9 Best Abs Workout to Build Core Strength

Many guys stick to the same old routine of sit-ups and planks when asked about their ab workout. While these exercises have their place, relying solely on them won’t help you achieve your fitness goals or build a strong core.

To get a solid six-pack and a resilient core, you need variety. Your core involves more than just abs, and success requires not only different exercises but also a diverse range of movements. A successful ab workout is dynamic and evolving, not boring and repetitive.

Which Muscles Are Engaged in Abdominal Workouts?

Ab workouts focus on muscles such as obliques, transverse abdominis, and rectus abdominis. Additionally, your core includes spinal erectors, glutes, and smaller muscles, all crucial for sustained progress and overall health.

Advantages of Abdominal Workouts

Best Abs Workout

Building the entire core improves performance in various activities, including lifts, sports, and daily tasks.

Beyond just the classic six-pack muscles (abs), your core involves more, such as lower back extensors and glutes. Simply training abs is not enough; a balanced core stabilizes your whole body and enhances athleticism.

To achieve a resilient and dynamic core, incorporate our favorite ab exercises into your workouts. These exercises will help you become better at a wide range of activities.

9 Best Abs Workout

1. Dead bug

The Dead Bug exercise is equipment-free and works your core. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Lie on your back with your arms straight above your shoulders.
  2. Bring your knees directly over your hips, bending them to form a 90-degree angle with your thighs.
  3. Lower your left arm above your head while straightening your right leg and bringing it towards the floor.
  4. Pause, return to the starting position, and then repeat the movement on the opposite side.
  5. Do 14 alternating reps to complete one set.

Pro Tip: Keep your lower back in contact with the floor throughout the exercise, and try to maintain regular breathing. This movement is great for improving coordination between your upper and lower body, which can also benefit cognitive function.

2. Hardstyle plank

The Hardstyle Plank is a simple exercise that doesn’t require any equipment. Here’s how you do it:

  1. Lie face down on the ground.
  2. Prop yourself up onto your forearms, ensuring that your elbows are directly below your shoulders.
  3. Make fists with your hands and keep your forearms parallel to each other.
  4. Lift your body off the ground, forming a straight line from your head to your heels.
  5. Hold this position for 10 to 20 seconds per set.

Pro Tip: It might seem easy, but the key is to make it challenging. Squeeze your entire body—your thighs, buttocks, core, back, and fists—as tight as possible. Also, remember to take deep breaths while holding the position. This exercise is as tough as you make it, so give it your best effort!

3. Dumbbell side bend

The Dumbbell Side Bend is an exercise that targets your core and uses a single medium-weight dumbbell. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, holding a dumbbell in your right hand, palm facing inward toward your torso.
  2. Keep your back straight, activate your core, and bend to the side as far as you can, but only at the waist.
  3. Hold for one second at the bottom of your range of motion.
  4. Return to the starting position for one repetition.
  5. Aim to do between 12 and 20 reps to complete one set.

Pro Tip: Choose a weight that’s reasonable and not too heavy. This allows you to focus on keeping your abs tight throughout the exercise for better results. Keep a slow and controlled tempo, and remember that the real challenge is the burning sensation you feel in your muscles, not just lifting the weight.

4. Hollow extension-to-cannonball

The Hollow Extension-to-Cannonball exercise is equipment-free and works your core. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Start by lying on your back, hugging your knees into your chest (like a cannonball shape).
  2. Simultaneously extend your legs and arms outward, creating a “hollow” position and pressing your lower back to the floor.
  3. Hold this position for five seconds.
  4. Curl back up into the cannonball shape.
  5. Complete five reps to finish one set.

Pro Tip: When extending, engage your muscles as much as possible. Use the cannonball position as a recovery phase, but don’t completely relax. Imagine you’re holding a crunch, and focus on controlled movements throughout the exercise.

5. Bird dog

The Bird Dog exercise is equipment-free and works your core. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Start in a tabletop position with your shoulders over wrists and hips over knees.
  2. Engage your core and simultaneously lift your right arm and left leg.
  3. Kick back with your foot flexed, and your palm facing in towards your body.
  4. Pause for one second when your arm and leg are at the same height as your torso.
  5. Bring your elbow and knee to touch underneath your body.
  6. Repeat the movement on the other side to complete one repetition.
  7. Aim to do five reps for one set.

Pro Tip: Be mindful not to hyperextend your elbows. Maintain a slight bend to engage your triceps. Keep your neck long by looking down a few inches in front of you, and create tension during the exhale portion of each breath for better results.

6. Barbell back squat

The Barbell Back Squat is an exercise that targets the core (not the legs, for now). Here’s how to do it:

  1. Use a barbell with no weights (for now).
  2. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and lift the barbell off the rig, centering it evenly across your shoulders.
  3. This version of the squat focuses on the core, so use less weight than you would for a traditional back squat.
  4. Send your hips back as if you’re lowering into a chair, bending your knees as deeply as possible.
  5. Press through your heels to return to the starting position for one repetition.
  6. Aim to complete 12 reps for one set.

Pro Tip: Maintain tension in your abs throughout the entire movement. Once you’ve mastered the form, you can gradually add more weight to the barbell. Increase the weight in small increments to stay injury-free and ensure proper progression.

7. Plank Pull

The Plank Pull is an advanced exercise that adds a dynamic challenge to the standard plank, engaging your core, arms, and lat muscles. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Start in a forearm plank position with a rope between your arms and a sled a distance away.
  2. Reach in front with one hand to pick up the rope while maintaining the plank position. Keep your hips steady and squeeze your glutes.
  3. Pull the sled toward yourself, facing the ground, making sure to keep your pulling arm close to your body. Imagine it’s a vertical movement, similar to a pull-up.
  4. Continue pulling until the sled reaches you.
  5. Reposition the rope and repeat the movement with the other arm.

Pro Tip: Maintain a strong plank, engage your entire body, and control the sled movement for a more effective and injury-resistant Plank Pull. Focus on pulling your shoulder blades down and back to activate your core and lats.

8. Ab Wheel Rollout

The Ab Wheel Rollout is a powerful exercise that targets your core and enhances shoulder mobility. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Sit with a wide stance, holding the ab wheel with both hands.
  2. Keep your head neutral, looking at the ground directly in front of you. Squeeze your shoulder blades, engage your abs, and tighten your glutes to create tension.
  3. Turn the pits of your elbows forward to activate your lats and put your shoulders into external rotation.
  4. Round your back and press into the floor to roll out as far as you can. Maintain the rounded back position and avoid arching.
  5. Pause briefly in the fully extended position, squeezing your abs.
  6. Slowly round your back to roll the wheel back. Ensure the wheel is moving before you shift your hips back.

Pro Tip: Maximize the effectiveness of the Ab Wheel Rollout by maintaining a strong, rounded back position throughout the movement. Prioritize tension in your abs, engage your lats by turning your elbows forward, and avoid arching your back. Control the rollout and return, emphasizing the engagement of your core muscles for optimal results.

9. Hanging Leg Raise

The Hanging Leg Raise is a challenging exercise that works your abs while hanging from a bar. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Grab the bar with your palms over it, ensuring a secure grip.
  2. Squeeze your shoulder blades, engage your abs, and tighten your glutes. Position your legs slightly in front of your torso.
  3. Bend your knees, then use your abs and hips to lift your legs up. Your butt should rise, and your torso should curl.
  4. Lower your legs back down to the starting position while maintaining tension in your abs.

Pro Tip: Prioritize controlled movements in the Hanging Leg Raise. Maintain a secure grip, engage your abs, and focus on lifting with your core and hips. Keep your movements deliberate to maximize effectiveness and minimize swinging.

Use Ab Stimulator as a Complement

Using an ab stimulator alongside regular abs workouts can help strengthen core muscles. Ab stimulators, also known as electrical muscle stimulation (EMS) devices, work by delivering electrical pulses to activate muscles. The device, usually in the form of a belt, has small electrodes that send pulses to the midsection.

The benefits of an ab stimulator come from the continuous muscle activation it provides throughout the day. Wearing the device sends electrical currents through the skin, making the midsection muscles contract, promoting muscle tone and strength.

However, it’s important to have realistic expectations. If your goal is continuous muscle activation and tone, an ab stimulator can be a useful addition. But if you’re aiming for significant fat loss or a smaller waist, relying solely on an ab stimulator may not meet those expectations.

Maximize the Effectiveness of Your Abdominal Workouts with These Tips

Whether you’re an athlete or just aiming for defined abs, a solid core workout should cover three movements: front, side, and twisting, targeting various abdominal muscles.

While full-body exercises engage your core, focused ab workouts effectively strengthen your core from all angles. Incorporating these exercises into a circuit boosts intensity and aids in fat loss.

However, it’s important to recognize that achieving six-pack abs varies. Genetics play a role, and some may need exhaustive ab workouts, while others see results without many sit-ups.

Diet matters too. According to strength coach Lee Boyce, the visibility of your abs depends on reducing body fat through a healthy diet, though proper core training is essential for abdominal health.

After improving your diet, be patient and consistent with your workouts. Remember, ab exercises don’t just target the abs but also benefit other muscles, preventing injuries and enhancing overall body strength.

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