Best Ab Exercises for a Trim and Toned Tummy

Athletic man and woman show off their abs

Athletic man and woman | iStock.com/bondarchik

There are a lot of excuses people use for not exercising. Between work, family, and other responsibilities, who can find the time to drive to the gym, workout, shower, and then drive home? To many of us, that kind of freedom sounds like a luxury.

However, you don’t have to go far to get awesome abs. A lot of the best ab exercises don’t require any gym equipment, while others call for simple items like yoga balls and exercise bands. 2016 has been a rough year for all of us, but 2017 could be the year that you have the best abs of your life with these 25 awesome ab exercises.

1. The cobra

Young woman stretching her stomach on fitness mat

Woman stretching on a fitness mat | iStock.com/Jacob Ammentorp Lund

Howcast explains you perform the cobra by simply laying flat on the floor or a yoga mat, then use your core and back muscles to lift your upper body while keeping your hips firmly planted. Hold the pose for a few seconds, breathe through the stretch, then lower your body and repeat.

2. Plank

Young man holding a plank on a blue fitness mat

Young man planking | iStock.com/gpointstudio

While a doing a plank may appear simple, proper form is imperative for your body to fully benefit from the move. When done right, planks work out your abs, core, and back. The longer you can hold the position, the better your endurance. Some characteristics of a good plank include keeping your hands and arms shoulder-width apart, a tight core, and making sure your head and neck are in a neutral position.

3. Side planks

Group of women practicing the side plank

Group of women practicing the side plank | iStock.com/Antonio_Diaz

Ah, now things are getting really interesting! Fitness expert Samantha Clayton explains, side planks are a total body move that emphasize the core. Make sure you align your elbow under your shoulder to prevent putting necessary stress on your neck and shoulder. To intensify the workout, simply add leg lifts to the mix.

4. Side-to-side crunch and weave

An Olympic-certified boxing trainer demonstrates an ab exercise

An Olympic-certified boxing trainer demonstrates the side-to-side crunch and weave | Livestrong via YouTube

The best part about the side-to-side crunch and weave is that you can pretend that you’re Muhammad Ali while doing it, but don’t take our word for it. Give it a try yourself! Olympic-certified boxing trainer Cary Williams explains how to do the move by doing a side crunch and then squatting down slightly and rotating to complete the “weave.”

5. Seated leg lifts

Women working out on mats in a field

Women working out in a field | iStock.com/undrey

Seated leg lifts are exactly what they sound like. Think of it as a kind of reverse sit-up, one that doesn’t put undue pressure on your neck or back. Celebrity trainer and professional fitness model Layla Luciano suggests sitting with your back pressed against a wall if you need help keeping your back straight while performing the exercise.

6. Inchworm to side plank

Fit woman doing a side plank

Fit woman doing a side plank | iStock.com/undrey

Now that you’ve mastered side planks, mix things up by adding the inchworm. Personal trainer and online fitness coach Amanda Edell demonstrates how to do the move. Start by touching your toes, then use your hands to “walk out” and perform a side plank. After holding for a few seconds, walk back upright.

7. Bird dog

Woman performing a bird dog ab exercise

Woman performing the a bird dog | iStock.com/indykb

You shouldn’t need a tutorial to figure out the bird dog, but just in case, Edell shows how to perform the exercise for Howcast. Start down on the ground on all fours and extend one leg behind you, be sure to point your toes. Then reach out in front of you using the opposite arm. She says the simple move works great as either an ab exercise or warm-up and offers tweaks to increase the intensity of the workout.

8. Supine oblique ball twist

Women working out with stability balls

Women working out with stability balls | iStock.com/kzenon

If you don’t already own an exercise ball, invest in one. They’re fairly cheap and a handy tool for a variety of ab exercises. For the supine oblique twist, Team GolfLoopy demonstrates you lay flat on the ground and pick up the ball with your feet. Then, keeping your core planted, use your hips to rotate the ball back and forth.

9. Stability ball roll-out

Woman doing fitness exercises with a stability ball

Woman doing fitness exercises with a stability ball | iStock.com/Anetlanda

As fitness instructor Chris Patrick explains, stability ball roll-outs are one of the all-time best stomach exercises. It looks like the world’s easiest push-up, but it’s an excellent way to stretch and strengthen your core.

10. Stability ball plank leg lift

Man exercising with a stability ball

Man exercising with a stability ball | iStock.com/OSTILL

This one couldn’t be easier — just plank on your ball with your forearms, then start doing alternating leg lifts. Yes, it’s that simple! Don’t believe us? Muscle & Fitness ranks the skill level of this move as “beginner” and explains the proper form for completing the move.

11. Roll-up with stability ball

Man exercising with a stability ball

Man exercising with a stability ball | iStock.com/OSTILL

A roll up with a ball is a more advanced move that takes quite a bit of upper body strength. Person trainer Brian Seelos demonstrates the move that consists of using your arms as support while rolling the ball forward and backward with your feet. The result is a combination plank/crunch.

12. Abdominal hold

Woman demonstrates an ab exercise on a chair

A woman demonstrates an abdominal hold | Faith & Fitness via YouTube

An abdominal hold can be done wherever there is a chair or other sturdy surface. Faith & Fitness shows how to properly perform the exercise. With your fingers facing outward, push your body up and try to hold for one minute or more. Remember to keep your knees up!

13. Reverse press-up

Young woman doing Australian Pull-ups

Young woman doing Australian pull-ups | iStock.com/indykb

Don’t worry, you don’t need a set of monkey bars to do reverse press-ups. Fitness enthusiast Hayley Patrington demonstrates they can be just as effective when lying flat on your back and using your elbows to help lift your upper body. To get the most out of the move, keep your hips planted firmly and your core tight.

14. Mountain climbers

Fitness trainer demonstrates how to perform an ab exercise

Evolve trainer Jana demonstrates the mountain climber | Functional Fitness with Evolve via YouTube

You won’t need an actual mountain to do the mountain climber. Fitness trainer Jana shows how to perform the move for beginners. Start out on your hands and tips of your toes, then, bringing in one leg at a time, begin to “climb.”

15. Single-leg stretch

A fitness instructor leads a woman through the single leg stretc

A fitness instructor leads a woman through the single leg stretch | yoopod.com via YouTube

As this fitness instructor explains for Yoopod, the single leg stretch works out the core even when the body is not in motion. To increase intensity, switch from leg to leg, exhaling with each exchange.

16. Ballet twist

Woman demonstrates how to perform an ab exercise

The ballet twist targets your six pack and deep abs | Faith & Fitness via YouTube

The ballet twist is a graceful move, but more importantly, it targets your deep abs and six-pack. Faith & Fitness explains you lean back, stretch like a ballerina, hold for a few seconds, then repeat on the other side.

17. Cross-leg reverse crunch

A personal trainer demonstrates how to perform a cross leg reverse crunch

Personal trainer Holly Del Rosso demonstrates the cross leg reverse crunch | eHow Fitness via YouTube

This is a familiar enough position, but have you ever tried to bring your legs toward you in a “reverse crunch?” Certified personal trainer Holly Del Rosso says that you should add this to your daily routine four times a week for the best result possible.

18. Standing lift

Woman demonstrates how to perform a standing lift

The standing lift blasts ‘muffin top’ fat | expertvillage via YouTube

The standing lift is a simple move that’s known to blast muffin top fat and work out your core according to Expert Village. Stand with your feet firmly planted, then lift one leg at a time, holding the position on each side as you go.

19. Walkout

Man doing the downward facing dog position

Man exercising on a mat | iStock.com/Vicki Reid

Whether you’re stuck in the office or killing some time at home, walkouts can be done just about anywhere because it doesn’t require any equipment. Ladies’ Home Journal demonstrates the move, which consists of bending over, placing your hands on the ground, and “walk out” with your hands. Walk your hands back in and repeat.

20. Squat and reach

Fitness instructor Jeremy Shore demonstrates a squat and reach

Fitness instructor Jeremy Shore demonstrates a squat and reach | Livestrong via YouTube

Livestrong.com fitness instructor Jeremy Shore demonstrates how to perform the move — a deep squat with a long reach. This a full body workout that emphasizes your abs.

21. Jack knife sit-up

Woman performing a jack knife sit-up

Woman performing a jack knife sit-up | iStock.com/Szepy

A jack knife sit-up turns your body into a v-shape while working out your abs. Fitness expert James J. Rizzo demonstrates the move for Howcast. Rizzo says the move is a more advanced exercise, but shows how to perform the exercise at a beginner and intermediate level. It takes a lot of strength, so don’t be disappointed if you can only do a few at first.

22. Ab wheel rollout

Man doing an ab wheel rollout

Man doing an ab wheel rollout | iStock.com/GeorgeRudy

An ab wheel is another good investment that can be used for a variety of ab exercises. Rolling the wheel back and forth might look like fun, but it’s actually a hardcore workout for your abs according to Greg Jackson. He shows how to do both an easy beginner version and a more advanced version of the exercise. Make sure to keep your back straight while rolling!

23. Flutter kicks

Scott Herman demonstrates flutter kicks

Scott Herman demonstrates flutter kicks | Scott Herman Fitness via YouTube

Speaking of hardcore workouts, try out these flutter kicks. Fitness instructor Scott Herman shows how to do the move. With both hands firmly under your body, lift both legs and begin to lightly kick. You should feel the muscles in your abdomen begin to tighten immediately.

24. McGill curl-ups

Woman doing ab exercises on a fitness mat

Woman doing ab exercises on a fitness mat | iStock.com/Jacob Ammentorp Lund

If you’ve had back injuries, McGill curl-ups are a low resistance exercise that won’t stress your spine according to the doctors at NUCCA Upper Cervical Care. With one leg bent upward, lift your upper body, hold, and repeat. It’s that simple.

25. Resistance crunches

Woman exercises with resistance bands

Woman exercises with resistance bands | iStock.com/Edward Bock

Don’t have exercise bands? Just grab a towel or blanket for these resistance crunches. As fitness expert Jessica Kiernan shows, it’s a great place to begin your journey to stronger abs!