Get a rock-hard core with 15 essential ab exercises
If you dream of a six-pack, ab exercises are definitely a key part of your routine. However keeping your core strong can boost overall health – your core (your abdominals, pelvis, back and side) helps to balance and stabilise your whole body whilst protecting you from back injury. Training both your upper and lower abdominals and boosting your core strength can really help you to feel stronger and more energised. Try these 15 essential exercises at home or as part of your gym workout.
#1. Basic crunch
We're sure you don't need us to tell you how to do a basic crunch, but just in case you're totally new to this kind of thing, here goes. Lie flat on the ground, bend your knees and place your hands behind your head. Focus on pushing your lower back into the floor as you lift your upper body slightly forwards and off the ground, keeping your abs engaged. Lower and repeat – feel the burn!
This exercises targets your upper abdominals. Lie flat on your back and extend your arms and legs. Lock your knees and elbows whilst raising your upper body. Fold over and try to touch your knees with your fingers. This is a popular Pilates move that really engages and strengthens your core.
#3. Flutter kicks
Target the hard-to-train lower abs by lying on your stomach on the floor. Extend your legs, point your toes and tuck your hands beneath your glutes. Lifting both your legs off the floor several inches, kick your legs up and down. Keep the movements small and controlled for maximum results.
#4. Oblique v-up
Lying on your side, keep your body in a straight line, folding your arms over your chest. Keep your legs together and lift them off the floor. Raise your top elbow to your hip. This variation on the classic v-up will tone your obliques.
#5. Bicycle kicks
Bicycle kicks are a great way to enhance your stability and balance. If you're a fan of Pilates or a dancer, you've probably already tried this one. Lying on your back, extend your legs and place your hands across your chest. Now pull your left knee in to your chest and twist your right shoulder towards your left knee. Return to the starting position and alternate sides.
#6. Straight leg raise
Head for the gym as you'll need a bench for this lower abdominal exercise. Lying face-up on a bench, you should keep your legs parallel to the floor as you extend them. Grasping the sides of the bench, slowly raise your legs, keeping the straight and your head and shoulders still. Your abs and core should be working hard to control the movement.
#7. Sitting ab crunch
Sitting on a bench or chair, grip the sides of the seat, then lean back and extend your legs, ensuring you keep your heels between four and six inches off the floor. Bend your knees then raise your legs slowly towards your chest. Lean forward with your upper body and let your chest approach your thighs.
#8. Medicine ball crunch
We love medicine ball workouts and this ab exercise is one of the best ways to get a bikini body. Lying face-up, bend your knees and keep your feet flat. Hold the ball between your palms with your arms behind your head, extended on the floor. Curl your head and shoulders off the floor, raise your ball over your head and in front of you and lift up. As you lower the torso to the floor, raise your ball over your head.
#9. Medicine ball throw
Set the bench to a 45-degree angle. Lying down on the bench, keep your head facing towards the floor and use the support bars to hook your feet under. Holding the medicine ball at chest level, keep your back flat and lower yourself onto the bench. Sit up and throw the ball straight up over your head, catching it as you reach the top of your sit-up. Lower and repeat.
#10. One side weighted crunch
This oblique-toning crunch uses dumbbells – another great reason to invest in some weights. Lying on the floor bend your knees and keep your feet flat on the floor. Hold the dumbbell by your left shoulder using both hands. Slowly curl your torso up and rotate it to the right. Lower yourself and repeat. Don't forget to swap sides!
#11. Medicine ball rotation
Sitting with your knees bent and together, keep your feet flat on the floor and hold a weighted medicine ball in front of you. Leaning back slightly, rest lightly on your heels or you can try lifting your feet. Rotate slowly from side to side, ensuring you touch the ball to the floor each time.
#12. Weighted long arm crunch
To tone your upper abs, try one of our great pre-workout energy bites and then get down with this exercise. Lie down on your back and bend your knees. Holding a dumbbell in each hand, stretch your arms up over your head and straight back behind you, crunching your rib cage towards your pelvis as you go. And...stretch!
#13. Cable crunch
Using a rope handle, attach this to a cable pulley. Now stand with your back to the weight stack. Hold the ends of the rope behind your head and crunch down.
#14. Decline medicine ball crunch
Great for easing tension and pain in the back and shoulders, this slow and controlled crunch helps to stretch out your back. Sitting on a decline bench, hook your feet under the rollers and hold your medicine ball at chest height with both hands – keep your elbows tucked in. Then you want to slowly curl back along the bench, vertebra by vertebra, keeping the movement very slow and controlled. Once you're fully extended, curl up slowly to the starting position.
#15. Cable rotation
Head back to the cable pulley and stand feet shoulder-width apart. Keeping your knees flexed slightly and pointing your toes straight ahead, grasp a cable with both hands, directly in front of your chest. Extend your arms, retract and depress your shoulder blades. Drawing your navel in, tighten your glutes and rotate your body slowly away from the weight stack. You should be using your glutes and abs for this movement as you pivot your back foot.