The Best Abdominal and Core Exercises
Toned, washboard abs will keep your partner happy and boost your self-confidence with every outfit you put on. So get ready to pull those tight pants out of your dresser, this is the abs workout guide to six-pack abs and a flat, toned core!
Many women can become too concerned with the number they see on their bathroom scale. You might think if that number is getting higher, something is wrong. A proper bulking regimen may add a couple of pounds to your scale, but the results in your mirror will tell a different story.
The basic concept of bulking is to consume more calories than you are burning off in your workout. If you are looking for some clean foods to add to your bulking diet, try chicken, turkey, rice, pasta, fish, eggs, peanut butter, steak, and yogurt. Usually, exercises that work out your abs are done in sets of about 20 repetitions.
During bulking, pick three abs exercises per day that involve some weights or added resistance. Do reps of 10-12 for three sets each to increase the size of your abs. Some of the ab exercise options to chose from are cable crunches, Russian twists, hanging leg raises, decline crunches and abdominal machines. I've outlined these exercises in detail below.
One excellent way to prepare for summer or a vacation where you'll be in a bathing suit is to implement a cutting routine before your trip. Typically, cutting takes place in the months after you finish bulking. The majority of food choices for your cutting diet can remain the same as your bulking diet if you just eat less of them; these are all healthy foods.
Make sure to drink plenty of water while you are cutting. Don’t think that cutting means you have to starve yourself! You should still be eating three meals per day, with a snack or two mixed in if need be. Continue to eat foods that are high in protein, but cut out some of the carbs like bread and pasta.
An important aspect of both bulking and cutting is cardiovascular workouts. During the bulking phase, skipping cardio can cause you to gain fat from the excess calories instead of gaining clean muscle. When you are cutting, cardio exercises help ensure that fat gained from your bulking phase get burned off.
Running, biking, and swimming are all cardio exercises that you can pair with abs workouts. Other exercises focused on abs can double as a cardio workout if you do them at a fast pace, 60 seconds or longer. Some of these exercises include wall push-ups, hot potato squats, mogul jumps, and kettlebell juggling, which are all outlined in detail below.
Unlike other body parts, you can train your abdominal muscles every day. You can do many of these exercises with little to no equipment, in the comfort of your home. These exercises should be done in 2-3 sets of 15-25 reps, or 2-3 sets of 60-second intervals. Rest between sets should be between 30-60 seconds. Each of the exercises below have links to videos where you can watch them demonstrated.
Exercises with No Equipment Required
Reverse pushups will work out your shoulders, chest, triceps, and upper back in addition to your core.
- Keep a steady base with your hands under your shoulders and feet firmly on the ground.
- Squeeze your quads, glutes, and tighten your abdominal muscles throughout the exercise.
- Drive your butt towards your heels, and then lock your arms out at the top of the motion.
- Start on the ground with your hands beneath your shoulders and knees beneath your hips.
- From this ground position, raise your knees an inch or two off the ground using your hands and toes to support your body weight to engage your core.
- Rotate your body to one side, keeping one foot and opposite arm planted.
- Touch your knee to your opposite elbow, of your limbs not planted to the ground.
- Repeat this motion, alternating sides.
- Remember to always drive your back foot into the ground for power.
The Bird Dog Exercise
The bird dog can be used as a warm-up exercise in addition to an abdominal workout.
- You can do 5 to 15 reps per side in a set. Three sets is a sufficient workout.
- Start with a strong base of your hands under your shoulders and knees directly beneath your hips.
- Point your toe when your leg is fully extended, but make sure to keep it straight.
- After full arm and leg extension, touch your knee to your opposite elbow for a more difficult variation.
Single-Arm Wall Push Up
If the name weren’t obvious enough, you’d need a wall to perform this exercise. So, unfortunately, this can’t be done in an open field.
- The wall should be an arm’s length away from your starting position to maintain proper form.
- Keep your feet wide for a strong base.
- Mix in a push-up rep in-between walk up reps to make this more challenging.
- Clench your core and abdominals for the duration of each movement.
Lateral Wall Run
Running at an angle will increase muscle strength by forcing your body to work harder than it would during a regular run. Lateral runs will result in better balance, flexibility, and coordination.
- Drive your foot furthest from the wall into the ground, while pulling your knee closest to the wall towards your chest.
- Do 8 to 12 reps before switching sides.
For best results, perform inchworm slides on a hardwood floor, where standing on a towel would easily slide along the surface. You can also do inchworm slides on a carpet, with a Frisbee or book beneath your feet to slide, which makes this an exercise you can do in your home.
- Keep your arms strong and stabilized in a push-up position.
- Pull your toes towards your hands engaging your core throughout the motion.
- Once your feet are as close to your hands as possible, slide your feet back to the original position.
- Start on your hands and knees, and then slightly lift your knees off the ground using your toes and hands as support.
- Rotate your belly button, hips, and chest to one direction as you hop your legs to that side.
- Keep your spine in a straight line with the rest of your body.
- With your legs already to one side, hop directly to the opposite side instead of going back to the starting position first.
Figure 8 Pelvic Tilt
The figure 8 pelvic tilts primarily focus hamstrings, glutes, and pelvic hip muscles.
- To remove your quads from the workout, lift your toe on the foot that is planted on the ground.
- Squeezing your glutes the whole time will maximize your results.
- Make sure to get a full hip extension at the top of the motion.
- Thrust upwards as soon as your butt touches the ground at the bottom of the motion.
Squat Thrust with Twist
Twisting squat thrusts help challenge your balance and posture.
- Start with your legs slightly wider than hip-width apart, chest up, and shoulders back.
- Squat with your forearms overlapping at chest level.
- At the bottom of your squat rotate to one side then rotate back to center before standing up. Repeat this process by twisting to the other side on your next repetition.
Rotating Side Plank
Rotating side planks are a variation that you can mix into your regular plank routine.
- Lift one arm off the mat, pointing it straight up in the air while opening your body and turning to that side.
- Hold that position for 30-60 seconds or even longer if you can.
- If you are unable to hold that position for extended periods of time, just hold it briefly, before returning to a regular plank quickly alternating sides.
- Rotating side planks build strong abdominals, oblique muscles, and lower back.
- Start in a push-up position starting with your feet together.
- The first touch is bringing your leg beneath your body, twisting your hips and extending your foot to one side so that your leg is perpendicular to your arms.
- Next bring the foot back to the middle starting position for the second touch.
- For the final touch bring that same foot extended to the opposite side as touch number one.
- Repeat these steps for the other foot and do as many touches as you can in one minute.
- Raise your feet and bend your knees back towards your chest, curl your head neck, and shoulders and raise your hands a few inches from the ground. Then extend your legs at a 45-degree angle into Pilates stance.
- Vigorously pump your arms up and down.
- Breathe in through your nose and exhale out through your mouth.
- If you start to get tired, it’s ok to slightly bend your knees.
Exercises with Equipment Required
For this section, check out my list of some the Best Ab Machines of 2018:
Prone Plate Switches
If you can do a plank with proper form for 30-60 seconds, prone plate switches are a more challenging alternative. A couple of sets of prone plank switches are done faster than multiple sets of planks, which is helpful if your workout has time restraints.
- Start with your feet wide. If this is too easy, narrowing your base will be a more strenuous workout.
- Avoid shifting your hips while stacking the plates and keep your body straight as if you were standing up.
- Once you have mastered smaller stacks, use heavier plates or increase the size of your stack.
The commando row focuses on shoulders, biceps, upper back and core.
- Start in a pushup position with your arms shoulder width apart but with your feet spread wide.
- Do not bend your spine or raise your hips. Keeping your core flexed will help you avoid these mistakes.
- Keep the motion very slow and controlled to maintain balance avoid injury.
Stir The Pot
- Start in a plank position with your elbows and forearms on a Swiss ball.
- While looking down at your hands, do not arch your back or shrug your shoulders.
- Make little circle motions with your elbows on the ball, as if you are stirring a giant pot.
- To make this harder, make larger circles motions imagining the pot is even bigger.
- This exercise should be done until you are fatigued and can no longer continue.
Goblet Reverse Lunge
- Hold a kettlebell or dumbbell below your chin.
- Take a step back with one foot while dropping down until your back knee is an inch or two from the ground.
- Drive forward back to your original standing position.
- Alternate legs for each lunge, or do reps focusing on one leg at a time.
- If this is too difficult, don’t use any weights until you master proper form.
Hot Potato Squat
Hot potato squats help burn fat which will keep your core strong and look slim.
- Get in a squat stance with your feet shoulder-width apart, and toes pointed slightly out.
- Place a dumbbell in one hand, on your shoulder in a front squat position.
- Do a full squat. Explode upwards to the top of your stance and gently pass the dumbbell to your opposite hand.
- Keep your arm without the dumbbell straight out in front of you to stay balanced during the squat.
- Try and do this for about a minute before resting 30 seconds and starting again to get a cardiovascular workout as well.
Swiss Ball Jackknife
- Start in a pushup position with your shins resting on a Swiss ball and your hands on the ground shoulder width apart.
- Use your core and pull your knees forward to roll the ball towards your arms until the top of your thighs touch your stomach.
- During this movement, remember to keep your hips from sagging to keep proper form.
- An alternative name for this is the “exercise ball pull-in.”
Single Arm Overhead Press
- Place a dumbbell at shoulder height, raising it straight over your head.
- Keep your body straight and avoid leaning to one side.
- This shoulder press will tone your arms and strengthen your core stability.
- Do 8-12 repetitions on one arm before alternating the dumbbell to the other arm.
- Hold dumbbells by your sides in both hands to as a starting position for a farmer’s walk.
- Keep your back straight, shoulders down and back, chest lifted, and abs tight to keep proper form and avoid injury.
- Make sure your head stays straight, avoid the tendency to look down or let your head lean forward.
- Walk with a weight that is heavy, but comfortable enough that you won’t get hurt.
- Starting in an athletic stance with a slight bend in your knees, hold two dumbbells by your sides.
- Push your hips and hamstrings back while swinging the dumbbells behind you.
- When the weights are fully extended back, your upper body should be almost parallel with the floor.
- You are doing this properly if you feel a slight stretch in the back of your legs.
- Thrust your hips forward and squeeze your glutes as you come forward to the starting position.
Kettle Bell Juggling
- Stand with your feet parallel and bend your knees with your arm extending downward holding a kettle bell.
- Quickly exchange the kettle-bell between hands while maintaining this position.
- Push your hips back and keep your back flat for emphasis on your lower back, hamstrings, and glutes.
- An alternative position is in a squat stance to put more focus on your quads.
Isolating Muscle Groups
Upper / Middle Abs Exercises
- Torso Rotation Machine – Adjust the pad and weight accordingly before rotating your knees from side to side.
- Abs Crunch Machine – Sit down with your feet underneath the pads, and grab the handles, so your arms form a 90-degree angle. Crunch down slowly and continue breathing properly.
- Lay on your back with your hands under your head, raising your thighs perpendicular to the ground and shins parallel to the ground.
- Curl up, then bring your left elbow towards your right knee; repeat by bringing your right elbow towards your left knee.
- Go slow, maintaining a focused and controlled movement.
- While kneeling, grab the barbell with your hands about shoulder-width apart.
- Keep your arms straight, inhale and roll the bar forward as far as you can.
- If this is too difficult, do this in front of a wall to limit your range of motion.
- Get on your knees in front of a cable machine.
- Keep your hips fixed in a stationary position holding a cable by your head.
- Bring your chest towards your knees.
- Make sure your feet are securely locked into position on the decline bench.
- Push the small of your back into the bench to isolate the abs as you crunch forward.
- Keep your shoulders about 4 inches off the bench in your down position, focusing on slow and controlled movements.
Lower Abs Exercises
Decline Reverse Crunch
- Raise your legs towards your chest, rolling your pelvis upward.
- Lift your hips off the bench bringing your knees towards your elbows.
- Hold the contraction at the top of the movement for one second.
Flat Bench Leg Pull-in
- Sit down with your hips at the edge of a flat bench.
- Hold the sides of the bench with your hands, lean back slightly, and extend your legs parallel to the floor.
- Pull your legs towards your torso while bending your knees, contracting the abdominals at the top.
Flat Bench Lying Leg Raise
- Lay with your back flat on a bench with your palms under your butt and legs hanging off the edge.
- Raise your legs until the form a 90-degree angle at the hip, slightly raising your hips at the top.
- Place a dumbbell in-between your feet for added resistance if needed.
Hanging Leg Raises
- Hang from a pull-up bar with both arms fully extended, and your legs dangling below you.
- Raise your legs until the form a 90-degree angle with your torso.
- Hanging leg raises are a more advanced movement and can cause lower back pain if not done with proper form.
Decline Oblique Crunch
- Start with your upper body raised off the bench, to about 40-degrees from the ground.
- Place one hand on the side of your head and your other hand on your thigh.
- Slowly raise your body, turning your torso while bringing your elbow to the opposite knee.
- Lay on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor.
- Place your hands behind your head and drop both knees to one side.
- Lift your shoulder blades off the mat without pulling on your head for 20-25 reps before switching your knees to the opposite side.
- Sit on the floor with your legs extended, feet off the ground, knees slightly bent, and your torso upright.
- Grab the plate with both hands and keep it positioned in front of your abdominals with a slight bend in your arms.
- Twist your upper body touching the plate to the floor on your left side and then alternating it to the floor on your right side.
- Russian twists have the same starting position as a plate twist, without the weight.
- The twisting should be done in a controlled motion while focusing on controlled breathing and managing your balance.
- If you want to add some weight, try a light medicine ball rather than going for a heavy plate.
You need to work hard for abdominal muscles. Following the proper diet and exercise guidelines in this article will have you showing off your toned, flat stomach in no time!