- The Best Abs Workout For The Gym: Circuits For Upper Abs, Lower Abs, And Obliques And Core
- Upper Abs Workout
- Lower Abs Workout
- Obliques And Core Workout
- What Next?
- Abs Training Tips
- Heel Tap Crunch
- Mountain Climbers
- Side Plank
- Reverse Crunch
- Oblique Crunch
- Front Leg Raise
- Medicine Ball Jackknife
- Bonus Move: TRX Rollout
- Bonus Move: Dead Bug
- Jackson Bloore
- The Best Exercises for Your Lower Abs
- 10-Minute Advanced Core Workout Using Weighted Ab Moves Only
- 1. Russian twists
- 2. Ab roll-ups
- 3. Jackknife split
- 4. Hanging leg raise
- 5. Toe touch crunches
- 6. Leaning camel
- 7. Hollow body hold
- 8. Side plank with a row
- 9. Woodchop
- 10. Kettlebell swing
The Best Abs Workout For The Gym: Circuits For Upper Abs, Lower Abs, And Obliques And Core
If you’re looking to train your abs, the good news is that there are a huge variety of exercises that will help you achieve that goal. Even if you’re not doing moves that focus on them directly, the location of your abs means that they are worked hard by compound exercises that hit both the upper and lower body. Your core is also key to any exercise in which you have to keep your body stable, such as static holds like the plank or tricky balancing acts like the single-leg Romanian deadlift.
Whether your goal is a six-pack or just a little more definition around your midsection, compound lifts like squats, overhead presses and deadlifts will help get you there, and they’ll build strength all over your body at the same time. That said, there’s also room for more focused abs work too, especially if you have designs on achieving a cover model-style six-pack.
The four-move circuits below provide both isolation exercises and compound moves, and the three options target different areas of your abs to ensure you’re hitting them from every angle. The first workout concentrates on your upper abs, the second focuses on the lower abs, and the final routine works the often neglected side abs – or obliques – along with your deeper core muscles.
Though each circuit works as quick stand-alone abs blast, you can also tack them on to the end of your main training session to ensure your abs are getting the attention they merit.
How to do each abs workout
Each of these abs workouts is a mini-circuit you can do at the end of your main workout. The circuits are designed to work the maximum number of muscle fibres as quickly and effectively as possible, so you’ll do all four moves in order, sticking to the reps and rest periods detailed. The first move of each circuit is the hardest, then they get progressively easier as the number of reps per move increases. This works your abs harder and places them under greater tension for longer, which is ultimately what stimulates muscle growth. After the final move, rest for the allotted time, then repeat the circuit. Do three circuits in total.
Upper Abs Workout
1 Dumbbell crunch
Reps 10 Rest 10sec
Lie on your back, holding a dumbbell or weight plate across your chest in both hands. Raise your torso, then lower it, maintaining tension in your uppers abs throughout.
2 Tuck and crunch
Reps 15 Rest 10sec
Lie down with your hands by your head and your legs raised with your knees bent at a 90° angle. Simultaneously raise your torso and draw your knees towards your chest. Keep your fingers by your temples throughout and initiate each rep smoothly without jerking your torso up. Don’t let your feet touch the floor between reps.
3 Modified V-sit
Reps 12 Rest 10sec
Lie with your legs raised off the floor and extended away from you so they’re parallel with the floor, and your arms straight by your sides, held off the floor. Keep your arms straight as you raise your torso and bring your legs in, bending at the knees, so that your chest meets your knees at the top of the move. Then lower under control.
Reps 20 Rest 90sec
Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet planted, and your arms crossed across your chest. Raise your torso using your abs, then lower. Your upper abs will already be close to fatigue but try to hold the top position of each rep for at least one second to make them work as hard as possible.
Lower Abs Workout
1 Hanging leg raise
Reps 10 Rest 10sec
Fair warning, this tough exercise sets the tone for what is going to be a brutal workout involving four different hanging exercises. Start in a dead hang with your legs straight and your knees and ankles touching. Keep them together as your use your lower abs to raise them, then lower back to the start under control.
2 Hanging knee raise twist
Reps 12 each side Rest 10sec
Start in a dead hang with your legs straight and knees together. Twist your body and raise your knees to one side, then return to the start. Continue, alternating sides.
3 Hanging knee raise
Reps 15 Rest 10sec
This slightly easier variation on the hanging leg raise still puts a lot of pressure on your lower abs. Start in a dead hang and raise your knees powerfully to activate more of the muscle fibres in the lower abs. Lower back to the start under control to prevent swinging.
4 Garhammer raise
Reps 20 Rest 90sec
Start hanging from the bar but with your knees already raised to around your midsection, then lift them as high as you can. Lower back to the start under control, keeping your abs engaged throughout.
Obliques And Core Workout
1 Decline plank with foot touch
Reps 10 each side Rest 10sec
Get into a decline plank position, supporting yourself on your forearms with your feet raised on a bench. Your body should form a straight line from heels to head and the aim is to maintain that position throughout the exercise. Lift one foot off the bench and move it to the side to touch the floor, then return it to the bench. Continue, alternating sides.
2 Seated Russian twist
Reps 12 each side Rest 10sec
Sit on the floor with your knees bent and heels on the ground. Your torso should be at the top of the crunch position, forming a 45° angle to the ground. Twist your torso from side to side, moving in a smooth and controlled manner.
3 Bicycle crunches
Reps 15 each side Rest 10sec
Lie on your back with your hands by your temples and your legs raised with your knees bent at a 90° angle. Bring your right knee up towards your chest while raising your torso and twisting so your left elbow comes to meet your knee. Then lower and do the same on the opposite side. Keep your shoulders and feet off the ground to force your abs to work hard to stabilise your torso.
Time Max Rest 90sec
Maintain a strict plank position, with your hips up, your glutes and core braced, and your head and neck relaxed. Breathing slowly and deeply, hold the position for as long as possible.
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Abs Training Tips
Look beyond deadlifts
In this CrossFit-and-strongman era, it’s a common claim that deadlifts are all the abs work you need. Dead wrong. In fact, the most recent study to compare key exercises found that press-ups and plank holds beat even heavy back squats and deadlifts for core activation. Although the weighted movements produced the most force on the lower back, the bodyweight moves proved most effective for the rectus abdominis and external obliques.
What’s the frequency?
Once upon a time, the myth was that, as “endurance” muscles, the abs should be trained every day. Now it’s more common to encounter claims that you only need one dedicated core workout a week – but the truth lies somewhere in between. “Two or three abs workouts a week might be optimal for most people,” says trainer Jonny Jacobs. “Breaking it up into separate days – for static, anti-rotation work and dynamic movements – is one good option.”
Bringing flexion back
You should know by now that doing hundreds of sit-ups is doing nothing good for your back, but that doesn’t mean you ought to ditch spinal flexion entirely. In 2017, back health expert Dr Stuart McGill co-authored a paper explaining: “If flexibility is important… the trainer may want to select full-range curl-ups and crunches…if maximal muscular development is the goal, including the crunch and its variations may help.” Translation: A few are fine.
No matter whether you’re gunning for that elusive eight-pack or just want to bolster your core, it’s likely lower ab workouts are the missing link in your training arsenal. Though just one muscle – the rectus abdominis – runs down your abdomen, most abs movements primarily activate the ‘upper’ section, making your otherwise impressive rig a little top-heavy in terms of strength.
Not only are lower abs tricky to target, they’re even harder to show off. Your body is predisposed to storing excess fat in that area – from an evolutionary standpoint, belly fat is part of your body’s energy stockpiling system – so making those muscles pop takes serious dedication (and mostly comes down to your diet).
However, there’s more than a washboard stomach at stake.
Your body may be a temple, but it’s also pretty lazy when left to its own devices. If part of your core is weak, other body parts will be recruited to burden the load, not just in the gym but during everyday activities like sitting at your desk or driving. If your lower abs are lacking, ultimately your back and hips will pay the price.
“Due to our modern lifestyle, a large percentage of the population suffer from an anterior pelvic tilt; where your pelvis is rotated forward, forcing your spine to curve,” explains Tom Donaldson, head coach at Orangetheory Fitness Wandsworth. Strengthening your core helps bring your pelvis back into a neutral position, he says, improving your posture in the process. This is important since dynamic posture, which is how you hold yourself as you move, has a direct impact on your athletic performance.
“In order to generate the maximum amount of power with the upper and lower body, the pelvis and spine needs to be stable,” Donaldson continues. “This stability is achieved when the core muscles and glutes are strong and highly functioning. This is particularly important for anyone who plays sports and will allow athletes to lift heavier weights, run at a faster speed and change direction quicker.”
Now you’re on board with lower ab workouts, seven gut-strengthening moves await you below. To get the most out of each exercise, breathe in during the ‘eccentric’ part of the exercise – the lowering phase – and breathe out during the ‘concentric’ part (as you return to neutral), suggests Emily Juniper, trainer at F45 Central London, which spans London Bridge, Leadenhall Market and Cannon Street studios.
Oh, and one more thing: don’t forget to brace your core. Ready?
Heel Tap Crunch
– Lie on your back with your heels near your glutes.
– Brace your core, lift your shoulders off the floor and reach down to touch your right heel with your right hand, then your left heel with your other hand. That’s one rep.
Top Tip: This exercise predominantly targets the lower abs, obliques and hip flexors, Juniper explains, and can be made harder or easier by adjusting the distance between your heels and glutes. Don’t worry about speed, by the way. Controlling the movement is way more effective than looking like wacky waving inflatable arm-flailing tube man.
– Set up on the floor as though in a sprinter’s blocks, with one foot positioned beneath your waist and one back, with your leg straight.
– Shoulders should be stacked in line with your hands placed on the floor and your body should maintain a neutral plank position throughout. Swap foot positions.
Top Tip: To really double down on your lower abs, make the movement slow and controlled, suggests Donaldson. “Imagine you have a glass of water balanced on your lower back to keep your hips and spine as still and level as possible throughout the movement.”
– Lie on your left side with your knees straight and prop your upper body up to take its weight on your forearm.
– Brace your core and raise your hips until your body forms a straight line. Hold this position while breathing deeply. Then roll over and repeat on the other side.
Top Tip: “A side plank doesn’t just target the transverse abdominal muscles and obliques – it’s also great for the glutes, quads and hamstrings,” says Juniper. Challenge yourself by raising your upper leg or arm.
– Lie on your back with your arms on the floor at your sides, palms facing down.
– Bend your knees and bring them towards your chest by contracting your abs. As they rise, roll your pelvis to lift your hips off the floor.
– Squeeze at the top then slowly lower until your thighs are perpendicular to the floor.
Top Tip: This exercise really challenges your rectus abdominis, says Juniper. Want to set your six-pack on fire? Incorporate resistance bands or a cable machine.
– Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Put your right hand behind your head, elbow flared out, and your left palm down perpendicular to your torso.
– Contract your abs to lift your shoulders off the floor and rotate your body to bring your right elbow towards your left knee. Slowly lower and repeat all your reps before swapping sides.
Top Tip: “This exercise is great for strengthening your obliques and surrounding core muscles,” says Juniper. “To make it harder, lift your legs a few centimetres off the ground for the duration of the movement before switching sides.”
Front Leg Raise
– Lie back on the bench with your legs extended in front of you off the end. Use your hands to grip the bench and steady yourself.
– Place your hands either under your glutes with your palms down or by the sides holding on to the bench.
– Keeping your legs straight as possible, exhale and raise them until they make a 90-degree angle with the floor. Slowly lower to the starting position.
Top Tip: Feel your back arching? “To take the strain off your lower back slightly while still working your lower abs, go one leg at a time, keeping the other at a 90-degree angle,” says Donaldson. To add more resistance, “lift your glutes off the floor at the top of the motion each time or hold a Swiss ball between your ankles,” adds Juniper.
Medicine Ball Jackknife
– Grab a medicine ball and lie down on your back holding the ball over your head. Your arms and legs should be outstretched with your hands and feet lifted just above the floor.
– Begin the exercise by simultaneously raising your torso and legs up to touch the medicine ball to your feet. Then slowly lower back towards the floor. That’s one rep.
Top Tip: “I love this exercise because you can feel the burn straight away,” says Juniper. “It works nearly 12 muscles in the body mainly targeting the rectus abdominis.” For an extra push, try to keep your feet off the ground between reps, she adds.
Bonus Move: TRX Rollout
“TRX straps are brilliant for working your core, as well as being easily adaptable for any experience or skill level,” says Donaldson. To perform the move, “stand upright, with your shoulders relaxed, belly button sucked in and glutes squeezed, holding TRX straps in front of you at arm’s length and shoulder height,” he says. “Slowly lean forward, lifting your arms up so that your body is in line. Ensure your abs are braced the whole time. Then lower your arms down to reset.” The more acute the angle between your body and the floor, the more challenging the move.
Bonus Move: Dead Bug
For this move, be sure to keep your abs braced and maintain constant tension throughout, Donaldson says, so you don’t strain your lower back. “Start by lying on your back on the floor, pick up your feet up and bend your knees to a 90 degree angle,” he explains. “Extend your arms directly in front of shoulders, suck your belly button into your spine, brace your core and slowly drop one leg and the opposite arm to the floor. Return to the start position and repeat with the opposite arm and leg.”
We all want a solid core for different reasons: sports performance, pain prevention, that finish line photo—but strengthening your midsection is particularly important for runners. That’s because your core is the stabilizing center of your body (it keeps you standing, least of all sprinting), and it can make or break your speed goals, prevent (or contribute to!) an injury, and yes, make you feel pretty badass in a sports bra.
But if you’re searching for lower abs exercises, we need to get one thing out of the way first: “Lower abs exercises” aren’t really a thing. “Your core is comprised of the rectus abdominis, which runs down the front of your body and creates that ‘six-pack’ effect; your obliques (side abs); your erector spinae, which runs up your back; and your transverse abdominis (the deep core located under those six-pack muscles),” says Lindsay Clayton, a certified run coach and trainer at Barry’s Bootcamp in New York City. “When people point to the lower part of their stomach and say their ‘lower abs’, they’re really just referring to their rectus abdominis, and you can’t only work the lower part in isolation.”
That said, there are plenty of abs exercises—both creative and classic—that engage your rectus abdominis, including the lower part, and make you a stronger runner.
“While it’s important to work your whole core for a balanced body, there are certain exercises that utilize the lower part of the rectus abdominis,” Clayton says. “These ‘lower abs’ exercises are great for runners because they often involve driving your knee up towards your core, stimulating the motion of running.” (See: mountain climbers.)
How to use this list: Clayton suggests doing each exercise below for 30 to 45 seconds before every run. “This will fire up your muscles so they’re active when you need them most,” Clayton says. Clayton even demonstrates them herself, so you can nail the perfect form. You will need a mat and a set of sliders. Two hand towels or paper plates will work. too.
Weighted Lower Ab Reverse Crunches
So you want a full six pack, right? You do crunches, leg raises, russian twists, more crunches, and nothing. So what do you do then? Obvi… you do more crunches, leg raises, and russian twists!
This is the inevitable cycle that most men and women tend to get stuck in when they are desperately trying to get a six pack. Try as they might, they just don’t seem to develop the deep cuts especially with lower abdominals.
At best, they are stuck in 4-pack hell! Banished to live just outside the gates of 6-pack heaven. It’s like a middle class suburb just outside the gold plated gates of a private country club neighborhood where all the rich people live. Sure, there 4-pack is nice. It’s better than most even. They tell themselves it’s fine. They boast about their “6-pack” and since it’s better than most – nobody ever calls them out on it.
Inside they know the truth. They know they are lying to everyone and worse… they are lying to themselves. They know they aren’t good enough to live inside the gates on 6-Pack Ln where I have a sick mansion fully equipped with multiple levels, a 6-car garage, a pool, and a hot tub for… well, let’s not get into that here. Another story for another time, maybe after a few glasses of Russian River Zinfandel…
This is me stuck in 4-Pack Hell living in a sweet little spot on 4-Pack Ln in middle class suburb just outside the gates of 6-Pack Heaven. As you can see, my lower abs have little to zero development. Did I work my abs? Hell yeah. A ton. Especially in preparation for this shoot. The problem was I didn’t know how to properly engage my lower abs and I didn’t know about weighted reverse crunches with ankle straps yet.
What’s worse is that most of these people never get out of 4-pack hell and they never even find out how or why they stayed there despite grueling amounts of crunches. They blame genetics or diet. It’s neither. It’s you. You are to blame. Nobody else.
I used to be you, the guy stuck in 4-pack hell so I can relate. And I want to help. I want you to move the nice neighborhood and join me. I was once living on 4-Pack Ln too so it’s possible. You can make the move. You can upgrade. Here’s how:
This is by far the best exercise you can do to properly develop your lower abs. Isometric and bodyweight exercises are great, but you can do them until you are blue in the face and you still won’t develop the deep cuts necessary on the lower abs to really see the full 6-pack visual.
The weight is important, but it’s more than that. It’s also ensuring you properly engage your lower abs. Most exercises people do in the gym for lower abs tend to focus on and work your hip flexors with little to no lower abdominal engagement.
This is when I finally made enough to move out of 4-Pack Hell and into 6-Pack Heaven. I still could not afford a sick place, but at least I finally got inside the gates! If you drive a Rolls Royce, you are in the club. Nobody cares which one. You just want to be “in.” How did I finally get the lower ab cuts? About 6-months before this shoot I learned the secret of weighted lower ab reverse crunches from a mentor and fitness model legend with a serious set of cover model abs who finally set me straight on my meager and sad 4-Pack.
The key on this exercise is to fully roll your hips over and pull your knees to your forehead in order to create a strong contraction on your lower abs. Do this by first pulling your knees into your chest then roll your lower and mid back off the bench until your knees are smacking you in the forehead.
Mentally focus on and think about contracting the lower abdominals. Fully exhale as you contract; the more air you exhale the better the contraction and the more work your lower abs will get.
Keep knees bent about 90 degrees if possible. When your legs are straight the hip flexors are getting the majority of the work. It’s wasted effort, plus keeping your legs from straightening will keep your lower abs engaged. It isn’t until your knees pass your hips and move toward your chest as your lower back comes off the bench that your lower abs actually engage.
This is an advanced exercise. If you cannot do weighted lower ab reverse crunches then start on the floor doing simple reverse crunches properly with all the cues as listed above. Then move to a decline bench with bodyweight before progressing to the weighted movement using ankle straps.
This is when I finally upgraded to my current mansion on 6-Pack Ln… the primo location inside 6-Pack Heaven with the pool, hot tub, and 6-car garage. Even better than the last photo, this is just a selfie meaning I am not dehydrated or carb depleted in this photo. This is after a few years of perfecting my abdominal routine including proper form lower exercises and weighted lower ab exercises. Pretty sick, no?
You will need ankle straps for this exercise. I like the Harbinger brand straps. They have small hooks and aren’t too heavy duty, but they get the job done. Some of the more hardcore ankle straps with large and heavy hooks can be problematic and dig into your ankle causing bruising and a lot of unnecessary pain. I’ve seriously jacked up my ankles a few times pushing through the pain and it takes your focus away from your lower abs which isn’t good. When working abs especially, you want to ensure a proper mind-muscle connection.
If your gym doesn’t have them, you can buy them here.
And now for the video of me demonstrating the exercise…
Here is an easier bodyweight version of this exercise:
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Owner, at Action Jackson Fitness Jackson Bloore is a nationally published fitness model, certified personal trainer, and owner of Action Jackson Fitness. He was named by San Francisco Magazine as “Best Personal Trainer for Abs” in 2015 and has been featured on the cover of six fitness products for Perfect Fitness and has modeled for Nike, ESPN, Men’s Health, and Men’s Fitness among others.Follow me
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The Best Exercises for Your Lower Abs
Perform each exercise for 30 seconds, with 10 seconds of rest between moves. Complete the entire circuit 1 to 3 times.
1. Heel tap
Lie faceup, hands under your butt, knees bent, calves parallel to the floor. Slowly lower your flexed feet forward until your heels barely touch the ground. Squeeze your abs to help raise your feet back up to the starting position.
2. Mountain climber
Start in high plank position with your body straight and your hips level. Lift your right foot and draw right knee to chest between your hands. As you return your right leg to plank, lift your left foot and draw left knee to chest between your hands.
Continue to alternate as quickly as possible. Keep your core tight and try not to hike your hips.
Lie faceup, hands behind your head, head and shoulders lifted off the floor. Using your abs, lift your legs slightly off the ground and scissor kick, alternating 1 leg up and 1 down. Focus on not straining your neck or jutting your chin forward.
4. Slider pike
You’ll need sliders or towels to pull off this move.
Start in high plank position with both feet on sliders. Squeeze your low abs and pull your feet toward your hands, lifting your hips toward the ceiling into a pike position. Slowly push your feet out to lower into the starting position.
Make it easier: Perform sliding mountain climbers, moving 1 leg forward at a time.
5. Straight leg raise
Lie faceup and place your hands under your low back. Brace your core and lift your straight legs slowly off the ground, bringing them to 90 degrees. Slowly lower them back to the ground. If you have any pain in your lower back, don’t do this move.
Pull-up bar variation
If you’re prone to low back pain or you have access to a pull-up bar, try this variation instead.
Holding a pull-up bar, brace your core and lift your legs off the ground to hip height. Beginners can bend their knees, or you can keep your legs straight (hinging only at the hip) for more of a challenge. Slowly lower your legs to the starting position.
6. Cross body climber
Start in high plank position with your body straight, your hips level, and your core braced. Lift your right leg and draw right knee toward left elbow. As you return your right leg to plank, lift your left leg and draw left knee toward right elbow. Continue to alternate.
7. Slider knee tuck
You’ll need sliders or towels for this move.
Start in high plank position with both feet on sliders. Brace your core and pull both feet in toward your chest. Avoid hunching your shoulders or allowing your upper body to lean forward too much. Push your feet back to return to the starting position.
Exercise ball variation
If you have an exercise ball handy, try this variation instead: Start in plank position with your feet on the ball. Keeping your core engaged, draw both knees in toward your chest. Slowly extend your legs back to the starting position.
8. Rolling plank
Start in low plank position on your forearms. Hold for 10 seconds. Roll onto your right elbow, stacking your feet, and hold side plank for 10 seconds, engaging your obliques.
Roll back through center and onto your left elbow, stacking your feet, and hold for 10 seconds. Continue to alternate, keeping your core engaged and not letting your hips drop.
9. Roll up
Lie faceup, legs extended, knees together, feet flexed, and arms overhead. Take a big inhale. As you exhale, lift your arms up and forward and use your abs to slowly roll up to a sitting position. Squeezing your abs again, slowly lower to the starting position.
Lie faceup, legs extended, feet together, arms extended overhead. Inhale. As you exhale, squeeze your abs and raise your right arm and left leg, touching hand to foot. Inhale and slowly lower to the starting position. Repeat for 15 seconds. Repeat on the opposite side.
Special thanks to our model, Amanda Butler, a certified trainer based in NYC. Amanda wears a top by Lululemon and pants by C9 Champion, and she uses Slidez by SKLZ.
10-Minute Advanced Core Workout Using Weighted Ab Moves Only
There’s no denying every serious gym-goer is after a strong core. Not only do powerful abdominal and back muscles give you a fit physique, but they’re key in preventing injury and providing support for the rest of your body down the line. And if you’re already doing ab workouts regularly, you’re ready for a challenge. That’s where the weighted ab moves come into play.
Try this 10-minute ab workout for a challenge. Try including the weight at first (between 5 and 20 pounds is a good place to start), and if it’s too difficult, you can always modify the movement. Complete each exercise for 50 seconds, taking a 10 second rest between each.
1. Russian twists
Woman doing Russian twists with a weight | iStock.com/jacoblund
Muscles worked: Obliques, lower abs, upper abs
Begin this move by sitting on the ground with knees bent, feet flat on the floor, and back straight. Hold your weight at chest level and begin to lean back slightly. When you’re ready to start, float your feet a few inches off the floor while keeping your knees together. Twist side to side, bringing your weight with you, as you work to both balance and challenge your obliques.
You don’t need to rush through this move, either — try performing the exercise slowly and with control until you get the hang of the movement.
2. Ab roll-ups
Muscles worked: Upper abs, back, shoulders
This crunch variation targets the abs better than the average sit-up thanks to the weight and straight legs. Begin by lying on your back with legs straight and long in front of you. Grab your weight and hold it at your chest. Start by slowly rolling your upper body off of the ground (like a sit-up) while keeping your legs completely straight. At the top of the movement, reach forward with your weight, and then bring it back to your chest. Slowly roll back down to the ground to complete one rep.
3. Jackknife split
Muscles worked: Upper abs, lower abs, back, hips
Shape recommends this challenging move. Start by lying on your back with legs together and extended long. Your arms should also stretch long behind the head next to your ears while holding your weight in both hands. Begin the move by lifting your upper and lower body into a “V” position (you’ll balance on your glutes at the top of the movement). When you’re in your V shape, bring the weight down to your chest. Lift it back overhead and lower both arms and legs to the ground to complete one rep.
4. Hanging leg raise
Man doing ab exercises on a pull-up bar | iStock.com/dolgachov
Muscles worked: Lower abs, hips, glutes, shoulders, back, grip
You’ll only need a light weight for this move from Muscle & Fitness. Grab on to a pull-up bar and roll the shoulders back and down to prepare for the movement. Also, make sure your hips are tucked under to engage the core. Place your weight between your feet, and with straight legs, lift to your highest point before slowly lowering down. If this is too difficult, try bending your knees.
5. Toe touch crunches
Muscles worked: Lower abs, upper abs, hips, obliques, shoulders
Start this exercise by lying on your back, holding your weight at chest level. Straighten your legs above your hips so they create a 90-degree angle. To begin, hold your weight with straight arms above your chest and lift your upper body to reach toward your toes. Slowly lower back down to the ground for one rep. For even more of a challenge, add little pulses at the top.
6. Leaning camel
Muscles worked: Back, glutes, upper abs
PopSugar recommends this yoga-inspired weighted move. Start this move on your knees (don’t sit on your legs, though — remain upright) and hold the weight at chest-level. With a straight back, slowly lean backward as far as you can while engaging your core to keep your spine straight. You’ll also need to squeeze your glutes here to stay balanced. Gently lift yourself back to the starting position to complete one rep.
7. Hollow body hold
Muscles worked: Upper abs, lower abs, back, shoulders
Start on your back with legs long in front of you and arms straight on the ground past your ears. You have two options for the weight here: You can hold it in both of your hands overhead when you begin, or you can hold it between your feet. Whatever you choose for the weight, you’ll be entering the same position. When you’re ready, press your lower back into the floor to engage your core, and lift straightened arms and legs a few inches off the ground.
8. Side plank with a row
Woman doing side planks | iStock.com/undrey
Muscles worked: Obliques, back
This move is a great challenge for your obliques. Get into proper push-up position with your back flat, abs engaged, and shoulders directly above your hands. Have your weight resting by your right hand. When you’re ready to begin, get into side plank position from here by turning your body to the right and balancing on your left hand. Your left wrist should be directly under your left shoulder, and your right leg should be stacked on top of your left leg. Make sure your hips are lifted, too.
Grab the weight with your right hand and row while holding your side plank. Switch sides midway through the set.
Muscles worked: Obliques, upper abs
You’ll need one heavy weight for this exercise. Begin in a squat position with feet slightly wider than hip-width apart. Take your weight in both hands and twist down so it falls to your left side while squatting. When you’re ready to start, stand from your squat and bring straightened arms from your left side body up above your head to your right side body. Squat and bring the weight back down to your left to complete the rep. Midway through the set, switch sides.
10. Kettlebell swing
Muscles worked: Back, hips, glutes, shoulders, upper abs, chest
This total-body exercise is more difficult than it first appears. Begin with a heavier kettlebell (20-30 pounds to start) in both hands in front of you. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart with toes pointing slightly outward and knees soft. To start, keep your lower back slightly arched as you bend your knees and bring the kettlebell between and slightly behind your legs. Then, squeeze your glutes and straighten your legs to explosively swing the kettlebell upward. Let the weight swing back down between your legs as you bend again and keep the momentum into the next rep.
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