12 Simple And Effective Ab Workouts And Exercises (2024)

A trim waist and sculpted abs are the leading reasons why many of us want to work out and pursue exercises that work the abdominal muscles. And yet, toning your midsection has less visible but equally important benefits.

The abdominal muscles form part of your core, meaning they support the upper body in multiple ways. For starters, the abs carry some of the torso’s weight, which helps keep the upper body upright. They help with balance as the body makes all kinds of movements, including riding a bike. The muscles of the abdominal wall also keep underlying organs in position. These fun facts suggest that health benefits come with working those abs.

Exercising your abs builds strength in the abdominal muscles and the core in general. In turn, a stronger core improves your posture while reducing the chances of injury during physical activity. A strong core also makes it easier for you to carry weights and make movements that you would otherwise find challenging. This means that the right abdominal workouts make you strong enough to do exercises you couldn’t otherwise do.

Making Ab Exercises Work For You

Most of us would like a waistline that we can be proud of and some muscle definition on the stomach. We need abdominal workouts that condition the core, build muscle, burn calories, and burn stomach fat to achieve this goal. This winning combination delivers the trim midriff that eludes many, even after months of crunches and sit-ups. Here’s a breakdown of the strategy that will lead to successful abs workouts:

  • Diet matters because no amount of ab exercise can counter unhealthy eating habits.
  • Burning calories and fat is essential to get rid of excess fat around the stomach.
  • This means that an efficient ab workout needs to create a serious calorie burn.
  • Abdominal muscle has more slow-twitch fibers than fast-twitch fibers.
  • Slow-twitch muscle fibers are built for endurance, which is what abs need to support your upper body constantly.
  • This means that abs need a challenge that will cause them to feel the burn.
  • You must also keep the abdominal muscles guessing by having variety in your ab workouts. Variety prevents a plateau, where the body stops responding to your fitness routine.
  • Most importantly, focus on quality (good form) rather than quantity (countless reps). This approach allows you to avoid injury and reach your fitness goals.

This list shows that effective abs exercises should target more than just the abs. The best ab exercises will work the core as well as other parts of the body. This is why effective ab workouts feature plenty of whole-body movement that targets multiple muscle groups.

Now, we go over some simple, practical exercises for your abs and the different abdominal muscle groups they target.

Different Abdominal Muscles And How To Target Them

It’s helpful to think of your midsection as layers of muscle and (some) fat. Right under the skin, you find a layer of fat that could either be barely there or thick enough to form a potbelly. Under that, we have four pairs of muscles, which form the underlying layers of your midsection:

  • A pair of external oblique muscles sit at the sides of the torso, and they run from the lower ribs to the pelvis.
  • An internal oblique muscle sits under each external oblique, and it runs from the lower ribs to the pelvis.
  • A pair of rectus abdominis muscles sit at the front of the stomach, where you can sculpt them to form the coveted six-pack.
  • The deepest layer of muscle in the abdomen is the transverse abdominis, which supports the torso while keeping multiple internal organs in place.

We’ll be targeting these muscles with the ab exercises we talk about in the next section. Most workouts and exercises are whole-body exercises that burn calories while building muscle. Many of these exercises use resistance to build up core strength and muscle endurance in the entire body.

1) The Plank

This isometric (stationary) exercise forces the abdominal muscles to keep your trunk from dropping to the floor. The longer you hold the plank position in perfect form, the more challenging you make the exercise for your abs.

Variations of the plank offer even more challenges for your core, chest, and legs. The plank variations that follow even go as far as burning additional calories:

  • Side planks target the oblique muscles in addition to working the hips, lower belly, chest, and shoulders.
  • The single-leg plank is an endurance exercise that is tough on the core while working the thigh muscles.
  • Rocking planks recruit the muscles around the chest and stomach to support the body as you push your body forward and backward along its length.
  • The forearm plank walk is a full-body exercise that creates a decent calorie burn while exercising most muscles in the body, including the abs.

You need to observe good form to get the most out of different plank exercises. In this case, good form means keeping your spine neutral by engaging your core.

2) Abs Contraction

Few exercises are as simple and convenient as the abs contraction. You can contract your abs as you walk, watch a movie, wash the dishes, or work at your desk. All you need to do is contract your stomach muscles, which effectively sucks your stomach in. Hold this position as long as you wish/can while taking deep and steady breaths.

3) Bird Dog

The bird-dog is a simple, effective floor exercise that offers a good calorie burn while working your six-pack muscles. You start by getting on the floor on all fours before doing the following:

  • Engage the abs to keep your spine neutral (this means no sagging or arching of the spine).
  • Extend your right leg behind you.
  • At the same time, extend the left arm in front of you.
  • Resume your starting position by retracting the extended arm and leg.
  • Now extend the left leg and right arm before retracting them and assuming the starting position.

The bird dog works the abs, and the exercise reduces the chances of lower-back injuries. Physiotherapists may recommend this full-body exercise to align the spine and handle back pain.

4) Mountain Climber

Here’s another whole-body floor exercise that burns calories while building endurance. As a bonus, this strength-training exercise pushes your abs to their limits. Start the mountain climber in a high plank position and take the following steps:

  • Engage your core by sucking your stomach in and keep your spine neutral.
  • Pull your right knee towards your chest in a motion that will fold the right leg under the torso.
  • Extend your right leg to resume your starting (high plank) position.
  • Pull your left knee towards your chest in a motion that will fold the left leg under the torso.
  • Extend your left leg to resume your starting (high plank) position.

These steps make one repetition of the mountain climber, and you need to do 10 to 15 reps in every set.

5) Bear Crawl

A bear crawl is similar to the mountain climber in that it’s a whole-body floor exercise that you start in the high plank position. This strength-training exercise also burns through a massive amount of calories.

Your starting position is on your hands and knees, with each hand under its respective shoulder. Engage your core and keep your spine neutral for every step of this exercise.

  • Use your feet and hands to support your body and raise your lower legs off the ground.
  • At this point, only your hands and toes should be in contact with the ground, with the lower legs almost parallel to the ground.
  • From this posture, crawl forward by moving your right arm and left foot forward.
  • Continue to crawl forward by moving your left arm and right foot forward.

Perform as many reps as possible in 90 seconds to turn the bear crawl into a high-intensity exercise.

6) Hip Raise

This simple floor exercise is so effective that it targets the deepest layer of abdominal muscle. The hip lift is also gentle on the back and hips, which gives it an advantage over exercises like crunches.

To do the hip lift, lie on your back and bend your legs so that the soles of your feet touch the floor. Your knees should bend, and your feet should be at a hip-width distance. Your arms should be at your sides, and your shoulders should be relaxed. Now contract your abs, leg muscles, and glutes before lifting your hips. Hold this position for 10 to 15 seconds while keeping the spine neutral.

The hip lift is also a full-body exercise that builds strength in multiple muscle groups.

7) Russian Twist

You can do the Russian twist with free weights like a kettlebell or medicine ball. To do one rep of the Russian twist:

  • Sit on the floor with your knees bent and your heels touching the floor.
  • Hold a free weight in front of your chest and lean back as far as you can until you feel your abs become tense.
  • From this position, twist your torso from side to side while holding the medicine ball.

The Russian twist is a challenging exercise that targets all the abdominal muscles, even the ones that lie next to the organs. This whole-body floor exercise also challenges the muscles around the hips and back, so it goes a long way in toning the lower abdomen.

8) Ab Rollout

This reasonably challenging floor exercise requires using a wheel or specially fitted barbell weights.

Your starting position should be on all fours, with your knees at hip-width distance. Both hands should be on the wheel or barbell, and your arms should form straight lines. Now, contract your stomach muscles before slowly pushing the wheel or barbell forward. Use your core to keep yourself from collapsing under the weight of your upper body.

The wheel rollout is a whole-body exercise that will make harsh demands on your core, including the abs.

9) Scissor Kicks

Scissor kicks make for a good cardio workout that targets the core and legs. This simple floor exercise requires you to lie with your back and legs flat on the floor. Now, raise and lower each leg in its turn.

10) Farmer’s Walk

The farmer’s walk is a simple standing exercise that only requires you to walk around with weights in your hands. Stand tall with a dumbbell or kettlebell in each hand as you walk. Walk briskly for 20 to 30 feet and turn around without swinging the weights. Now, walk briskly back to your starting point and repeat the sequence for a few minutes.

This good cardio exercise engages the abdominal muscles while getting you to sweat a little.

11) Hanging Leg Raises And Hanging Knee Raise

Think of these exercises as pull-ups that require you to raise your legs instead of your torso. Grab an overhead bar (or exercise machine) and lift your feet. Now, engage your core and chest muscles before bending the legs at the knees at a 90-degree angle. Lower your feet back towards the floor to straighten the legs.

The leg raise is similar, except you raise your legs and extend them in front of you. In the end, the legs and torso should form a 90-degree angle. Now lower your legs back to their starting position, with your feet hovering above the ground.

12) Cable Crunch

You’ll need an cable machine to do a cable crunch, a strength-training exercise that works the upper body.

Your starting position should be with your back to the exercise machine. This exercise works when you’re standing or when you’re kneeling in front of an exercise machine. Grab the rope or handle that connects to the machine’s pulley system and pull it down until you’re holding it just above your head. Hold the rope/handle securely while keeping the hips and arms still.

Now, engage your chest and core muscles before bending forward while keeping the arms and hips still. Your core and chest should be doing most of the hard work of lifting the weights on the machine’s pulley system.

Keep It Interesting To Get Results

Crunches and sit-ups have a solid reputation that may go back generations, but we will try something different. Use the full-body exercises on this list to sculpt the abs while burning through any excess fat you may have.

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12 Simple And Effective Ab Workouts And Exercises (2024)

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