20 Easy Ab Exercises for a Sculpted Six Pack
You’ll need to do more than a few standard sit-ups in order to sculpt the six pack of your dreams. Muscle & Fitness notes that while your diet is the main factor in carving chiseled abs, you also need to regularly train them if you’re hoping for a rock-solid stomach. That means it’s time to start eating healthy and doing these 20 easy ab exercises on a regular basis.
Stick with these moves, and you’ll get the abs you’ve always wanted.
In addition to strengthening your arms and back, pull-ups are also great for sculpting your abs. Livestrong.com explains that your abs are engaged and contracted throughout the duration of a pull-up as they work to stabilize your body. Your abs should be sore after completing a set of pull-ups; if they aren’t, you might not be doing them correctly.
Men’s Fitness explains the correct way to do a pull-up: To start, grasp a pull-up bar with both hands in an overhand grip slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, pull your shoulder blades down and back, bend your legs, cross your feet, squeeze your glutes, and brace your abs. Then, pull yourself up until your collarbone reaches the bar, and drive your elbows down toward your hips. Return to the start position, and repeat. Do three sets of pull-ups, repeating the exercise until you can’t do any more, with 120-second breaks in between each set.
2. Wood choppers
If you have a medicine ball, you can bust out a series of wood choppers, no problem. The reach and twist motion focuses on strengthening and toning your entire core — and you can bet you’ll be working your arms to the point of exhaustion. Runner’s World demonstrates the move in the video above.
To begin, you’ll stand with your feet hip-width apart, and grab a medicine ball with both hands. Reach the ball up over your head and to the right. Then, twisting down, bring the medicine ball to the outside of your left knee. You should feel a significant twist in your core.
Be sure to keep your knees bent, and your eyes on the ball as you move through the motion. Additionally, if you have back issues, it’s probably best to avoid this move altogether.
3. Barbell floor wiper
You’ll need a barbell to complete this move, featured on Men’s Health UK. To begin, lie with your back on the floor, holding a barbell over your chest with straight arms. Keep your legs straight, raise your feet directly above you, and start lowering them toward the right side of your body. Don’t allow your legs to touch the ground. Reverse back to the start position, lower to the left, then reverse again.
If you’d like to make this move more challenging, Men’s Health shares this recommendation: As your feet get close to the floor, hold them there for an extra second or two, forcing them to hover just above the ground. This slight change really targets the lower abdominals.
4. Jack knife sit-up
If your go-to ab workout involves doing hundreds of crunches, it’s time to put that routine to bed. The Huffington Post notes that crunches place excessive strain on your back and don’t burn enough calories to eliminate the fat that is covering your stomach muscles, making it an inefficient way to try to get a six-pack.
Looking for a sure-fire way to get a washboard stomach? Try this Bodybuilding.com ab exercise, which requires you to use an exercise ball. To do a jack knife sit-up, sit on the floor, holding a medicine ball between your hands, with your feet out in front of you. Bend your knees slightly, and lift your feet so they’re suspended slightly off the ground. Make sure you keep your ankles together, and lean back until your torso is at a 45-degree angle to the floor.
Hold the exercise ball out straight from your chest with your arms slightly bent. Twist your torso to one side as far as you can, and bring the ball toward the floor on the same side of your body. Pause for a moment, then twist your torso in the opposite direction, repeating the movement on your other side. Continue to repeat this movement until you reach failure.
5. Single-leg stretch
As you may have guessed, the single-leg stretch doubles as a leg stretch, and an ab exercise. You’re likely familiar with this basic move, but you may have never tried it this way before. To turn your stretching routine into an exercise that also packs a punch to your gut, simply make a small change to your upper body.
Fitness says to start on your back, knees bent. Lift your head and shoulders, curling chin to chest. Grab your left knee with both hands and bring it in toward your chest. Point your right leg out straight, so it hovers just above the floor. As opposed to the standard stretch — where you keep your head and shoulders flat on the ground — you’ll also be working your abs with this version.
6. Low-belly leg reach
Those lower abs sure can be a problem area, which is why we love this move. It targets that pesky muffin top you so desperately want to get rid of. To start, lie on your back with knees together and bent at 90-degree angles. Place hands behind your head with elbows out wide. Contract your abs to crunch up, holding for three to five seconds. Then, extend both legs out to 45 degrees, and hold for another three to five seconds. You should feel a burn in your lower belly. If you don’t, hold for longer, or lower your legs to right above the floor. For the best results, Health recommends two sets of 10 to 15 reps.
7. Physioball pikes
Kick @55 Fitness delivers a killer ab move that will sculpt your stomach in no time. Start in a push-up position with your arms straight and your hands slightly wider than your shoulders. Rest your shins on a physioball, otherwise referred to as an exercise ball, so your body forms a straight line from your head to your ankles.
Without bending your knees, begin to roll the ball toward your body by raising your hips as high as you can. Pause for a moment, and then lower your hips and roll the ball backward to get it back to the starting position. Repeat three to four sets of eight to 12 reps.
8. Exercise ball crunches
Crunches on the floor may be inefficient, but doing them on an exercise ball is an entirely different story. Verywell notes that it’s much more effective to do sit-ups on an exercise ball because it forces your abs to do all of the work. When you’re on the floor, your legs are typically more involved, meaning your stomach muscles aren’t getting as good a workout.
To do this move, AbsExperiment.com explains you should start by sitting on the exercise ball. Walk your feet out so that your lower back is on the ball. Arch your back, and stretch your ab muscles out, keeping your legs at a 90-degree angle and your feet flat on the ground. Put your hands by your head, contract your abs, and curl your upper body and hips up. Raise your torso no more than 45 degrees, fully exhaling on your way up and inhaling on the way down. Slowly return to the starting position, allowing your abs to fully stretch out. Repeat.
If you’d like to make this move harder, AbsExperiment.com suggests bringing your feet closer together, or extending your arms behind your head.
This tough Pilates move shows no mercy. If you think it looks easy, you’ll have to try it for yourself. Women’s Health & Fitness says to lie on your back with your knees bent and lifted so your calves are parallel to the mat. Slowly curl your chest up a few inches off the floor to engage your core — don’t lead with your head, as you can strain your neck by doing so. Keeping your lower back pressed into the mat, extend your legs out in front of you, lowering them to about a 45-degree angle with your body.
You can stop here and hold this move, but that’s not what completes the sequence. When you’re in the proper position, extend arms out in front of you so they’re parallel to the ground. Then, pump your arms for 10 beats. Rest and repeat for 10 sets, or go for as many as you can.
10. Mountain climbers
This bodyweight exercise isn’t just a workout for your abs — it’s a heart-pumping move that incorporates your arms, back, and legs, too. The Guardian explains you need to get into plank position to start mountain climbers, as they’re essentially a hybrid between a plank and a run. When you’re ready to begin, run one knee up to your chest and slightly across your body without allowing your foot to touch the ground. Return it back into plank position, and do the same with the other knee. Do this as fast as you can with control for 30 seconds to complete one set.
It’s important to remember form is everything with this move. Don’t allow your hips to float upward as you draw your knees in — this isn’t good for your back and you’ll be cheating yourself by making it easier.
11. Dynamic planks
By now, it’s probably clear we’re highlighting exercises that are easy to perform. But while the exact motions are quite simple, these moves are seriously challenging for your abs and other core muscles. If you’re ready for the next step, it’s time to try dynamic planks. The real advantage dynamic planks have over standard ones is they involve a slow, controlled movement that forces all of your stabilizing muscles to work that much harder.
STACK outlines this move. You’ll start in a side plank resting your weight on just your left foot and left hand, your body forming a straight line from head to toe. After briefly holding the pose, rotate your body into a standard plank with both hands and both feet on the floor. Wait a moment, then turn to the other side, and continue alternating directions.
If planks on your hands are too tough to start, you can also perform these on your forearms.
12. Hanging leg raise
If there’s one core area that’s tough to target without also hurting you back, it’s definitely your lower abs. These muscles also happen to be among the most difficult to strengthen and define, and a lot of that has to do with fat around your midsection. As Harvard Health Publications points out, abdominal exercises can strengthen the muscles, but they won’t help burn off your tummy. You’ll need to do plenty of other strength training and cardio to make that happen.
That being said, it’s still important to strengthen the lower abs because they work in tandem with all your other core muscles to minimize the risk of injury and ward off general aches and pains. Get started with hanging leg raises, outlined by Muscle & Strength. You basically hang from a bar, or gymnastics rings, with your legs fully extended, then hinge at the hips to raise your legs until they’re parallel with the floor. It’s a tough move, so start with a few, then work your way up.
Since we’re taking a well-rounded approach to training your abs, it’s time to talk obliques. Some of the other exercises mentioned have already utilized these muscles, which are located along your sides, but this move gives them some serious work thanks to the addition of weights. Start with something relatively light before you get too overzealous, though. It’s better to take it slow than to risk an injury.
To do this exercise, stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold your arms straight out to the sides, grasping a dumbbell in each hand. Keeping your lower body in place, hinge at your hips to bring your left arm slightly toward the ground and your right arm slightly toward the ceiling. Return to the starting position, then switch sides. For a great visual, head to Family Circle.
14. Dumbbell side bends
Similar to the T-bends mentioned earlier, dumbbell side bends are yet another way to target those obliques. This move, in particular, is super easy — all you need is a dumbbell.
Take one dumbbell in your right hand, and stand up tall. Place your left hand on your hip, and slowly lower your right hand toward the floor, bending at your side. Maintain a flat back throughout, engaging your core. For a step-by-step tutorial, check out the video at Bodybuilding.com.
15. Supine oblique twist with exercise ball
Adding an exercise ball to this abdominal move will leave you with serious results. Grab the ball with your feet, and lie flat on your back. Place your palms face down by your sides for extra grip and stability. While fully engaging your entire core, begin to rotate the ball. Move the outside of your right foot up toward the ceiling, so the outside of your left is facing the ground. For added difficulty, continue these rotations while simultaneously moving the ball — and your legs — up and down.
16. Reverse crunches
If you’re bored with standard crunches, this variation outlined on BuiltLean is a great option. It hits both your lower and upper abs, but it also requires a fair bit of concentration to do correctly. You’ll start lying on your back with your arms at your sides and your legs hovering above the floor. From there, contract your stomach to pull your legs in toward your chest as far as possible before reversing the motion.
The story does mention this probably isn’t the best move if you have lower back issues. For people with this common problem, it’s probably a better idea to focus on some back-friendly core exercises.
17. Heel touches
Not every core exercise works your upper and lower abs and obliques, but heel touches target all these areas for that coveted six pack. Exercise.com says to start by lying down on your back with knees bent and feet on the ground. When you’re in this position, make sure to engage your lower abs by pressing them down into the floor. You don’t want any space between your back and the ground.
When you begin, keep your arms by your sides and lift your shoulders off the ground using your upper abs. Then, use your obliques to rotate your right hand down to your right heel, and lift back to center. Do this on the other side and repeat, alternating each time. We suggest shooting for 20 reps before resting, but you can also time yourself for 30 seconds.
18. Swiss ball roll-out
This move requires balancing on an exercise ball, which makes all of your core muscles work even harder. To perform roll-outs, Men’s Fitness says to start by resting your forearms on the exercise ball and carefully walking your legs out behind you until they’re fully extended. This should feel like you’re in plank position, only the ball makes it even tougher. Then, tighten your core and slowly roll the ball forward while extending your arms and hips. When you’ve rolled as far as you can while still keeping tension in your abs, roll back in. Try doing five of these, then see how you feel. Add more reps as you gain strength.
19. Torso twist
A lot of core exercises take place lying on the ground, which means you need access to a yoga mat and a fair amount of space. But that’s not always practical, particularly for people who find themselves traveling a lot. Whether you’re trying to squeeze in a quick workout at work or you’r stuck in a cramped hotel room, the torso twist is a move you can always do.
Women’s Day outlines this move, saying you’ll start standing with your feet about a foot apart and your hands placed just behind each ear, elbows pointed out to the sides. Simultaneously lift your left knee up and to the right as you bring your right elbow down to meet it, reverse the movement, then switch sides.
20. Dead bug
The dead bug looks easy, and it is if you’re not engaging your core properly. The move becomes a lot more difficult when you contract your muscles while coordinating your arms and legs to move to the correct positions. And, because it does take some coordination, your motor skills will get a boost, too.
AZCentral.com says to lie down with knees bent and feet on the floor, arms by your sides, bent to form 90-degree angles. Then, tighten your core and push your back into the ground so you feel the contraction, and lift your arms and legs off the floor. Your knees should be over your hips, forming 90-degree angles, and your elbows should be aligned with your shoulders. From here, slowly lower and extend your left arm and right leg down without touching the ground, and then bring them back to the starting position with control. Do the same with your right arm and left leg. Repeat this move five to 10 times.