19 Gut-Wrenching Ab Exercises
I used to hate doing abs. Now I don’t mind them. Having tight abs and a strong core feels good and is good for helping to prevent back pain.
I’m consistent each week with incorporating at least 2 ab workout sessions. Since I’m a HUGE fan of supersets, I often do ab exercises in between weight lifting sets. Other times I do two or three ab exercises in a row with no rest.
I vary my workouts quite a bit because it keeps it interesting and avoids plateauing.
I have a great inventory of ab exercises in my arsenal and make sure I vary the exercises every few weeks.
I almost always try to hit all areas of my abs. Admittedly, I don’t do obliques as often as I should. However, I love the exercises that target both upper and lower abs … that’s why I set out that section first and it contains the most exercises.
1. Bicycle Crunches
Lie on your back with your legs straight and your hands to the sides of your head.
1 – Raise your head and shoulders, bringing one knee towards your chest and the opposite elbow to this knee, twisting your torso.
2 – Lower your upper body and leg to the floor and repeat to the opposite side, using your other leg.
TARGET: Upper, Lower and Side
I often start off my ab workout with bicycle crunches. They’re gentle and provide a good ab warm up.
Bicycle crunches are done lying on the floor or a bench. Your legs move in a bicycle riding motion. You do a twisting crunch bringing your right elbow to your left knee and vice versa.
Slow and steady is best. Try not to pull up on your neck with your hands.
2. V-Crunches (a.k.a. V-Ups)
1 – Lie on your back with your legs straight and your arms stretched out overhead holding dumbbells.
2 – Raise your legs straight up while also lifting your upper body off the floor and reach the dumbbells toward your feet, keeping both your arms and legs straight.
Slowly lower your upper body and legs back to the floor and repeat, keeping the reps smooth.
TARGET: Upper and Lower
Alternatively – do them on a bench.
I like doing V-crunches on a bench. I sit on the end of a bench, put my hands behind my head, straighten out my body and then lift legs and torso together remaining as straight as possible.
3. Boat Pose
- Straighten your legs back out in front and your arms by your sides.
- Bend your knees and lift your feet off the floor.
- Lean back slightly and raise your legs up straight.
- Bring your arms up straight till they are parallel with the floor.
TARGET: Core strength
Boat pose is a classic yoga pose that targets your abs and strengthens your core. You site with legs straight and up. Your body is in a V-position. Instead of moving up and down, you remain in a V for as long as you can breathing deeply.
The AbCoaster one of my favorite ab machines. You can see an image below. It’s absolutely brutal and because you can add weight, you continually stress your abs. Unfortunately, not all gyms have this … but yours does, give a try.
Target: Lower and Side (if you do it rotated)
5. Ab Wheel Rollouts
The ab wheel is a must-have ab tool. I like sitting on my knees and extending out on the floor with the ab wheel in my hand. I extend out and pull in. If you’re new to working out, this one may be a little intense for you.
The Ab Wheel (doesn’t get much simpler than this)
Alternative Equipment – Use a barbell:
TARGET: Upper and Lower
6. Russian Twist
1 – Start in a sit up position with your feet up off the floor, knees bent, holding a dumbbell at chest level in both hands with your arms extended out in front.
2 – Twist your torso to one side, lowering the dumbbell towards the floor.
3 – Twist your torso back to the other side, keep your feet up and arms straight throughout.
Equipment: No weight, DB, weight plate or medicine ball.
Target: Upper, lower and side
7. Pike with Exercise Ball
1 – Place your hands on floor in front and your shins on the ball behind with your arms straight.
2 – Drag the ball towards your body lifting your hips with your legs straight up and roll the ball down your shins to your toes.
TARGET: Lower mainly.
8. Alternating V-Ups
1 – Lie on your back with your legs straight and your arms stretched out overhead.
2 – Raise one leg straight up while also lifting your upper body off the floor and reach your opposite hand towards your foot, keeping both your arm and leg straight.
Lower both and repeat using the opposite arm and leg.
TARGET: Upper and Lower
9. Butterfly Sit Ups
1 – Lie on your back with your heels together, knees bent and out to the sides and your arms overhead, hands clasped.
2 – Lift your arms, head and shoulders off the floor, coming all the way upright and reach your hands towards your feet.
Lower your arms, head and shoulders and repeat.
10. Decline sit ups
1 – Lie on a decline bench with your feet secured holding a medicine ball in both hands at your chest.
2 – Lift your upper body completely off the bench to a full upright position.
Use controlled movements and do not throw yourself up off the bench.
The decline makes the sit up much harder. I don’t do too many because they’re tough. I love decline sit ups for abs. They’re definitely worth it if you can do them. Even a few is a good start. Make it even harder holding weight.
11. Hanging Leg Raises
There are many variations of these such as:
- Knees up only
- Raise legs extended straight out
- Squeeze medicine ball for additional difficulty
12. Hip Raises
1 – Lie on your back with your legs straight up in the air and your hands by your sides.
2 – Push your feet up towards the ceiling, raising your hips off the floor.
Use your abdominal muscles to pull you up and do not push with your hands.
Lower your hips back to the floor and repeat.
Leg raises are to lower abs what the crunch is to upper abs. You don’t need any equipment and can do them anywhere. When done slowly and in control, they target lower abs very nicely.
13. Scissor Kicks
Lie on your back with your legs straight and your arms by your sides.
1 – Raise your legs straight up off the floor about 12 inches and cross your ankles.
2 – Open your legs wide out to the sides.
Close and open your legs in scissor like movements.
Few people do scissor kicks, which is too bad. These are really hit the lower abs. I do them on the floor or a flat bench. All you do is extend your legs straight out a few inches above the floor and then slowly spread them out and bring them together. Focus on working your abs.
You can stop when your legs come together or do the full scissor by crossing your legs over one another. I do both types.
14. Dead Bug
1 – Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet raised with your arms straight up over your chest.
2 – Lower one leg and the opposite arm straight down toward the floor, keeping the other leg and arm steady.
Raise the leg and arm back to the upright position and repeat with the opposite leg and arm.
TARGET: Upper and lower
15. Low High Chop
1 – Stand upright facing to one side, holding a handle in both hands at hip level with your arms straight.
2 – Pull the cable up from your hip to over your opposite shoulder.
Move through your hips and shoulders, not your arms.
16. Exercise Ball Crunches with Weight – Plus Reach
1 – Lie with your upper back on the ball and your hips low so your upper body is at a 45 degree angle holding a ball at your chest with your elbows bent.
2 – Lift your head and shoulders off the ball and reach your arms up and out in front.
17. Upper Body Twist
This is a fantastic ab session ending exercise because it’s gentle and really feels good on the spine.
1 – Lie on your back with your hips turned to one side, knees bent and touching the floor with your arms out to the sides at shoulder height.
2 – Raise one hand and lift it up and across to touch the other outstretched hand, turning your head to this side also.
Return to the start position and repeat to the other side.
18. V Side Tuck
1 – Balance with your upper body off the floor, your legs raised straight up and your arms out straight to one side.
2 – Bend your knees, pulling them in towards your chest.
Return your legs out straight, remaining balanced upright throughout
TARGET: Upper and lower
19. Frog Sit Up
1 – Lie on your back with your legs straight and arms out to the sides at shoulder height.
2 – Lift your upper body off the floor, bringing your arms straight together in the middle, reaching forward while also bringing your knees in to your chest.
Lower back to the floor and repeat.
TARGET: Upper and lower
Should you do all of these ab exercises in one workout?
Absolutely NOT. It’s too much. Just as you don’t do every weight lifting exercise during a weight lifting session, you don’t do every possible ab exercise for an ab workout. I generally do 2 to 4 exercises with 1 to 3 sets of each exercise.
How often should you work out your abs?
I shoot for two to three times a week. My approach is as follows:
On one day I’ll do abs in between my weight lifting exercises (a superset if you will).
On another day, I’ll do an entire session dedicated to abs with some breaks between sets.
I find this is more than sufficient to maintain good abs. Doing it more often isn’t bad because abs recover quickly. However, if you have ab muscle pain, it’s a good idea to wait until full recovery.
Some people do abs every day. That’s too much for me. The deal with fitness is there isn’t one magic formula in terms of number of exercises, number of sets and frequency of workout. Once a week may be enough or 3 times a week. For me 2 abdominal workouts is enough.
For more information checkout How to Get a Perfect Six-Pack