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10 Exercises for Your Next Ab Workout

READ TIME:8 min.

When it comes to bodyweight exercises, the abdominal muscles are often targeted for training. You don’t need sophisticated equipment to train the abs; bodyweight movements alone can build muscle and strength. However, just like with other muscle groups, specific workouts may stimulate the muscles better than others. 

In a study comparing 13 common abdominal exercises1, the American Council on Exercise (ACE) identified three ab workouts that stood out from the rest: bicycle crunches, captain’s chair crunches, and crunches performed on an exercise ball. These three core workouts targeted muscle stimulation in the rectus abdominis and obliques.

These core exercises should not only strengthen your abdominal muscles, but they should benefit you in other ways too. Strong abdominals2 are crucial for injury prevention, good posture, athletic performance, and staving off lower back pain.

iFIT 10 exercises for your next ab workout

Our top 10 picks for ab exercises

To try and maximize your ab workout, knowing which muscles make up the abs3 is useful. While some exercises primarily stimulate the rectus abdominis (the front ab muscles or the “six-pack”), others call the obliques (internal and external) or the transverse abdominis into action. The external obliques are the muscles located on the sides of the rectus abdominis around the waist, whereas the internal obliques are positioned just below the rectus abdominis. The transverse abdominis is an internal stabilizer located on the lateral sides of the abdominal wall.

Next time you want to train your abs, incorporate the first three core exercises mentioned below into your workout regimen. The only piece of equipment you’ll need is an exercise ball, which you can find at retail stores or specialty sports stores. You’ll leverage the power of bodyweight to help build your abdominals! Let’s walk through each of these movements step by step.

1. Bicycle crunches

Since this ab exercise utilizes all of your abdominal muscles, ACE highlighted that bicycle crunches are fundamental for ab training. They help stimulate your abdominal muscles so you feel that burn and help improve your fitness.

  • Lie down flat on your back. You can use a yoga mat for comfort during this exercise.
  • Bring your knees to your chest and lift your shoulder blades off the floor.
  • Straighten the left leg and simultaneously turn your upper body to the left.
  •  During this movement, bring your right elbow to the left knee. Breathe out as you turn your body.
  • Repeat the process for the other side.
iFIT ab workouts

2. Captain’s chair crunches

This core exercise4 requires a captain’s chair, a seatless chair with a back and armrests. Don’t be surprised when your obliques feel taxed after these crunches!

  • Press your back against the backrest with your feet on the bottom supports and arms resting on the upper supports.
  • Gripping the handles, lift your feet off the supports and allow your legs to hang straight down.
  • Slowly breathe out as you lift your knees to your chest.
  • Hold the lifted position for a few seconds, then slowly lower the legs back down into the starting position and repeat.

3. Exercise ball crunches

Ranked the third most effective abdominal workout5, crunches performed on an exercise ball do a much better job of engaging your core than floor crunches. This exercise targets the abdominals and oblique muscles precisely.

  • Lie back on an exercise ball with your hands behind your head or across your chest. Ensure your feet are stable on the floor.
  • Lean your upper body back on the ball, then use your core to raise yourself forward (just as you would in a traditional crunch). 
  • Hold the crunch position for a few seconds, and then slowly lower yourself back down.

Other effective ab exercises

While the above ab exercises are highlighted by ACE, many others effectively engage your core! When paired with bicycle crunches, captain’s chair crunches, or exercise ball crunches, the following core exercises can offer the variety you need to keep your ab training interesting.

4. V-ups

As a total-body movement, V-ups are incredibly powerful and challenging to master! In this core bodyweight exercise, you’re creating a “V” with your upper body and legs, engaging your core during the process.

  • Lie on the floor with your legs extended straight out and your arms by your sides.
  • Lift your legs, arms, and upper body up to where you’re balancing on your glutes. This position should resemble a “V.” Only your glutes should be on the floor.
  • Reach your arms so that they’re parallel to your legs.
  • Hold this position for 30–60 seconds.
  • Lower back down and repeat.
iFIT ab workout

5. Deadbugs

Great for all of your abdominal muscles, deadbugs are a functional warmup for lower body workouts, but may also be incorporated as part of your core workout. The key to this movement is to keep your lower back flat on the floor.

  • Lie down flat on your back. You can use a yoga mat for comfort during this exercise.
  • Extend your arms straight up and bring the knees up toward your chest to create a 90-degree angle. 
  • Press your lower back into the floor. Focus on keeping it down without allowing it to buckle.
  • Slowly extend your right leg out straight and your left arm overhead. Your heel and hand should almost touch the floor.
  • Hold this position for a few seconds and then return to the starting position. 
  • Repeat this process with your left leg and right arm.

6. Planks

A plank is a bread-and-butter movement for abs workouts. With bodyweight alone, planks6 are challenging, even to the most advanced fitness enthusiasts.

  • Position yourself on your hands and knees. You can use a yoga mat for comfort during this exercise.
  • Place your hands shoulder-width apart, directly under your shoulders. Your feet should be a bit wider than your hips but you can bring them closer together for a greater challenge.
  • During the plank, keep your body straight, from your heels to your head. Look down at the floor to keep your spine neutral. 
  • Engage your core, quads, and glutes. Hold the plank position for however long feels comfortable. For example, beginners can aim for 10 seconds and increase the duration with practice. Do not let your hips or shoulders dip.
  • Come out of the plank position and rest before trying again.

7. Side planks

Side planks7 are a great addition to traditional planks, as they help strengthen the shoulders, hips, and obliques. Since you’re on your side in this core exercise, the obliques are doing some heavy lifting here.

  • Lie on your side with your left forearm flat on the floor. Your elbow or hand should be under your shoulder and your legs extended. Your body should be in a straight line.
  • Stagger your feet and engage your core. If this is too difficult, you can instead be positioned on the side of your knees.
  • Slowly lift your hips off the floor and hold the position. You can extend your right arm or keep it immobile.
  • Hold the plank for however long feels comfortable, then lower back down. Repeat this movement on the other side.
iFIT abs workouts

8. Heel taps

If you’re looking for core exercises that integrate your hip flexors, heel taps are a worthwhile addition to your ab routine. Once you get going with these, you’ll feel your obliques working hard!

  • Lie down flat on your back. You can use a yoga mat for comfort during this exercise.
  • Position your feet on the ground, heels close to your glutes.
  • Engage your core, then lift your shoulder blades off the floor.
  • Reach down to touch your left heel with your left hand and vice versa.

9. Reverse crunches

If you don’t have access to a captain’s chair, reverse crunches provide a similar movement. Instead of hanging, you’ll lie on your back without placing strain on your back or neck.

  • Lie down flat on your back. You can use a yoga mat for comfort during this exercise.
  • Lift your legs so that your knees are slightly bent.
  • Press your lower back into the floor and place your hands at your sides.
  • Slowly bring your knees up towards your chest. This will lift your hips off the floor. Keep the lower back pressed down.
  • With control, lower your legs back down, but not all the way to the floor.

10. Hollow holds

When performed correctly, hollow holds will strengthen your abs. The contraction of your ab muscles is part of what powers this movement, so it’s important to first nail the form down on these, as is the case with the other exercises.

  • Lie down flat on your back. You can use a yoga mat for comfort during this exercise.
  • Press your lower back firmly into the floor.
  • With the hands placed at your sides, raise your legs about one to two inches off the floor. Ensure the lower back does not buckle.
  • Lift your shoulder blades one inch off the floor. Again, keep the lower back pressed firmly into the floor.
  • Hold this position for a few seconds and then relax.

Try an iFIT ab workout

When paired with a healthy diet, these ab workouts can help you build stronger abdominal muscles. As you work on your core, you’ll better understand which muscles you’re utilizing in these movements. Plus, iFIT Trainers who are, as mentioned below, available to follow via the iFIT app can assist you with engaging your core.

These ab exercises are ideal for a challenging home workout. Although they’re mostly bodyweight workouts, there are tons of physical and mental benefits you can derive from them. Depending on which exercises you choose to do in the day’s routine, you can easily knock out a 10 minute ab workout in the morning before starting the day, on your lunch break, or in the evening after work. With these routines, you can try and squeeze in fitness any time. Once you’re ready to take your ab training to the next level, your iFIT Trainers will be waiting for you!

With dozens of bodyweight workouts available in our Library, you’ll have access to a variety of challenging, trainer-led ab workouts that use many of the above exercises. When you download the iFIT fitness app, you’ll have access to ab workouts that will keep your everyday fitness routine exciting.

Sign up for your free iFIT 30-day trial to start an ab workout today!

References

1. American Council on Exercise. (2001, May 14). American council on exercise (ace)-sponsored study reveals best and worst abdominal exercises. ACE Fitness. https://www.acefitness.org/about-ace/press-room/press-releases/246/american-council-on-exercise-ace-sponsored-study-reveals-best-and-worst-abdominal-exercises/. 

2. Waehner, P. (2020, December 7). Strong abs are more important than flat ones. Verywell Fit. https://www.verywellfit.com/strengthen-your-abs-beyond-the-six-back-1229504.

3. Quinn, E. (2021, July 12). Abdominal muscles location and function. Verywell Fit. https://www.verywellfit.com/abdominal-muscles-anatomy-3120072.

4. Ritschel, C. (2018, August 12). The 3 most effective ab workouts, according to experts. Business Insider. https://www.businessinsider.com/the-3-most-effective-ab-workouts-according-to-experts-2018-8. 

5. McGuire, J. (2019, March 5). The ab exercises you shouldn’t be doing, according to research. Runner’s World. https://www.runnersworld.com/uk/news/a776336/best-and-worst-abdominal-exercises-according-to-research/. 

6. Goldman, A., & Mateo, A. (2019, September 6). How to do a perfect plank: your guide to mastering the abs exercise. Women’s Health. https://www.womenshealthmag.com/fitness/a19983224/plank-exercise/. 

7. Yetman, D. (2020, November 10). The Benefits of a side plank and how to do it safely. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/side-plank#benefits. 

Disclaimer: This blog post is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. The above information should not be used to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease or medical condition. Please consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet, sleep methods, daily activity, or fitness routine. iFIT assumes no responsibility for any personal injury or damage sustained by any recommendations, opinions, or advice given in this article. Always follow the safety precautions included in the owner’s manual of your fitness equipment.


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