If you don’t see results from crunches and sit-ups, it’s time to learn some advanced ab exercises to take your strength and physique to the next level.
These 8 hardest ab exercises will challenge your abs more than anything you’ve ever tried before.
I’ll explain each exercise’s benefits, tell you how to do each one with good form, and provide tips to ensure you are getting the most out of every rep.
Mastering these exercises is hard work but is worth it for the results you’ll achieve.
1. Hollow Hold
The hollow hold works the transverse and rectus abdominis. Engaging these two layers of muscle helps you create tension throughout your entire body. Practicing the hollow hold will give you ab definition and build the strength necessary to perform more advanced exercises.
The hollow hold is the foundation of all advanced ab exercises. Mastering this position should be your priority if you want to take your ab workout to the next level.
- Lay on the floor with your legs at a 90-degree angle.
- Reach your arms forward until your shoulder blades are off the ground.
- Extend your legs straight and raise your arms overhead.
- Hold for as long as possible.
Keep your low back on the floor and your shoulder blades lifted during the hold.
If your back starts to arch, or your shoulders are resting on the floor, you will no longer get the full benefit of this exercise.
Do several sets of short holds with good form instead of a long hold with lousy form.
Try keeping your knees bent, or extend one leg out at a time to make the exercise easier.
2. Strict Toes to Bar
This exercise targets your rectus abdominis, which are your six-pack muscles. Hanging from a pull-up bar will also build strength in your grip, shoulders, and lats.
To perform a strict toes-to-bar, you must lift your lower body’s weight from an extended hanging position to a hanging pike position.
This move will challenge your abs through the full range of motion so that you will see results with fewer repetitions than with traditional sit-ups.
- Hang from a pull-up bar with your hands just outside your shoulders.
- Pull your shoulder down away from your ears to create an active shoulder.
- Contract your abs to lift your legs until your feet touch the bar between your hands.
- Lower your legs with control to return to the starting position.
Try hanging leg lifts if you don’t have the strength for a full toes-to-bar.
You can do leg lifts with either straight or bent legs. Contract your abs to lift your legs as far as you can and lower with control.
Avoid kipping. Kipping is a gymnastics technique that uses momentum to make it easier to lift the legs. You should not be swinging on the bar as you perform a strict toes-to-bar.
L-sits are one of the most challenging ab exercises because it requires enormous abdominal strength to hold the position for even a short time.
L-sits primarily target the rectus abdominis to hold your legs in a raised position. This exercise also works your lats, triceps, and quads.
The L-sit is a more challenging hold than a plank because it requires you to hold your abs in a flexed position.
- Stand between two boxes placed shoulder-width apart.
- Lower yourself so your hands are flat on the boxes just outside your hips.
- Press into your hands and pull your shoulders down away from your ears.
- Lift your legs to be parallel with the floor.
- Hold for as long as possible.
Don’t hold your breath. Focus on taking even, shallow breaths throughout the hold.
Try it with your knees slightly bent if you cannot get your legs parallel to the floor with your legs straight.
Squeeze your quads to keep your legs straight with feet together.
Start with multiple sets of short holds to build the strength for longer holds.
More like this: 7 Perfect Pull-Up Bar Exercises for Abs
4. TRX Pike
The TRX Pike is a challenging ab exercise that targets your deep abs and your six-pack muscles.
- Your transverse abdominis is your deep core muscle that is responsible for stabilizing your spine during movement. Building a strong transverse abdominis prevents low back pain and injury.
- Your rectus abdominis is your six-pack muscles. Working this layer of your abs will help you achieve a chiseled midline.
You will also work your quads, glutes, and shoulders with this full-body move.
TRX Pikes take planks to the next level, and the results speak for themselves.
- Lower the straps of the TRX to 1-2 feet off the ground.
- Place your feet into the straps of the TRX with the tops of your feet facing the floor.
- Walk your hands out into a plank on your hands.
- Contract your abs to lift your hips to the ceiling with legs straight and feet together.
- Return with control to a plank.
Press your hands into the ground to pull your shoulder blades away from your spine.
Squeeze your quads to keep your legs straight.
Bend your knees to make the exercise easier. From the plank, draw your knees in toward your elbows.
Once you have mastered this variation, you will be strong enough to do the straight leg pike.
5. Barbell Wipers
Barbell wipers will work your rectus abdominis and your obliques like nothing else you have tried. This exercise requires you to use all of your abdominal muscles to move your legs from side to side.
Wipers are more challenging and more effective than other oblique exercises because your legs’ weight requires your abs to work harder.
Add this move to your routine, and you will see oblique and six-pack definition in no time.
- Lay on the floor with a light barbell over your chest.
- Press the bar into a position above your chest like a bench press.
- Lift your legs to the ceiling so they are perpendicular to the floor.
- Twist and lower your legs toward the floor to your right.
- Lift your legs back to the starting position and repeat on the left side.
Only lower your legs as far as you can with control.
You can bend your knees slightly to make the exercise easier until you are strong enough to try it with straight legs.
6. Weighted V-Up
The weighted v-up is one of the hardest ab exercises you can do because it requires enormous ab strength and coordination. This exercise targets the rectus abdominis. You will also work your quads and shoulders.
Weighted v-ups are superior to sit-ups because you can work your abs harder with fewer repetitions.
- Lay on the floor with your legs straight and feet together.
- Raise your arms behind your head, holding a weighted medicine ball.
- Squeeze your abs and your quads to lift your torso and legs simultaneously.
- Reach the ball toward your feet.
- Lower back to the floor with control.
Move your upper and lower bodies at the same time.
Make sure your shoulder blades are entirely lifting off the floor on each repetition.
Bend your knees to make the exercise easier.
7. Barbell Rollout
The barbell rollout is a challenging ab exercise that primarily targets your transverse abdominis and rectus abdominis, lats, and triceps.
You will only need to do a few repetitions of this exercise to see quick results.
Barbell rollouts will sculpt your body and help you build enormous core and upper body strength to perform other strength exercises better and safer.
- Stand with a barbell directly over your feet.
- Bend over and place your hand on the bar shoulder-width apart.
- Slowly roll the barbell forward until your body is parallel to the floor.
- Squeeze your abs as you pull the bar back toward your feet to the starting position.
Think of pressing the bar back toward your feet to engage your lats.
Try this exercise from your knees if the standing version is too challenging.
Windmills are the best exercise you can do to work your obliques. A few repetitions on each side will help you see results you haven’t seen with other twisting movements.
This exercise also works your shoulder strength and mobility. It will help you with all of your other upper body strength work.
- Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
- With your right arm, press a light dumbbell overhead.
- Twist your torso toward your right arm as you trace your left hand down your leg.
- Once your left hand touches the floor, reverse the movement to return to standing.
- Repeat for several repetitions before switching to the other side.
Think of continually pressing the dumbbell toward the ceiling as your torso twists.
Keep your legs straight. Only go as far as you can while keeping the dumbbell pointed to the ceiling and your legs locked out.
Start with a light weight until you get the hang of this challenging exercise.
Challenge Your Abs for Better Results
It’s time to upgrade your ab workout from sit-ups and crunches.
These 8 ab exercises are some of the hardest moves you can do to build strength and definition fast.
Follow the instructions to master the technique of each exercise. Use the tips to modify each movement if you need to.
The hard work will be worth it when you have achieved the best abs you’ve ever had.