Aside from a huge set of guns and a prominent and large chest, most men will tell you a primary reason for hitting the gym is to earn themselves a set of washboard abs. While there is some evidence to suggest women aren’t even bothered if you have a six-pack or not – with some even admitting they prefer more of a dad-bod figure – it’s safe to say washboard abs are going to earn you more swoons than groans, when you take your top off.
Unfortunately for many men, getting themselves shredded and in ownership of a set of abs often proves to be incredibly difficult. Not only do you need to dedicate some serious hours to building up the abdominal muscles, you also need to ensure your body fat is kept to a minimum in order to show off your hard work.
Fortunately, there are plenty of ab workouts and ab exercises you can carry out at the gym, or even at home, meaning there’s no excuse as to why you shouldn’t be torching your abdominals at any given notice. And we’ve even done the hard work for you by rounding up the best ab workouts you can do to help you on your quest.
What Are The Abdominal Muscles?
The abdominal muscles serve more than just the purpose of giving you jaw-dropping stares when you’re at the beach, they’re actually an incredibly important muscle group that you probably take for granted.
Located on the front of the body, your abs take up the space between the ribs and your pelvis. They not only hold your vital organs in place, but they also allow for movement and to stabilise the trunk – or torso, to you and me.
There are four main groups that make up the abdominals: traversus adominis – stabilises the torso, maintains abdominal pressure; rectus abdominis – the muscle we all know as the six-pack; external oblique muscles – found on either side of the rectus abdominis, allow the torso to twist; internal oblique muscles – located just inside the hipbones, serve a similar function to the external obliques, but contract in the opposite direction.
These four muscle groups make up your core, and having a strong core is absolutely vital when it comes to performing a variety of exercises, not just those that concern the abs, and it works in tandem with your back muscles to help prevent any injuries to your body.
Best Ab Workouts
Because the abdominal muscle groups take up such a large portion of the body, they can actually be split into sections: upper abs; lower abs; and obliques. But, despite there being different moves and exercises that can target each area, it’s best recommended that you perform moves that target your entire core as a whole.
It makes sense, because your core is what keeps you standing up straight and ultimately gives your body all-round stability. Plus, working just your upper abs, for example, won’t give you the rippling torso you seek.
It’s always good to finish any workout or gym session with an abs workout circuit, since they need a lot of training in order to make them more pronounced. And it’s worth noting that many compound movements, such as deadlifts and squats, will target your abs to some extent, so make sure you perform these with the correct form.
Best Ab Workouts
One of the absolute classic abs workouts is the crunch – also known as sit-ups – is a movement you’re most likely familiar with. It’s a great abs exercise to target your upper body, and can be made even harder with the introduction of a dumbbell or plate weight.
How to perform: Lie on your back with your knees bent and raise your torso, squeezing your abs as you do so. You can put your hands behind your head, cross them over in front of you, or run your hands up and down your legs to help assist you.
If you choose to add some weight into the mix, hold a dumbbell or plate weight to your chest and perform the sit-up in the same way.
Be sure to keep your neck straight during the movement by looking up to the ceiling, rather than bending it so that you’re looking at your knees.
Tuck and Crunch
Also known as the double crunch, this movement does in fact target your entire abdomen, making it an essential movement to add into your routine. It effectively combines the sit-up just mentioned, with a crunch, so your elbows meet your knees. A burner for sure, but one you’ll feel great for.
How to perform: Lie with your back flat on the floor, and with your knees in the air, bent at a 90 degree angle. Place your hands behind your head and raise your torso to engage your core, and bring your knees in so they reach your elbows.
Hold this position for a second and return to the starting position and repeat.
A daddy of abs exercises, the plank is one that really can separate the men from the boys as it’s one that engages all of your core muscles in one hit. However, it can be incredibly easy to get the form wrong, which could lead to injury or at the very least, won’t give you any real results.
How to perform: The correct plank position requires your back to be straight, however some people will either arch it up or let their lower back dip, with their hips dragging the body lower to the floor.
To get yourself into the best plank position, place your elbows and forearms on the floor, with your palms facing down too. Raise yourself up on your toes and aim to get your back straight. A great way to practice is to place a light piece of wood on your back with the aim of holding it on there.
If it rolls off, or the end doesn’t touch the back of your head, you’re holding the position wrong. Another easy fix is to lock your shoulder blades down, rather than have them hunching up towards your ears.
It’s also important you look down to the floor so your neck is kept straight too. Some people will be inclined to look straight ahead, which will put unnecessary strain on your neck and can affect your form too.
If you’re new to planks, aim to hold the plank position for 30-seconds before progressing to one minute and then even longer.
The hollow hold is another one of the great abs exercises that engages all of your core muscles. It’s not an easy one, although there are some slight tweaks you can make to it to make it harder or less difficult, depending on how strong your core is.
How to perform: To start, lie down with your back on the floor. Extend your legs out straight and have your arms extended out straight behind you. Keep your ankles together and your wrists together.
From this straight line position, raise your arms and raise your legs off the floor, creating a sort of V shape, all the while keeping your lower back on the floor. Lifting your legs and arms higher will make this exercise slightly easier, but if you really want to torch your core, have your arms and legs raised only slightly off the ground.
Hold this position for at least 30-seconds, but ultimately as long as you can. You can also work yourself up to being able to rock your arms and legs forward and backward to really feel the burn.
Heel taps are one of the ab exercises that predominately target your lower abs, although they certainly have their benefits for your whole core.
How to perform: Lie on your back with your knees bent. Slightly raise your upper body so your shoulders are off the floor, brace your core and reach with your arms extended so that your right hand touches your right heel, before moving to the other side, with your left hand touching your left heel.
If you want to take things to a more advanced level, you can move your heels further away from your body, meaning you need to reach further to touch your heels. Whichever way you perform heel taps, keep the movement slow and controlled. Going too fast won’t put any real tension on your core, meaning no results.
The dead bug can be a slightly confusing abs exercise, but once you have the movement nailed down, it can be incredibly beneficial to building some serious core strength.
How to perform: Start with your back and shoulders on the floor. Raise your legs and have your knees bent at a 90 degree angle. Extend your arms straight up in front of you so they are pointing up to the ceiling.
Then, slowly lower your left leg down towards the ground – keeping your right knee bent – and lower your right arm down towards the floor behind you at the same time.
Inhale and return to the starting position, and repeat for the opposite arm and leg. With both sides done, that’s one rep. Repeat for 6-12 reps and 3 – 4 sets.
If you’re looking for ab exercises that blast both your upper and lower sets of abs at the same time, look no further than the V sit-up. Add them into your routine and lose the belly fat, and your washboard abs will soon shine through.
How to perform: Lie on the ground with your back flat on the floor, arms extended back behind your head and legs extended too. Keeping your lower back on the ground, squeeze your core to lift your legs up, keeping the legs straight.
Raise your upper body at the same time with your arms extended so that your hands meet your toes, creating a V shape.
Hold this position for a second or two, before returning to the starting position, body still straight and core still engaged, and repeat.
While most of the ab exercises on this list work your abs through the use of up and down movements, to really strengthen your core, you want to do twisting movements too so that no area of your core is left untouched.
Enter the Russian twist: a movements performed sitting down and with or without weight, that is ideal for targeting your obliques.
How to perform: Take a seat on the floor, bend your knees and have your feet flat too. Lean back slightly and slowly twist your upper body and torso to the left and then to the right.
Some people choose to hold their hands together with their arms straight while doing so, others keep their hands closer to their chest. The most important thing to remember is to move slowly, and to twist your torso as far it will possibly go.
To make the Russian twist harder, you can introduce a weight into the mix such as a dumbbell, kettlebell or medicine ball. If you do use a weight, again, make sure to twist your torso as far as possible, so that the oblique muscles on the opposite side to the weight have to work harder to twist you back around.
To further advance the Russian twist, you can lift your feet off the ground, forcing your core to work even harder to stabilise your body as you twist.