Most of us who start our fitness journey really want to get six pack abs. I mean ... who doesn't? I remember it was the first thing I typed into google when I got started: "How do you get six pack abs?”
When we think fitness, we often think about our abs because that's what's shown all over social media. The cover of every health and fitness magazine usually features someone with ripped abs too.
For the longest time, I thought being fit meant having abs ... which is obviously not true. The fact is, we all have abs.
The reason why some people appear to have them while others don't is because of body fat. On top of that, the more you train your abs, the more pronounced they can become.
I want to share 15 of the best ab exercises, and tips on how you can get your abs to pop!
TOP 15 AB EXERCISES
Your abs are a muscle group just like any other in your body, which means they need training too. Not only that, but there are five main muscles in the abdomen:
- External obliques
- Internal obliques
- Rectus abdominis
- Transversus abdominis
If you want a strong, well-balanced core ... it's best that you select exercises to train every muscle in your abdomen.
Obviously, this can be a hassle, given all the different muscles and exercises. Let me take the guessing work out of it for you!
Here are 15 of the best ab exercises that will help build a ripped and strong core!
1. DEAD BUGS
How to: Lie on your back with your arms straight out in front of you pointing towards the ceiling. Your legs should be bent at a 90 degree angle and sit above your hips (feet are off the floor).
Keep your head and lower back pressed into the floor. From here, slowly lower and straighten one leg and the opposite arm to meet the floor.
Pause in this position and then raise both your arm and leg back to center. Now repeat this movement with the opposite arm and leg. This counts as one rep.
This is one of the most classic ab workouts there is. You'll also be targeting quite a few muscles in one exercise.
How to: Start in a pushup position. From here, tuck your hips to make sure your back, spine, and body is straight. Brace your core and hold this position.
If you'd like to make it even more difficult, drop down to your elbows and hold the same position. Make sure not to bring up your hips!
3. SIDE PLANK
We just talked about the plank so let’s touch on a different variation!
How to: Start by laying on your side with your feet stacked on top of one another and your hands at your side. Prop your body up using your forearm and lift your hips off the ground. Your body should be in a straight line from head to toe, holding this position.
Make sure you alternate between each side, spending 30 seconds to a minute on each side.
4. LEG LOWER AND RAISE
This is one of those exercises where you are going to be targeting more muscles than most exercises.
How to: Lie flat on your back with head laid back, your hands under your butt, and your palms facing down.
Keep your feet flexed and your lower back pressed into the floor.
Squeeze your legs together and raise them until they form a 90 degree angle with your upper body. Slowly lower your legs as far down as possible without letting them touch the ground to complete a rep.
How to: Similar to the leg raise, lie flat on your back. But this time, extend your arms straight out above/behind your head.
Keep your feet together with your toes pointed forward. Raise your legs up while brining your upper body off the floor simultaneously. Reach for your toes with your hands, making a V-shape with your body.
Slowly lower your arms and legs back to the floor and repeat.
If you need to make it a little bit easier ... try doing a single leg v-up where you are using one leg at a time.
6. HEEL TAPS
How to: Lay on your back with your knees bent, feet planted on the floor, and your arms straight by your sides.
Lift your chest your shoulder blades off the floor and up towards the ceiling. Tap your right hand to your right ankle, come back to the middle and then repeat on the left side going back and forth.
Keep your sides squeezed, your neck relaxed and your shoulders off the ground the entire time.
7. WINDSHIELD WIPERS
How to: Lie flat on your back with your arms straight out to the side (like a T). Bring your legs up to a 90 degree angle. If you need to, you can bend your knees to make it a little easier.
From here, keep your core tight and slowly lower your hips from right to left, not letting them touch the floor. One rotation left and right is one rep.
8. BUTTERFLY SIT-UPS
How to: Lie on the floor with your arms extended behind your head, knees bent, and the soles of your feet facing one another. Your legs should form an O.
Lift your body to a sitting position as you reach forward with both hands to touch your ankles.
Slowly lower back to the starting position and repeat.
9. RUSSIAN TWISTS
How to: Sit on the floor with your legs bent in front of you as if you're going to bring your knees to your chest. Lean back slightly from here so your legs and body form a V-shape.
Pick your feet up off the floor and twist your torso from side to side. If it feels natural to you, you can tap either side of the ground with your hands when you rotate. One rotation right and left is one rep.
10. REVERSE CRUNCHES
How to: Lie on your back with your legs in the air and your knees slightly bent.
Press your back into the floor and bring your knees into your chest as you lift your hips off the ground. Slowly bring your legs back to the position they started in. This is one rep.
11. BICYCLE CRUNCHES
How to: Laying on your back, place your hands behind your head with your elbows to the side.
Bring one knee in and lift your shoulders off the ground while rotating to touch your opposite knee with your opposite elbow. The other leg will be straight but off the floor.
As soon as you lower back down, alternate sides back and forth.
12. MOUNTAIN CLIMBER
How to: Get on the ground in a push-up position with your palms flat and toes pointed. Make sure your weight is distributed evenly between your hands and your toes.
Your hands should be shoulder-width apart and directly below your shoulders. Keep your body in a straight line, with your spine neutral.
Now, bring your right knee towards your chest as far as you can go. Then as you return it back, bring your left knee towards your chest. This is one rep.
To increase the intensity, speed up and do this as fast as you can. No matter how fast or slow you go, you can still get the same benefit from this exercise.
13. FLUTTER KICKS
How to: Lie on your back with legs straight and arms extended out at your sides. You can place your hands under your butt if it's more comfortable for you.
Lift your heels about 6 inches off the floor, point your toes, and rapidly kick your feet up and down in a quick, scissor-like motion.
The higher off the ground you keep your legs, the easier it will be.
14. BIRD DOGS
How to: Start on your hands and knees, with the balls of your feet on the ground and your palms planted. It should feel as if you're about to do a bear crawl. Make sure to keep your eyes fixed on the ground and keep your back flat and neutral.
Extend one arm straight out in front of your body and kick your opposite leg straight back. Pause at the top, lower your arm and leg, and repeat with the opposite side. This is one rep.
15. HOLLOW HOLD
How to: lie on your back with your legs extended out and arms straight overhead.
From here, raise your arms and legs off the ground while keeping your lower back pressed into the floor.
The higher you raise your arms and legs, the easier this is.
Squeeze your core and hold this position for as long as you can. If you'd like an extra challenge ... start rocking your body backward and forward while keeping your core braced.
Just don't say I didn't warn you!
OTHER TIPS FOR BUILDING YOUR AB MUSCLES
Now, it’s important to note that you can't target or "spot-reduce" the fat around your abdomen. I think that's something we all wish we could do. But, no matter how many crunches you do, if your body fat isn’t low enough, it will still be difficult to see your abs.
So needless to say, on top of exercise, you have other lifestyle factors that come into play!
Let’s take a look at some of those lifestyle factors...
Have you ever heard the saying "your abs are made in the kitchen”? Well, this is partly true. In reality, it’s more like they are built in the gym and revealed in the kitchen ... let me explain...
No matter what you eat, if your abs aren’t strengthened, trained, and developed ... then it’s going to be difficult to see them. That's even if you have super low body fat.
At the same time, no matter how many ab exercises you do, you won't see the results you're after with a bad diet.
YOUR DIET MATTERS
For you to lose weight and body fat, you first need to be in a calorie deficit so that you are eating less than you burn. Along with that, it’s important to make sure you are eating enough protein throughout the day. Protein is what is going to help support your lean muscle tissue as you lose weight.
1g of protein per pound of your goal body weight is a great place to start. This can help you preserve, maintain, and potentially even build new lean muscle tissue.
On top of your protein and calories, the quality of the foods you eat are important too! Fill your plate with plenty of high-quality protein sources, fruits, veggies, whole grains, starches, and healthy fats.
Don't forget your water either! Staying hydrated and getting at least 100+ oz of water every single day can help with flushing out stored fat.
On top of your core workouts, be sure you are including both strength training and cardio into your fitness routine. Whether you want to lift heavy, incorporate some HIIT (high intensity interval training) ... resistance training can be a huge help!
A bonus, and one of my favorite forms of exercise and one of the most underutilized is walking! Going for a 45 to 60 minute walk every day can help you burn those extra calories.
PRIORITIZE QUALITY SLEEP
It’s during sleep that your body repairs itself. When you are sleeping, your body releases growth hormone, which can help with lean muscle tissue. It also releases both leptin and ghrelin which are hormones that can help regulate your appetite. 6-8 hours of quality sleep is most ideal for seeing the best possible results!
A lot of people are also curious whether supplements can help. The simple answer is ... yes, they can. But supplements are just there to fill in any nutritional gaps.
A lot of supplements can also make adhering to your plan a lot easier. There's a supplement for everything from your foundational health to your post-exercise recovery.
Now, supplements can help, but at the end of the day... You have to be willing to do the work.
The process can seem long and monotonous, but if a six-pack is your goal, it can be achieved if you are consistent.
But, no matter what your goal is, we understand that earning results and maintaining them long-term is a lifestyle change ... one we're happy to help you make!