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8 Moves to Sculpt Your Abs Without Really Trying

author image Jules Baratta
A lifelong dancer and outdoors enthusiast, Jules graduated at the top of her class from Eastern University's exercise science program and earned her Health Fitness Specialist certification from the American College of Sports Medicine. Currently, she's a trainer at Mecca Gym and Spa in Austin, TX. When she's not in the gym, she loves running, hiking, biking around town and attending a yoga, African dance or ballet class.

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8 Moves to Sculpt Your Abs Without Really Trying
Photo Credit: Mecca Gym & Spa

Can you stand on one leg? Can you stand still on one leg for 30 seconds? How about with your eyes closed? If you didn’t make an A+ on that quick assessment, it may be time to start incorporating balance training into your fitness regimen. Instead of tacking on additional time in the gym, try mixing up your normal routine with these strength-and-stability combo moves. Add core strengthening and balance work to your routine with eight simple (but not easy) variations on exercises you’re already doing.

1. Balancing Clock Lunges
Photo Credit: Mecca Gym & Spa

1 Balancing Clock Lunges

Not only do these lunge variations strengthen all aspects of your legs and hips, but they also challenge your core and balance, since you have to know exactly where to place your foot without overshooting your center of gravity. TARGETS: Glutes, quads, hip flexors and abdominals. HOW TO DO IT: Begin standing in neutral with your feet together. Step forward into a lunge with the right foot. As you come back to center, lift your right knee and balance on the left foot for two seconds. Immediately step into a diagonal forward lunge, balancing in the center again. Continue around in a circle with a side lunge, diagonal rear lunge, back lunge and curtsy lunge, never touching the right foot down in the center. Complete two sets on each leg. TIP: Always keep your front knee over the heel.

Related: 22 New Lunges to Supercharge Leg Day

2. Oppositional Dumbbell Row
Photo Credit: Mecca Gym & Spa

2 Oppositional Dumbbell Row

This move is particularly tricky because the movement of the rowing arm creates instability, especially with the opposite leg up. Focusing on your foundation (shin, supporting arm and abdominals) will help you complete this exercise. TARGETS: Upper back, rear shoulder, biceps and core. HOW TO DO IT: Kneel on the bench in a flat-back tabletop position with your left shin and right hand pressing into the bench and your left arm holding a dumbbell and hanging straight down from the shoulder. Extend the right leg back behind you. You can keep your toes on the ground or lift your right leg in the air for an added challenge. Pull the left elbow up toward the ceiling, squeezing the back of the shoulder, and then lower the weight. Complete 12 reps and switch sides. TIP: Try to complete all 12 reps with as little wiggling as possible.

Related: Get more workouts from Jules and the rest of the Mecca Gym and Spa team.

3. Single-Arm Chest Press With Legs in Tabletop
Photo Credit: Mecca Gym & Spa

3 Single-Arm Chest Press With Legs in Tabletop

Think this is a chest move? Those obliques will be put to the test to hold you still on the bench! TARGETS: Chest, triceps and core. HOW TO DO IT: Lie on a bench on your back and lift both knees up into a tabletop position (hips and knees at 90 degrees). Take a dumbbell in the right hand at shoulder height and press it straight up over the shoulder and lower back down. Your left arm can be out to the side for balance. Complete 12 reps on each side. TIP: Start out with one leg in tabletop and the other foot on the floor, as this move tends to tip you over. As your stability increases, you can challenge yourself to bring both legs off the floor.

Related: 10 Exercise Pairs That Were Made for Each Other

4. Supine Fly With Diagonal Legs
Photo Credit: Mecca Gym & Spa

4 Supine Fly With Diagonal Legs

Not only will your pecs be burning by the end of your set, but your abs will as well. TARGETS: Chest and abdominals. HOW TO DO IT: Lying on a bench on your back, raise both arms above your chest, palms facing each other (optional: hold dumbbells). Raise your legs so that your feet are above your hips and pointing toward the ceiling, and then lower them down to a 45-degree angle. Keep your legs stretching away from you as you lower your arms out to the sides until parallel with the floor, and then raise them back up. Do 10 to 12 reps. TIP: Don’t let your pelvis tip forward. Scoop the tailbone under and up toward the ceiling to keep a tight core. If keeping your legs straight is too difficult, try this move with feet pointing straight up or with legs in a tabletop position.

Related: Get more workouts from Jules and the rest of the Mecca Gym and Spa team.

5. Single-Arm Overhead Press
Photo Credit: Mecca Gym & Spa

5 Single-Arm Overhead Press

Develop upper-body strength: Check. Develop lower-body strength: Check. Develop core stability: Check. TARGETS: Shoulders, triceps and obliques. HOW TO DO IT: Stand with feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, a dumbbell in your right hand at shoulder height and your elbow out to the side. Press the dumbbell straight up over your shoulder until your elbow is fully extended, and then lower the weight back down. Perform 10 to 12 reps on each arm. TIP: Since you’re only using one arm, the tendency is to lean away from the working arm. Engage those obliques to eliminate the leaning and your core will fire like crazy.

Related: 8 Unilateral Exercises to Challenge Your Balance

6. Stability-Ball Wall Squats
Photo Credit: Mecca Gym & Spa

6 Stability-Ball Wall Squats

With this exercise, your abs never get a break. How’s that for building six-pack abs? TARGETS: Glutes, quads and abdominals. HOW TO DO IT: Sandwich the ball between your middle back and the wall with your feet slightly in front of you. Suck your abdominals in toward your spine and press the ball against the wall as hard as you can, holding for two seconds. Slowly descend into a squat, weight in your heels, pressing the ball backward the entire way down until your thighs are parallel with the floor. Press one more time in toward the wall and stand up slowly. For an added leg challenge, resist the descent and ascent. Do eight to 10 reps. TIP: Keep your shoulders back. The ball will push them forward as you descend into your squat, so make sure you reset your posture at the top of every rep.

Related: Total-Body Blast Stability-Ball Workout

7. Single-Leg Hamstring Roll-In
Photo Credit: Mecca Gym & Spa

7 Single-Leg Hamstring Roll-In

This move takes tons of concentration and stability around the knee and hips to keep the working leg moving in a straight line while your other body parts remain still. TARGETS: Hamstrings, glutes and core. HOW TO DO IT: Lie on your back on a mat with arms by your sides, pressing down for stability. Place your right heel on top of the stability ball, toes flexed, lifting your left leg toward the ceiling. Press your hips up into a bridge. Bend your right knee and pull your heel toward your butt, keeping your hips high. Extend the leg back out, never letting your hips touch the mat. If you wobble too much, lightly touch the left foot to the floor until you gain the stability to lift it in the air. Repeat for 12 to 15 reps on each leg. TIP: Keep the bottom ribs knitted together as the leg bends in. This keeps the upper abs engaged and your body balanced.

Related: The 41 Hardest Ab Exercises

8. Balancing Reverse Fly
Photo Credit: Mecca Gym & Spa

8 Balancing Reverse Fly

Talk about a total-body exercise! Your legs will work like mad to keep you balanced, your glutes to keep your hips still, abs to stabilize the spine and upper back to moves the arms -- all while not toppling over. TARGETS: Upper back, rear shoulder, glutes and core. HOW TO DO IT: Stand on the left leg in a T position with your right leg extended back behind you and your arms hanging down right under the shoulders with palms facing one another (optional: hold a dumbbell in each hand). Keep your standing knee straight but soft and your back flat. Open the arms wide, lifting the elbows up toward the ceiling. Squeeze the shoulder blades together at the top and slowly lower the arms back down for 12 to 15 reps, switching legs halfway through. TIP: Keep the free leg stretching away from the top of your head, toes flexed and pointed toward the floor to keep your hip from popping up. This will engage the core for more of an ab workout.

Related: Get more workouts from Jules and the rest of the Mecca Gym and Spa team.

What Do YOU Think?
Photo Credit: Mecca Gym & Spa

What Do YOU Think?

Do you incorporate ab work into your workouts? What are some of your favorite moves for a stronger core? Do you prefer doing exercises you know are solely for your abs, or do you do other exercises that include an ab component? What’s your favorite ab exercise in disguise? Did this list give you any inspiration for your next workout? Let us know in the comments section below!

Related: Why Crunches Won’t Give You Flat Abs -- and the 12 Moves That Will!

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