5 of the Best Ab Workouts for a Flat Stomach

Even though fitness goals can vary greatly from one person to another, killer abs are universally coveted. When your stomach is flat and toned, you look better shirtless as well as clothed. There’s also functionality to consider. A strong midsection can boost performance in just about any type of physical activity, and also ward off back pain.

While you could mindlessly hold a plank or perform hundreds of crunches, these exercises have their limitations. Getting your stomach where you really want it requires targeting different muscles in different ways as well as some smart food choices. These five ab workouts will get you on your way.

1. Total-body workout

muscular man resting with a medicine ball in his hand

Fit man holding a medicine ball | Source: iStock

The problem with trying to carve your midsection doing tons of reps with just one or two exercises is you end up limiting yourself to one plane of movement. Livestrong explained this limited motion misses most of the other key muscle groups in your core, so you really aren’t going to see results. Muscle & Fitness got around this problem by designing a workout that involves twisting, turning, and generally moving in every direction. This one requires a fair amount of equipment, but most well-stocked gyms should have everything you need. If your facility doesn’t have an ab roller, you can do the same thing using a barbell with relatively small plates attached.

2. 20-minute abs workout

man using dumbbells to perform a plank exercise

Man in a plank position with dumbbells | Source: iStock

The cruel thing about abs is you can spend a significant portion of your workout on the muscle group and not necessarily see any more benefits. Why? Because a toned stomach is as much about body fat as it is strong muscles. Outside Online explained anyone who needs to lose a few has to shed that weight before they can start seeing definition. The good news is many strength training moves can torch a significant number of calories, even after you’ve finished your workout. For the full-body effect, try this 20-minute workout from Men’s Fitness. It hits your core pretty hard, but also incorporates major muscle groups in your arms, legs, glutes, and back.

3. Crunch-free workout for your core

man using a kettlebell weight at the gym

Kettlebell squat | Source: iStock

Crunches and similar variations are bad news for anyone with lower back pain. Stuart McGill, an expert in spine biomechanics who teaches at The University of Waterloo in Canada, has specifically studied crunches in his lab. He told The New York Times Magazine his research revealed the amount of load the spine can safely handle is greatly diminished during this particular movement. To save your back, try this crunch-free workout from Bodybuilding.com. Like the other programs, it incorporates different muscle groups to maximize your calorie burn.

4.10-minute core routine

man holding a plank exercise

Man performing planks | Source: iStock

Everyone who considers themselves an athlete, from road racers to basketball players, relies on thier core muscles to power through the activity. Since none of these sports involve lying on the ground and performing small, repetitive movements, it doesn’t make sense to prepare for them that way. This is why BuiltLean shared a core workout with functionality in mind. The exercises involve twisting, lifting, and contracting, which makes the movements more practical for real-world activities.

5. 7-minute core workout

man performing bicycle crunches in the gym

Man performing bicycle crunches | Source: iStock

On days when you’re really pressed for time, making it to the gym just isn’t an option. For these occasions, circuits are your best friend. They combine multiple moves with minimal rest to give you a great workout in a tiny amount of time. Men’s Health featured a version designed to give you a killer core in just seven minutes using simple, but challenging, moves. It doesn’t even require equipment, making this workout perfect for the office, vacation, or your living room.

Follow Christine on Twitter @christineskopec

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