Visibly toned abs are often one of the most sought-after features for both men and women when it comes to fitness. As a result, the abdominal muscle group is also one of the most versatile muscle groups to train.  There are so many different ab exercises out there, all to make them more defined. It's incredible. And it's complicated.

What does and doesn’t work may well even change depending on the individual. Body type, diet and even the point starting point all play a big part. Here, we're running through some of the best ab exercises to achieve more definition and help you reach your goals, targeting every possible area of the ab group.

Plank

Woman doing the plank ab exercise

One of the most famous ab exercises, the plank, is an extremely well-known exercise. Lying face down, with your lower half and torso off the floor so that the only contact points with the floor are the toes and the arms from the elbow down, you need to hold yourself steady. That's harder than it sounds!

This exercise is even better since it can be adjusted. That means you can hold it for as long as possible and thus track improvement through increased maximum time, without the real need for repetitions and sets. That's the beauty of isometric exercise!

Russian Twists

people doing Russian twists

This is one of the more oblique focussed ab exercises. You need to face upwards with your legs slightly bent and slightly parted and the arms held outwards. Then, as the name suggests, you twist. Turn until you're around 45-90 degrees and hold the contraction. that'll give the best results.

This is then repeated but facing the other way, usually for 30 seconds, with 30 seconds rest before moving onto the next exercise sets. They're great for an oblique specific workout!

Bicycle Crunches

person performing bicycle crunches

Bicycle crunches begin in a similar position to normal crunches, but with the legs elevated and knees bent. It almost looks like the person is sat on a chair rotated 90 degrees backwards. Because of that, it's almost like two ab exercises in one.

Plac your hands on your head with your elbows pointed directly outwards. Then, crunch. Bring your shoulders and head toward your legs. With a slight twisting motion to get the elbows as close to the knees as possible, you'll be feeling the burn in no time. This exercise is often used for more high-intensity workouts and should be performed for 30 seconds, with the (almost) touch of each knee being considered one repetition.

(Tip: This is easy to get wrong! The tendency to bring your elbow inwards is way too common. You should be keeping them facing directly outward.)

Bridges

woman doing glute bridges

Bridges are actually a glute centred exercise, but they have a huge core element to them too. So much so, in fact, that they're here. The idea is to lay flat on your back with your knees bench, and push your hips forward. Stop when you're parallel, hold for a second or two, and release.

This should be performed for around 30 seconds, with 30 seconds rest before moving onto the next exercise sets.

Jack-knives

Woman doing jack knife ab exercise

The jack-knife involves lying flat on the floor with your arms extended above your head. Then, raise your lower and upper body at the same time so the two come as close to touching as possible above the core of the body, and then returning to the starting position.

Because of the type of this ab exercise, this does target almost all of the abdominal muscles very intensely, and again should be performed for around 30 seconds, with 30 seconds rest before moving onto the next exercise sets. It is HARD

Side Planks

Man doing side planks

Side planks take the same position as the plank, however, involve the motion of turning the torso 90 degrees so that one arm is pointing directly upwards. The other remains on the floor from the elbow down. This then rotates after a duration of your choice to the other side.

Like the plank may not require a repetition if performed to failure or the 30 seconds this requires. See how it fits into your workout, but remember to do both sides!

Mountain climbers

person performing mountain climbers

Mountain climbers are set in a push up like position when the arms are still extended. Once you're there, you bring your knees to your chest in an alternating motion. that's a lower ab killer! (They're definitely one of the best for the lower abs, without a doubt)

This exercise, despite sounding simple, utilises several different muscle groups. That means it's compound and is also very effective at burning energy. That makes it also effective cardio exercise in some cases if you nail it!

Rather than sets and repetitions, this ab exercise again often goes on time and is therefore reflective in the person’s fitness but should ideally be performed for around 30 seconds consistently.

Leg Raises

Woman showing leg raises

Leg raises again involve lying face up completely flat, with the arms at the sides of the torso before the legs are elevated and held there for around a second. (Pro tip: hanging leg raises are even better still, but they are way WAY harder too. Food for thought.)

The legs should rise to around a 40-degree angle to really target the lower abs, and this should continue for 30 seconds, with 30 seconds rest before moving onto the next exercise sets.

Reverse Crunch

Reverse crunch ab exercise example

The reverse crunch is slightly harder to maintain. It involves the top section of the back and shoulders to remain on the floor, whilst the rest of the body is elevated. Keep your knees bent and brought close to your body for each repetition before returning upwards.

This should be performed for around 30 seconds, with 30 seconds rest before moving onto the next exercise sets. (Who'd have guessed?)

Hollow Body Hold

Hollow body hold ab exercise example

Lastly, the hollow body hold is much like the jack-knife in terms of positioning. With your arms raised straight above your head and legs straight on the floor, lift both to around 45-degree angle. When you're there, hold the position for 1-2 seconds before relaxing and going back to the resting position.

This will really finish off the workout and push your abs to the limit. This should be carried out in sets of 30 seconds, with 30 seconds rest before moving onto the next exercise

 

Overview

All of these ab exercises are extremely effective and will definitely provide enough exercise to create a greater ab definition, especially if used together with a proper diet to reduce body fat. Nutrition is essential to the toning of the ab muscles, especially if the overall aim is to have this toning really visible as body fat needs to be reduced in order for this to succeed.

Here's a closer look at each of them together:

These exercises also target all areas of the abdomen, from the obliques through to the upper and lower abs. If these exercises are performed regularly, it is more than possible to see even greater results in the long term. The time between sets of even exercises should remain at around 30 seconds in order to see the best results, but see how they fit in your workout plan.

To put these together into one workout should like something like this:

 

Exercise Time
Plank 30 seconds, with 30 seconds rest
Sideways Plank 30 seconds, with 30 seconds rest
Russian Twists 30 seconds, with 30 seconds rest
Bicycle Crunches 30 seconds, with 30 seconds rest
Reverse Crunches 30 seconds, with 30 seconds rest
Mountain Climbers 30 seconds, with 30 seconds rest
Bridges 30 seconds, with 30 seconds rest
Jack Knives 30 seconds, with 30 seconds rest
Leg Raises 30 seconds, with 30 seconds rest
Hollow Body Hold 30 seconds, with 30 seconds rest

 

Good luck!

Exercise.co.uk General Banner

 


Before beginning any exercise or nutrition program, consult your physician, doctor or other professional. This is especially important for individuals over the age of 35 or persons with pre-existing health problems. Exercise.co.uk assumes no responsibility for personal injury or property damage sustained using our advice.

If you experience dizziness, nausea, chest pain, or any other abnormal symptoms, stop the workout at once and consult a physician or doctor immediately.