Strong abs not only look great, they also help you perform daily tasks, lift heavier weight in the gym, maintain good posture and even prevent back pain. But are endless crunches the solution?
Try any or all of these ab moves individually or as an add-on to your existing workout. If you plan on doing all of them in a circuit, do one set of each move with 15 to 30 seconds between exercises, repeating the full circuit up to three times total.
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Remember: Amazing abs begin in the kitchen, so it’s crucial to pair these moves with a healthy diet (and a good dose of fat-torching cardio).
Build better core strength in both your abs and lower back (in addition to your glutes and thighs) when you do the bird dog.
- Begin on your hands and knees with your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips.
- Engage your abs and extend your right leg behind you as your left arm extends by ear, palm facing down.
- Return to the start, keeping your torso as steady and still as possible during the entire exercise.
- Repeat with the opposite arm and leg.
Reps: 3 sets of 20 alternating reps (10 reps on each side)
2. Mountain Climber
Pump up the cardio while activating your abs with this multi-tasking, calorie-blasting move.
- Begin in a plank with arms under shoulders and legs extended out, feet hip-width apart, abs drawn in (body should create a line from head to heels).
- Quickly bend right knee into chest (without rounding your back), then immediately return to start.
- As your right foot reaches back to the start, draw your left knee up.
- Continue alternating this way for the full set.
Reps: 3 sets of 20 alternating reps (10 on each leg)
3. Boat Pose
This exercise is harder than it looks! But you'll build strength, stamina and flexibility all at the same time with this challenging yoga pose.
- Begin seated, balancing on your butt with your knees bent into chest.
- Keeping your spine naturally straight, extend your legs and hinge slightly back (avoid rounding your spine), engaging your abs to lift your legs until body resembles a letter V with arms extended on sides of thighs.
- Make it easier by keeping knees bent in V position if needed.
Reps: 3 sets, holding for 30 to 90 seconds
Read more: 10 Yoga Poses to Strengthen Your Abs
4. Side Hip Raise
Fire up your obliques (the side of your torso) during this full-body exercise that provides a great complement to traditional crunch-style abs moves.
- Begin lying on one side, with your bottom elbow bent under your shoulder and your legs extended straight, hips and heels stacked and your top hand on your hip.
- Engage your abs and lift your hip off the floor and press up into a side plank position.
- Lower your hip toward the floor and then lift back up.
Reps: 3 sets of 12 reps on each side
5. Hollow Rock Hold
Develop some serious abdominal strength and stamina with this move that's often seen in CrossFit-style workouts.
- Begin lying face up with legs fully extended and arms overhead, one palm stacked on top of the other.
- Engage your abs and round your spine, lifting your head, neck, shoulders and legs off the floor to make a C shape with your body.
- Your arms should stay extended by ears.
Reps: 3 sets of 5 to 8 reps, holding for five to 15 seconds
Read more: 13 Gymnastics Exercises to Unleash Your Inner Child
6. Reverse Crunch
This move effectively targets the abdominal wall, with an extra emphasis on the lower region (often referred to as the lower abs).
- Begin lying face up with your arms extended by your sides and your knees at a 90-degree angle above hips.
- Draw your abs in toward your spine and lift your hips and lower back off the floor, tucking your knees in toward your chest. (Use your arms to help lift your hips.)
- Slowly and with control, lower your back and hips to the starting position.
Reps: 3 sets of 15 reps
7. Bear Crawl
This animalistic move may not look like it's doing much for your abs, but it'll have your core muscles activated like woah while also pumping up your heart rate and chiseling your arms, shoulders, legs and glutes, too.
- From an all-fours position with your toes tucked under, engage your abs and lift your knees slightly off the floor.
- Your hips should stay in line with your shoulders.
- Keeping your shoulders and hips in a straight line, take a step forward with your left hand and left foot. Immediately repeat on the right side.
- Crawl forward as quickly as possible with good form.
Reps: 3 sets of 20 reps/"steps"
8. Bicycle Crunch
A twist on the traditional crunch, the raised leg position in this move makes it impossible to cheat by using the glutes or legs, which can help deepen the contraction of the abdominal wall.
- Begin lying face up with your knees bent at 90 degrees over your hips and your hands clasped behind your head.
- Exhale and round your spine, lifting your head and shoulders off the floor.
- Twist your torso and draw your left knee in so that your right elbow touches it.
- Twist the opposite way so that your left elbow meets your right knee.
Reps: 3 sets of 15 reps (both sides equals one rep)
This advanced move is a challenge for the abdominals and requires some flexibility, so feel free to modify by bending the knees as much as needed to build strength and mastery.
- Begin lying on your back with your arms extended overhead and your palms facing up and legs out straight with your feet hip-width apart.
- Engage your abdominals and sit all the way up into a V position, lifting your legs and trying to touch the tops of your feet with your fingertips.
- Lower with control back to starting position.
Reps: 3 sets of 10 reps
10. Standing Rotational Chop
This functional exercise works the abdominal muscles and lower back together, with an extra emphasis on the obliques.
- Stand with your feet wide and your knees slightly bent, holding onto the handle of an anchored cable or resistance band with your arms extended out in front of your chest.
- Brace your abs tightly and begin to move your arms across your torso from side to side, keeping your hips steady while rotating your torso through the shoulders.
Reps: 4 sets of 15 reps (two sets on each side)
11. One-Arm Farmer’s Walk
It may not look like an abs move, but this single-arm variation of the farmer's walk exercise will have your core muscles working overtime to stabilize your spine with every unevenly weighted step.
- Stand with your feet under your hips, holding a dumbbell or kettlebell to the side of your body with your palm facing in.
- Keeping your back tall, abs engaged and shoulders square.
- Take five steps forward, turn around and take five steps back to start. That's one rep.
Reps: 3 sets of five reps on each side
12. Burpee Tuck Jump
This advanced double whammy abs move is not only a dynamic way to work the core, it's also a killer way to blast off major calories to help reduce body fat fast.
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your arms by your sides.
- Squat down to the floor and place your hands under your shoulders.
- Jump your legs back into a high plank, bracing your abs tightly.
- Lower your chest into a push-up and come back up.
- Jump your feet back to your hands into a squat position.
- Swing your arms as you jump up, tucking your knees into your chest.
- Land with knees slightly bent and repeat.
Reps: 3 sets of 5 to 10 reps
Read more: The 14 Toughest Do-Anywhere Workout Moves