Whether it’s in a gym or at home, ab exercises should be a core part of any fitness routine. But building a solid routine for your core can be tricky. There are hundreds of ab exercises, some using just bodyweight, others using weights like dumbbells or kettlebells. There are also questions about how frequently you should work your core and how many repetitions you should do for each exercise. I find that 3 sets for each exercise two to three times a week is the sweet spot as these ten core exercises will get your blood pumping!
1. Flutter Kicks
Flutter kicks are a staple to any ab exercise routine if done correctly. This exercise will work the six-pack area of your core. Lying flat on your back with your palms facing downwards at your sides, you will raise both legs about a foot off the ground.
With slow and controlled movements, you will alternate raising one leg while lowering the other to the ground in a similar motion to kicking while swimming. You will want to do 20 kicks, 10 on each leg.
V-Ups are a killer ab exercise that my trainers in college incorporated into every workout. This exercise engages your entire core area. Lying on your back with your palms facing inward and your heels together, raise your legs up.
Simultaneously, engage your core muscles to lift your torso towards your raised legs. This is one of the more challenging ab exercises so for beginners, you will want to start at 5 reps and work your way up to 12.
Pulse-ups are a great ab exercise, especially for those who are just starting to work out. This is especially great for working that lower core area that many people struggle to strengthen and tone. Lying on your back with palms flat against the ground, raise both legs together with heels facing the ceiling.
Again, with slow and controlled movements, engage your lower core and raise your hips off the ground. Hold for a few seconds and slowly lower your hips back to the ground and repeat for 12 reps. Try to avoid pushing against your palms to raise your hips higher.
Planks are a great ab exercise to add to any routine. You can do them either on your elbows or with straight arms. Regular planks will again work that six-pack area. With your feet together press into your elbows and raise yourself into a plank position.
To ensure you are working your core you don’t allow your hips to fall too close to the ground or raise your glutes too high into almost a downward dog position. Try to keep yourself as straight as possible. Begin holding it for 20 seconds and work yourself up to holding for longer times.
5. Side Planks
Using a variation of the plank ab exercise, side planks are a great way to strengthen your obliques. This again can be done on your elbows or with straight arms. For beginners, it would be best to start on your elbows. Lying on your side with your elbow aligned with your shoulders, press your feet together.
Pushing your hip off the ground by tightening your obliques place your free hand on your hip to balance yourself. Switching to your other side, hold the plank for 20 seconds to start and work yourself up to longer sets.
6. Bird Dogs
This ab exercise is another great addition to any beginner workout. This is great for working the lower part of your obliques closer to your hips. Start on your hands and knees with your palms aligned with your shoulders and toes pointed downward.
There are two variations of this exercise. One is to raise only your leg while a more challenging variation is to raise a leg while also extending the alternate arm out straight in front of you. The key is to keep your balance while also making sure you keep your knee as close to a 90-degree angle as possible. You also don’t want to raise the knee higher than the plain of your spine. Whichever variation you choose, you want to do 20 reps total, 10 on each leg.
7. Toe Touches
Toe touches are one of my favorite exercises because it really works your lower core after only a few reps. This is an exercise you can do using only body weight but to increase the difficulty you can use a dumbbell or plate.
Lying on your back with your legs raised together, hold your arms straight up in line with your shoulders. Use your lower core to roll up and touch your fingers to your feet. Try your best to keep your legs straight as possible. If you decide to use weights, curl up until the weight touches your toes to avoid overextending. Aim for 10 reps to start and work your way up to more reps as your core strengthens.
8. Heel Touches
Heel touches are one of my favorite exercises to work your obliques. Lie on your back with your feet flat on the ground hip-width apart. With your palms facing inward, reach to one side until your fingers touch your heel. Alternate to either side making sure to feel the burn along your side to get the most out of your workout.
When thinking of ab exercises, crunches are the first thing that comes to mind for most people. They are a great exercise for those hard-to-engage upper core. But there are some misconceptions about how to do a crunch properly.
Lie on your back with your feet flat on the ground and your arms are either folded across your chest or out to the side with your fingertips touching your ears. You never want to fold your arms behind your head and pull on your neck as you crunch up as it will cause strain on your neck and won’t engage your core.
With the proper form, crunch up until your shoulders come off the ground and then lower back down to the ground. You don’t want to come up all the way up to your knees as that is considered a sit-up and doesn’t target the upper core, as well as crunches do. To get the most out of your crunches, start at 10 reps a set.
10. Leg Raises
There’s no better exercise complete this belly-busting workout than leg raises. They again work that stubborn lower belly area. Lie on your back with your heels together and palms flat against the ground. Raising your legs together, engage and tighten those abs until the bottom of your feet are facing the ceiling, and slowly lower them back to the ground.
What do you think are some great ab exercises? Which of these exercises will you be adding to your next workout? Let us know in the comments below!