ball woodchoppers are a rotational exercise that targets your transverse abdominis and your obliques. Start the exercise by standing in an active stance while holding a medicine ball in both hands. Hold the medicine ball in front of you and rotate your torso so you move the medicine ball over one shoulder and then down to the opposing hip. Repeat for reps and then switch sides.
- Dumbbell leg raises: Dumbbell leg raises engage your rectus abdominis as well as the internal and external obliques. Begin the exercise by sitting down while holding a light dumbbell pressed between your feet. Rock back so that your lower back is pressed against the floor and your legs are extended so that your feet face the ceiling. Raise your legs and the dumbbell towards the ceiling so that your bottom comes off the floor.
- Med ball Russian twists: Med ball Russian twists target your obliques. Begin the med ball Russian twists in a sit up position while holding a medicine ball in front of your chest. Move the medicine ball across your torso and beyond each hip before crossing back over towards the other side. Move slowly and avoid excessively twisting your torso.
- Lying med ball compound passes: Lying med ball compound presses target your rectus abdominis while challenging your transverse abdominis and obliques. Perform lying med ball compound passes by lying on your back with a medicine ball positioned between your feet and your arms outstretched above your head. Contract your abdominal muscles until your feet and hands meet and you can pass the medicine ball from your feet to your hands. Repeat the movement, passing the medicine ball back and forth until you complete enough reps.
- Barbell roll out: Barbell roll outs focus on the abs and lower back muscles. Perform a barbell rollout by positioning a loaded barbell on the floor in front of you while holding it with your hands shoulder-width apart. Roll the bar forwards until your body is parallel to the floor. Return to an elevated position by rolling the barbell backwards.
Weight bench ab exercises have the following three benefits. Firstly, weight bench ab workouts strengthen core muscles, which in turn enhance posture, alleviate lower back pain, and minimize the risk of injury during exercise. Secondly, weight bench ab workouts improve balance and stability because they emphasize both lower and upper body muscle engagement. Thirdly, weight bench ab workouts enhance functional movements, thus improving performance in daily tasks and sports.
The downside of weight bench exercises is that sometimes they’re too intense and can increase your risk of injury. Individuals with lower back or neck issues, weak core muscles, or unresolved injuries should avoid these exercises and instead consider simple, body-weight ab workouts.
What are the best sit-up bench exercises for abs?
The best sit-up bench exercises take advantage of the elevated platform to promote increased range of motion and allow for body weight to be effectively used as resistance. The mechanics of sit-up bench exercises usually involve positioning the body on an incline or decline surface, with the feet anchored, and performing movements that contract the abdominal muscles.
The following are the seven best sit up bench ab exercises.
- Incline leg raises: Incline leg raises are a situp bench exercise that targets your lower abs and obliques. Perform an incline leg raise by lying faceup on an ab bench while gripping the bench above your head. Lift your legs to a 90-degree angle while keeping them straight.
- Reverse crunches: Reverse crunches focus on your entire abdominal muscle system. Begin a reverse crunch by posing yourself on an incline bench while gripping the bench in your hands above your head. Contract your abdominal muscles to move your knees and legs towards your head until your knees touch your elbows.
- Ab bench push ups: Ab bench push ups are more beginner-friendly than the other exercises on this list. Start the exercise by placing your hands on the ab bench and your feet on the floor in an angled push-up position. Perform push-ups against the situp bench, which will be easier than typical push-ups because of your angle against the bench.
- Decline sit ups: Decline sit ups are performed at an angle on the sit up bench, which adds a range of motion to traditional sit ups. Begin the exercise by hooking your feet behind the anchors at the top of the sit up bench so that your head is at the lower end of the bench compared to your feet. Perform a sit up, using gravity as additional resistance.
- Russian twists: Russian twists are a highly effective oblique exercise that may be performed on the sit up bench. Hold a medicine ball or other weight between your hands while hanging on a decline sit up bench with your feet hooked in. Perform the Russian twist by moving the medicine ball from one side of your core to the other, avoiding excessive torso twisting.
- Lower back extensions: Lower back extensions target your lower back, glutes, and hamstrings. Start the lower back extensions by lying on the decline sit up bench face down with your feet hooked into the anchors. Contract your abdomen to raise your torso up and away from the bench.
- Decline dumbbell chest press: The decline dumbbell chest press targets your lower pectoral muscles and also strengthens your abdomen. Perform the decline dumbbell chest press by lying with your back on the situp bench and your head towards the higher end of the bench. Stack your hands above your shoulders holding dumbbells, press up and return to the starting position for reps.
Sit up bench ab workouts offer added intensity and challenge to traditional crunches and sit ups, leading to greater muscle definition and improved posture. These exercises may be used to target various muscle groups, including the rectus abdominis, obliques, and erector spinae.
Sit up bench ab exercises may not be suitable for everyone. Individuals with lower back issues, neck strains, or spinal conditions should consult a healthcare professional before attempting these workouts. As an alternative to sit up bench ab exercises, consider incorporating safer ab exercises such as planks, side planks, and Pilates-inspired movements into your workout routine. These alternatives allow you to target the same muscle groups and achieve the desired results without exacerbating any existing musculoskeletal injuries.
What are the best isometric ab exercises?
The best isometric ab workouts allow you to strengthen the abdominal muscles and improve stability and balance without any movement. The following are the nine best isometric abdominal exercises.
- Plank: The plank enhances core stability and targets the entire abdominal region. Perform the plank by resting your toes and forearms on the ground, with your back in a straight line.
- Side plank: The side plank works the oblique muscles. Perform the side plank by lying on your side with your feet in contact with the ground, your spine forming a straight line with your extended legs, and one of your elbows resting on the floor. Hold the position for as long as you can.
- L sit: The L sit improves core compression and flexibility. Perform the L sit on dip bars or the floor. Hold your weight with your two hands resting on the bar. Raise your legs until they form a 90-degree angle with your torso and hold the position.
- V hold: The V hold engages the entire core. Begin the V hold by sitting on the ground with your knees bent. Lift your feet off the ground so that your body weight rests on your hips and tailbone and your body forms a “V” shape.
- Bear crawl hold: The bear crawl hold improves core strength and coordination. Assume the bear crawl position by getting on your hands and knees on the floor. Raise your knees an inch off the ground so that your weight is resting on your hands and toes.
- Dead bug hold: The dead bug hold strengthens the core muscles. Perform the dead bug by lying flat on your back with your legs and arms raised straight in the air. The stress in this position comes from pressing your back fully into the ground and holding your abdomen tight while maintaining the position.
- Warrior III pose: The Warrior III pose enhances core stability and balance. Perform the Warrior III pose by standing on one foot with your other leg and two arms elevated and parallel to the floor. Hold this position for as long as you can.
- Pillar hold: The pillar hold strengthens the transverse abdominis muscles. Perform the pillar hold by holding the push-up position with your back straight.
- Pallof holds: The pallof hold is an isometric exercise that works your rotational strength with the help of a cable machine or resistance bands. Position the cables at shoulder height and hold them in front of you with your arms fully extended. Resist the pressure of the cable bands trying to rotate your core.
- Half-dead bug hold: The half-dead bug hold is an easier and more beginner-friendly version of the dead bug hold. Position yourself with your back on the floor and your knees bent, your feet elevated in the air, and your hands resting on your knees, and maintain the post.
These exercises work by increasing resistance through the constant contraction of the core and deep core muscles, which in turn enhances the development of a defined six-pack, improves balance and stability, and reduces the risk of back pain. However, isometric ab exercises are generally less effective at building muscle and strength than dynamic ab workouts.
Isometric ab exercises are generally low-risk. However, even static exercises raise blood pressure and strain the targeted muscles, joints, and bones. Individuals with high blood pressure, heart conditions, or spine-related issues should consult a healthcare professional before engaging in these exercises.