Stuck for ideas when it comes to ab workouts? You’ve come to the right place.
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 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.
Looking for further workout inspiration? Check out our complete guide to workouts for men here.
Table of contents
- What Are The Abdominal Muscles?
- Best Ab Exercises & Workouts
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 Exercises & 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.
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 ab exercise to target your upper body, and can be made even harder with the introduction of a dumbbell or plate weight.
How to perform this ab exercise: 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 to 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 this ab exercise: 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 this ab exercise: 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 engage 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 this ab exercise: 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 this ab exercise: 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 this ab exercise: 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 this ab exercise: 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, keeping the body 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 movement performed sitting down and with or without weight, that is ideal for targeting your obliques.
How to perform this ab exercise: 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.
This exercise is almost identical to the popular plank, except there’s a little bit of spice added to it. Basically, you’ll need something heavy – more specifically a weight – to make the plank a bit more challenging and push your abs even harder. If you’re at the gym and have different weights to choose from, this exercise should be a piece of cake.
How to Perform This Ab Exercise: Get into the classic plank position. Your hands and forearms should be on the floor, while your spine will be almost parallel to the floor. Now, instead of just doing a simple plank, you will have a spotter help you make the exercise more advanced by placing a weight plate under your shoulder blades.
Maintain your stability by pressing your arms into the floor and holding the position. Do this for as long as you can.
Sets: 2-4 sets of 1 plank each
Tempo: Up to 60 seconds per plank
Medicine Ball Slam
Medicine balls can be great for ab workouts, especially if you know how to use them. Sure, this may be less intense than your typical weight exercise, but it can have a huge impact on your abs. The best way to do this is by having it added to your workout schedule between other ab exercises.
How to Perform This Ab Exercise: Stand up and bend your knees slightly. While doing this, lift the medicine ball directly over your head and make sure to keep your arms extended. Then, rise on your feet balls. With the help of your core muscles, throw the ball to the ground while bending forward at your waist.
Then, simply catch the ball. Afterward, repeat the movement as many times as necessary.
Sets: 3-4 sets of 10 reps
Tempo: 3-4 seconds per rep
Sit Up and Throw
This exercise requires the use of some equipment. First of all, you need a medicine ball. Secondly, you need something sturdy to keep your feet in place. You could use a pair of heavier dumbbells to do the trick.
If you do this exercise enough times, your abs will begin to develop into a very attractive group of muscles.
How to Perform This Ab Exercise: First things first, sit on the floor. Put something sturdy over your feet for support, such as some dumbbells. Then, take a medicine ball with both hands and hold it in front of your chest. Lie back on the floor, only a few feet away from a concrete or brick wall. Sit up very fast and throw your ball into the wall, and catch it when it bounces back. This will train your ab muscles quite nicely.
What’s great is that you can also do this with a partner, throwing the ball at him or her.
Sets: 3 sets of 20-25 reps
Tempo: 3-4 seconds per rep
Dumbbell Side Bend
Dumbbells can be used in many ways, even for your abs. If you’re tired of doing the old bending exercises for your stomach, you can change things a little bit with the dumbbell side bend. All you need is a dumbbell of a suitable weight and some determination.
Before you begin, it should be noted that the weight should be reasonable. Don’t go too far hoping to speed things up – the exercise should challenge your abs without feeling impossible to do. Also, don’t rush – keep it nice and slow.
How to Perform This Ab Exercise: Hold a dumbbell in your left hand while your feet are hip-width apart. The palm should be facing your torso. With your back straight, activate your core, and bend to one side as far as you can. Make sure the waist is the only one that bends, though. Stay at the bottom of the range for a second, then slowly return to the start position.
Sets: 3-5 sets with 12-20 reps
Tempo: 4 seconds per set, 2-3-second return
Hanging Knee Raise
If you’re still a beginner and want to do some exercises that do not require weights, you can go with the hanging knee raise. This exercise requires very little equipment, but it can be very good for your abs. It will not only grow your muscles but also improve your strength.
What’s even better is that your grip strength will improve at the same time, which can help you in future workouts.
How to Perform This Ab Exercise: Find an available bar in your gym and grip it strongly, hanging from it with a grip that is slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Meanwhile, squeeze your shoulder blades together.
Now, press your legs together and start pulling your knees up until they are close to your chest height. Make sure there is tension in the upper back and core to reduce swinging.
Sets: 3 sets with 10-15 reps
Tempo: 3-4 seconds per rep, 2-3 second return
Side Plank with Rotation
Another great way to do a plank is by changing it a little bit. For instance, you could try a side plank instead of the typical plank exercise. Because this is good at training the quadratus lumborum muscle, it can help with lower back support and health and can be great for your abs.
What’s even better is that the side plank with rotation can also help when you’re recovering from low back injuries.
How to Perform This Ab Exercise: Go into a side plank position, and make sure your body is in a straight line from your shoulders to your feet. Then, extend the other arm up above your shoulder. With one foot slightly ahead of the other, stagger your feet. This will give more stability to the base.
Now, reach under your body to rotate your torso downwards, and keep your eyes on your hand.
Sets: 3 sets of 10-15 reps
Tempo: 2-3 seconds per set
Pike to Superman
Here’s an exercise that can also be fun aside from helping you develop strong abs. This pose will make you feel like Superman, which can make workouts a bit more exciting if you’re a fan of the superhero.
To perform this exercise, you will need a stability ball.
How to Perform This Ab Exercise: Grab a stability ball and set your body into a pushup position. Your toes should rest on the stability ball. While bending your hips, roll the ball toward you. This way, your torso will be vertical.
Next, roll back, making your body straight. Extend your spine and roll the ball up your legs. This will help your body get into a straight line while your arms extend overhead. In the meantime, your hands will stay on the floor. You’ll resemble a downward-flying Superman.
Use your lats to pull in order to get back to the initial pushup position.
Sets: 4-5 sets of 10 reps
Tempo: 3-4 seconds per rep
Some ab exercises look very simple, yet they are intense enough to help your muscles grow and develop. This seated sprinter exercise is a perfect example. You will not have to run around the room but can mimic the movement while seated and it will have a huge impact on your abs.
How to Perform This Ab Exercise: Sit on the floor and extend your legs. Your heels should lightly touch the floor. Make sure your torso stays tall and that you keep your shoulders back. While doing so, lean back, engaging your core. However, ensure your lower back doesn’t slump.
Bend your elbows at 90 degrees and lift your right knee toward the ceiling. Meanwhile, your right hand will come up and your left hand will go back. It will look like you’re about to start running.
Switch between these leg and arm positions back and forth, just like you were sprinting.
Sets: 5-10 sets with 1 rep each
Tempo: 40 seconds per rep
Banded Reverse Crunch
The banded reverse crunch can make your ab workout more special. Instead of doing a simple crunch, you will do a reverse crunch using a light resistance band. Apart from this, you only need a pole.
If you do it right, your abs will get in top condition in no time.
How to Perform This Ab Exercise: Find an available pole and attach a light resistance band to it at shin height. Then, sit on your floor and face the anchor. Bend your knees and make sure the free end of the resistance band goes across your thighs.
Next, crouch back till the band becomes taut and lie back while grasping a kettlebell behind your head. This will help anchor your upper body. While drawing your belly in, lift your lower back off the floor, then roll your knees and hips toward your shoulders. Then, reverse.
Sets: 3-5 sets of about 7-12 reps
Tempo: 3 seconds per rep
Half Kneeling Chop
This workout is great when you want something a bit simpler, particularly when you want to take a break from your challenging ab exercises. It only requires a resistance band. If your body is already activated following some intense exercises, it will be easy to do this and go for several sets.
How to Perform This Ab Exercise: Find an available resistance band that you can pull. Then, set yourself into the bottom of a lunge position. This means that your left leg should be positioned forwardly, while you put your right knee on the floor for support.
Then, all you have to do is grasp the resistance band and pull it diagonally downward, making sure it goes across your body to the outside of the right hip.
Sets: 5-6 sets of 10-15 reps
Tempo: 3 seconds per rep, 1-second return