Ab Workout Guide – Ab-solutely the Best Ab Exercises
While not everyone is looking to get a six-pack, most people would agree that they'd like to avoid the muffin tops and love handles. Let's start from the beginning, first defining what are abs and how they function, then we'll look at a variety of ab workouts appropriate for all levels of experience.
Ready to get started? Go directly to the ab workout videos.
What are abs and how do you get them?
Well, technically everyone has abs it's just a matter of how visible and defined they are that give the appearance of the six-pack. The "abs" actually consist of four primary muscles in the torso — the rectus abdominis, the internal and external obliques, and the transverse abdominal muscle.
The rectus abdominis muscle is the centralized muscle group that connects the trunk to the lower limbs and plays a key role in posture. It is also most commonly associated with the "six pack" because in individuals who have low percentages of body fat, the muscular structure can be visible externally.
Many men and women seek to work out the "lower abs" to get rid of belly fat. However, it is worthwhile to note that this is a misnomer since the rectus abdominis actually extends across the entire midsection. While it is possible to focus on the lower section of the abdominals, there is not a specific muscle called the "lower abs" as the phrase can seemingly imply.
Internal and External Obliques
The internal oblique muscles (aka obliquus internus abdominis) are sandwiched between the external oblique (obliquus externus abdominis) and the transverse abdominal (transversus abdominis). Not only do the obliques help support respiration, they are also involved in allowing the body to bend to the side and the torso to twist.
The transverse abdominal muscle is situated beneath the internal oblique and gets its name based on the directionality of its fibers. Like many of the other ab muscles, it too functions as a thoracic stabilizer.
So how do you get six-pack abs?
Getting a ripped abdominals, requires both proper diet and exercise (and a lot of hard work). In order to get two, four, or six pack abs, proper nutrition and monitoring of calorie intake and expenditure play a huge role. The goal is that through diet and exercise that you will have a lower percentage of body fat and thus the muscle definition will become visible. Keep reading for tips, techniques, and targeted ab workouts.
Before starting a fitness or nutritional program, please consult your physician.
What are the best ab workouts?
There are a variety of exercises that you can do that will sculpt and tone your abdominal muscles. Here we've listed out twelve videos, conveniently organized into the categories of beginner technique, beginner workout routines, advanced exercises, planks, and seated/standing variations.
Beginner Ab Exercise Techniques:
It's always important to do exercises properly with the correct form. This will reduce the risk of potential injury and allow you to maximize the effectiveness of the movement.
Jump to beginner workout routines or advanced exercises.
How to do a Perfect Crunch
While the crunch seems like a simple exercise, many people do them incorrectly. This increases the risk of injury and neck strain while simultaneously diminishing the effectiveness of the movement. It's not about how many crunches you can do that matters but rather how well you do each one.
The key steps to perform a crunch are as follows:
- Lie on your back on the floor with your legs bent towards your body in a position where your feet can rest flat on the ground.
- Place your hands across your chest so that your hands are touching the front of each opposite shoulder or place them behind your head for a little more of a challenge.
- Without using momentum or swinging your arms, slowly lift your upper torso towards your knees using your abdominal muscles. Squeeze the muscles while lifting and stop when your abdominal muscles feel fully flexed. You should have around half of your back off the ground.
- Slowly return your upper torso to the starting position on the ground and then repeat.
How to do the Perfect Plank
Planks (when executed with proper form) will help sculpt the abs and will also strengthen the lower back, helping to both prevent as well as alleviate pain. There are many variations of planks and they can be modified for all fitness abilities and goals. The main thing to remember is to keep the spinal alignment straight.
Beginner Ab Workout Routines:
Now that you've mastered the basic techniques, now it's time to combine the movements and stretch your abilities by adding in variations of the exercises.
Jump to beginner technique or advanced exercises.
Easy Ab Workout for Beginners: The 2-Minute Ab Workout for Beginners
This 2-minute ab workout is perfect if you’re new to working out. Follow along as you are guided through four beginner level ab exercises that are easy to do, but will still effectively work your core muscles. The four exercises in this routine are: thigh crunches, marches, left oblique crunches, and right oblique crunches.
4-Minute Ab Workout — Tone Your Abs Anytime
In this workout you will do four different ab exercises for 30 seconds each and then repeat the whole set one more time for a total of four minutes. These four ab exercises (regular crunches, right oblique crunches, left oblique crunches, and lower ab crunches) will target all the musculature of your abs.
The Three-Minute Ultimate Core Workout
Spending ten to fifteen minutes or more performing endless crunches is simply an ineffective use of your workout time — time that could be much better spent strength training or burning calories through cardiovascular expenditure. Ab exercises serve to sculpt, not flatten. Pair the following 3-minute ab routine with cardio of your choice. The first four ab exercises are done for 30 seconds each while the last one is done for 60 seconds:
- Regular Crunch (30 seconds)
- Bicycle Crunch (30 seconds)
- Cross Crunch (30 seconds)
- Double Crunch (30 seconds)
- Plank (60 seconds)
Advanced Ab Exercises:
If you're already familiar with the basic forms of ab exercises and looking for a challenge, here are two videos that showcase more advanced variations that will push your strength and endurance to the next level.
Jump to beginner workout routines or planks.
12 Different Ab Exercises for Your Ab Workout
This video starts off by explaining the basic crunch but then expands to different variations of the crunch as well as planks. Just a few minutes of well-executed core exercises done throughout the week will yield big results over time. For a specific workout, choose to do 3-5 different variations and perform each for about 30-60 seconds.
- Side Crunch
- Reverse Crunch
- Double Crunch
- Bicycle Crunch
- Reach Through
- Rope Climb
- Cross Crunch
- Spiderman Plank
- Side Plank
Challenging Ab Workout: The Two-Minute Hard Core Abs Workout
Follow along with this guided narrative for an intense two-minute ab workout to get you on your way to a six pack. In it you will progress through 30 seconds of double crunches, cross-crunches, rope climb, and corkscrew ab exercises. You might think that two minutes isn’t enough, but if you focus on engaging your core muscles throughout every rep, you’re going to feel the burn.
Planks are an isometric abdominal exercise, meaning that they work the muscles without them changing length. As such, the plank is an insanely effective exercise as it sculpts the abs while strengthening the musculature that stabilizes the spinal column. This exercise is therefore unique, as it works both the front and back of the core region at the same time – something your traditional crunch-type exercises do not do.
Jump to advanced exercises or seated/standing variations.
The Three-Minute Perfect Plank Workout
If you're tired of doing crunches to work your core, here's a 3-minute plank circuit that is perfect to fit in during a commercial break while you're watching your favorite tv show. Simply hold each of these plank variations for 30 seconds each: basic plank, plank with leg raises, side plank on right arm, side plank on left arm, basic plank, and Spiderman planks.
The Two-Minute Push-up and Plank Workout
Planks are a natural segue to pushups as both are excellent body-weight exercises and they both have very similar form. This workout takes advantage of the benefits of both exercises to give you a workout that will help strengthen your core and upper body in very short amount of time.
For 30 seconds do push-ups, do 30 seconds of planks, and then repeat. The great thing about these exercises is that they can be modified to suit any fitness level.
- Knee push-ups (beginner)
- Regular push-ups (beginner/intermediate)
- Spider-man push-ups (advanced)
- Straight arm plank (beginner)
- Bent arm plank (intermediate)
- Plank with alternating leg lifts (advanced)
Seated & Standing Ab Exercises:
If you don't have a comfortable mat or don't feel like getting on the floor to exercise, here are several videos which show seated and standing ab workout options.
Work Out Your Abs While Sitting
Chances are that you sit a lot during the day, but that doesn’t mean you can’t squeeze in a little ab work. Working your abs while sitting is actually much easier to do than you would think! Here are three simple ab exercises you can use to tone your abs while sitting.
The Three-Minute Standing Ab Workout
You don’t have to go down to the floor to work your abs, and this quick workout proves it. Get ready to work your core while keeping your feet on the floor. Perform each of the following four exercises for 45 seconds to get a fantastic 3-minute standing ab workout.
- March and Squeeze — Target the rectus abdominis by starting with both hands straight up in the air. Drive one knee all the way up while driving your arms down. Keep your hands above your elbows and near your body so that your elbows and knee line up, with your knee in between both arms. As you do this, squeeze your abs. Return to the starting position and do the same thing with your other knee.
- Elbow to Opposite Knee — Engage the obliques by rotating the torso and bringing opposite elbow to opposite knee. As you do this, squeeze your abs. Return them back to their starting point and repeat with the other knee and elbow; continue to alternate.
- Straight Leg Raises — Keep your leg as straight as possible as you raise it up in front of your body in a slow kicking motion. Meanwhile bring the opposite arm down to reach out and touch your foot (or as close as you can get). Return to standing on both feet and do the same thing with your other leg and arm.
- Rotate and Punch — Stand with your legs about shoulder width apart. Rotate your upper body (you can pivot your foot to help), and in a boxing motion jab out with your arm across your body. Then rotate to the other direction and punch with your other arm.
The Six-Minute Standing Ab Workout
Doing ab exercises while standing is a great way to mix up your routine and work your core in a functional manner. It's great because you don't need a mat, it is less stressful on your neck, and you can sneak them into your daily routine almost anywhere. This six-minute standing ab routine involves four exercises done for 45 seconds each, two times through in a circuit. It includes punches, front kicks, standing marches, and standing cross crunches.