Abs are arguably the most sought after and coveted muscle group. We’ve all heard the phrase, "abs are made in the kitchen", but training them regularly in the gym plays an important role, too!
Add these eight exercises into your training regimen to strengthen, challenge, and build your abdominal muscles.
Let’s start with a classic. This isometric exercise can be performed daily and is great for not only core strength but also your posture. Begin with your elbows placed right beneath your shoulders, hands apart, and feet hip-width apart pressing your heels backward. Keep your spine as neutral as possible by keeping your gaze aimed downward. Hold for time, for as long as possible! Try to increase your time each week.
2. Side planks
Side planks really target your obliques while aiming to improve your spinal stability as well. Begin on your side with your elbow placed beneath your shoulder and your legs stacked and extended. Lift your body upwards, trying to maintain a straight line from your shoulder through your ankle. Your elbow and side of the foot on your bottom leg should be the only two anchor points on the floor. Try to keep your core tight and glutes firing as you hold this position for time. There are numerous ways to make this move more challenging – try lifting your top leg or performing the movement in suspension once you’ve perfected the traditional side plank.
3. Spiderman push-ups
Spice up your traditional high plank and push-up with this tough combination movement. This movement targets your obliques and rectus abdominis while challenging your upper body, too. Begin in a high plank. Descend into a push-up while simultaneously pulling one knee in towards your elbow on the same side of the body. Go back into your starting position and continue repeating this movement while alternating sides. Do your best to maintain a neutral spine by not rotating your head as you perform this exercise.
4. Roll outs
Rollouts challenge both your core strength and stability. Begin in a kneeling position, with your elbows on a swiss ball. Roll the ball forward on your elbows as far as you can while maintaining a tight abdomen and not letting your lower back arch. Pause briefly and then slowly return back to your starting position.
Once you’ve perfected these with a swiss ball, try them with a barbell or wheel (ab roller).
5. Pallof press
This is one of my favorite core exercises because of its function and versatility in terms of variations. Set a cable and handle at roughly chest height. Grab the handle with both hands and begin with the load against your sternum. Place your feet shoulder-width apart, knees bent, and shoulders pulled back. Press the weight forward, fully extending your arms and pause for 2-5 seconds. In the extension, try to keep the load centered and don’t let the weight pull or shift your set up. Return the load to your sternum and repeat for repetitions. Aim for 6-12 repetitions on each side, pausing 2-5 seconds per rep and increasing your pause or resistance as you increase your strength. This exercise can also be performed with a resistance band.
6. TRX knee tucks
This exercise utilizes suspension to add an extra element of challenge to your abs. To start, set the TRX straps so that the handles are at knee/calf height. Place your feet in the cradles so that when you go up into your planking position, your shoelaces are along the bulk of the cradle with pointed toes. In the plank position, set your hands right underneath your shoulders, brace your abdominal muscles, and squeeze your glutes to protect your lower back. From there, pull your knees in towards your chest, slowly extend your legs back out, and repeat.
7. Cable torso rotations
This movement is often performed incorrectly as individuals tend to pull with the arms. Set the cable and handle at chest height. Grab the handle with both hands and align your hips with the cable anchor. Place your feet hip-width apart and keep your knees bent. You don’t want your lower body to shift much at all as you perform this exercise. With straight arms, initiate the movement from your torso, rotating across your body, going from your inside hip past your outside hip. Perform the movement on both sides of your body.
8. Single-leg lifts/lowering
Lie on your back with your legs extended and arms at your sides. Lift your legs together so that the soles of your shoes are facing the ceiling. Slightly bend your knees to help protect your lower back. This is your starting position. Slowly lower one leg, stopping just shy of the floor and pause for 2-3 seconds. Return to your starting position and then repeat, alternating sides.
Image credit: Burst