The “10 best ab exercises” might be one of the most googled queries, as achieving visible abs and a flat stomach is one of the most common fitness goals.
I’m a huge believer that you should love the body you are in, and you get to set your own fitness goals. If you are looking to tighten and tone up your abs, let’s do it!
Below I will outline what I think are 10 of the best ab exercises, both for home workouts and in the gym. These range from beginner to advanced, so know that you might have to work up to some of them. However, even the “easy” or beginner exercises can benefit even the most advanced lifters. The basics always win!
Note that this post is about ab work, not core work. Abdominal work here refers to your rectus abdominis, internal and external obliques, transverse abdominis, and hip flexors. This is as opposed to core or trunk work, which includes all of the above muscles, in addition to the muscles of the back as well.
Best Ab Workout at Home Without Equipment
The great thing about ab work is that a lot of it can be done at home with no equipment. Abdominal work is largely about managing and controlling your movements, and you don’t always need machines and weights for that. Below is an example of one of the best at-home ab workouts.
If you have done Pilates, you’ll see a lot of similarity to the work listed below.
Try each of these exercises to get a feel for it. From there, you can do these in one big circuit. You would do crunches, then immediately move to a plank. Bonus if you want to do a side plank, then other side, etc., until you have done all the exercises. From there, rest, and repeat the whole circuit 2+ times.
For example, it would look like (videos above):
Crunches, 10 reps
Plank, 20 seconds. Right side plank, 20 seconds, left side plank 20 seconds.
Toe touch, 10 each side
Dead bug, 5 each side
Turkish get up sit up part, 5 each side
How to Work Abs at the Gym
The previous work was done at home, at high volume. The following exercises can be done more like traditional strength training, where you can add load and increase the challenge. One crucial factor here is resting between sets, because you are going to aim to go heavier/harder where you can. I suggest doing a set of 5-10, increasing the difficulty for the next set, resting 1-2 minutes, and repeating.
Hanging leg raise
Slant board crunch
GHD face up twist. Can be down without weight. In fact, start without weight.
Tips for Abs and a Strong Core
My number one tip for effective ab work is to be deliberate and feel the exercise. Don’t just go through the motions or just get the movement done. Focus on squeezing your muscles and get the most out of each rep. Make each rep a quality rep.
Keep in mind that your diet plays a huge factor in how your abs look. The above exercises will make you core stronger. They won’t necessarily give you a visible 6-pack though, because you must also be lean enough for the muscles to show. In other words, you absolutely can have strong, developed ab muscles that don’t show because you are carrying fat on top.
To lose that fat and allow your abs to show, be honest with yourself about where you can clean up your diet. Some big factors that can go a long way are eating enough protein, cutting out or reducing sugary drinks and alcohol, and filling up first on your protein and fruits and vegetables before other sides.
Get on a good, full body training program. If you need a place to start, here are three that several of my clients are doing: Alexander Training programs.
Finally, put all this together: the best ab exercises, done the best way you can, with nutritious foods in the right amounts. You’ll be happy with the results!