The Best Ab Exercises: Strength-Building Variations for All Levels

Updated: 19 hours ago


The Best Ab Exercises: Strength-Building Variations for All Levels

When it comes to sculpting abs, there are a ton of exercises to choose from. But which ones are the best? And more importantly, which ones will help you build strength? In this article, we will discuss the top ab exercises and how they can benefit all levels of gym-goers. We'll also focus on exercise variations and common mistakes people make so that you can avoid them!


Before we dive in: check out our full-body training program to develop a strong body and aesthetic physique; you will benefit from one of our programs. We designed a program that gives you the tools to build muscle with an easy-to-follow routine that will fit any schedule. To find out more:

Why are ab exercises important?

Abs are often cited as one of the number one goals for many gym-goers. Not only do they look great, but strong abs can also lead to better posture and improved core strength. This can help you in other exercises, like squats and deadlifts, and make everyday activities easier.


A strong core can also elevate your level of fitness and balance, and help you move more efficiently in all aspects of your life. Adding effective ab exercises to your routine can help you build a strong foundation and reach your fitness goals sooner. The following lists will cover the best ab exercises for every fitness level, cues for optimum performance, and mistakes to avoid.



The Best Beginner Ab Exercises


Exercise #1: Plank


How to do it: Get into a push-up position, but rest on your forearms instead of your hands. Keep your back straight and your abs engaged the entire time. Hold for 30-60 seconds.


Cues: Keep your shoulders over your elbows and your hips in line with your shoulders. Avoid letting your hips sag or stick up in the air.


Mistakes: Not engaging your abs, letting your hips sag, or sticking them up in the air.


Exercise #2: Reverse Crunch


How to do it: Lie on your back on the floor and place your hands on the floor beside you. Bring your knees in toward your chest with your feet together. Use your abs to curl your hips off the floor and towards your chest, then slowly lower them back to the starting position.


Cues: Keep your feet together and your knees at a 90-degree angle throughout the entire movement. Avoid using momentum to swing your legs up; use your abs to control the movement.


Mistakes: Not keeping your feet together or knees at a 90-degree angle, using momentum to swing your legs up.


Exercise #3: Plank Seated Russian Twist


How to do it: Sit on the floor with your knees bent, pull your abs to your spine, and lean back a few inches while keeping your back straight. Hold your hand at your chest, and twist from side to side.


Cues: Keep your abs pulled to your spine throughout the entire movement. Go slowly and twist only as far as you can while keeping good form.


Mistakes: Not keeping your abs pulled to your spine, twisting too quickly or too far.


Exercise #4: Dead Bug


How to do it: Lie on your back on the floor with your arms extended straight overhead and your legs in the air, perpendicular to the floor. This is the starting position. From here, slowly lower your right arm and left leg at the same time until they are an inch or two from the floor. Return to the starting position and repeat with the opposite arm and leg.


Cues: Keep your lower back pressed to the floor throughout the entire movement. Move slowly and with control.


Mistakes: Not keeping your lower back pressed into the floor, moving too quickly or without control.


The Best Intermediate Ab Exercises


Exercise #1: Abs Roll-Out


How to do it: Start kneeling on the floor with an ab wheel/foam roller/barbell with weights in front of you. Place your hands on the ab wheel/foam roller/barbell and roll it away from your knees until your arms are straight. From here, use your abs to pull the foam roller back to the starting position.


Cues: Keep your abs pulled to your spine and avoid arching your back. Move slowly and with control.


Mistakes: Not keeping your abs pulled to your spine, arching your back, moving too quickly or without control.


Exercise #2: Reverse Crunch with Leg Lift


How to do it: Lie on your back on the floor with your hands on the floor beside you. Bring your knees in toward your chest with your feet together. Use your abs to curl your hips off the floor and towards your chest, then slowly lower them back to the starting position. As you lower your hips, lift your legs straight up into the air.


Cues: Keep your feet together and your knees at a 90-degree angle throughout the entire movement. Avoid using momentum to swing your legs up; use your abs to control the movement.


Mistakes: Not keeping your feet together or knees at a 90-degree angle, using momentum to swing your legs up.


Exercise #3: Leg Raise


How to do it: Lie on your back on the floor with your legs straight and your arms at your sides. Use your abs to raise your legs straight up into the air until they are perpendicular to the floor. Slowly lower them back down to the starting position.


Cues: Keep your abs pulled to your spine throughout the entire movement. Move slowly and with control.


Mistakes: Not keeping your abs pulled to your spine, moving too quickly or without control.


Exercise #4: Seated Russian Twist with Medicine Ball


How to do it: Sit on the floor with your knees bent, pull your abs to your spine, and lean back a few inches while keeping your back straight. Hold a medicine ball in front of you with both hands. From here, twist from side to side.


Cues: Keep your abs pulled to your spine throughout the entire movement. Go slowly and twist only as far as you can while keeping good form.


Mistakes: Not keeping your abs pulled to your spine, twisting too quickly or too far.


Exercise #5: Hanging Knee Raise


How to do it: Hang from a pull-up bar with your knees bent and feet together. Use your abs to raise your knees up towards your chest, then slowly lower them back to the starting position.


Cues: Keep your abs pulled to your spine throughout the entire movement. Move slowly and with control.


Mistakes: Not keeping your abs pulled to your spine, moving too quickly or without control.


Exercise #6: Scissor Kicks


How to do it: Lie on your back on the floor with your legs straight and your hands at your sides. Use your abs to raise your right leg up off the floor a few inches, then slowly lower it back down. As you lower your right leg, raise your left leg up. Continue alternating legs.


Cues: Keep your abs pulled to your spine throughout the entire movement. Move slowly and with control.


Mistakes: Not keeping your abs pulled to your spine, moving too quickly or without control.



The Best Advanced Ab Exercises


Exercise #1: Hollow Body Hold


How to do it: Lie on your back on the floor with your legs straight and your arms at your sides. Use your abs to curl your hips and shoulders off the floor, then reach your arms overhead. From here, hold this position.


Cues: Keep your abs pulled to your spine throughout the entire movement. Keep good form by not letting your lower back arch or your hips sag.


Mistakes: Not keeping your abs pulled to your spine, arching your back or letting your hips sag.


Exercise #2: Hanging Leg Raise


How to do it: Hang from a pull-up bar with your legs straight and your arms at your sides. Use your abs to raise your legs up towards your chest, then slowly lower them back down.


Cues: Keep your abs pulled to your spine throughout the entire movement. Move slowly and with control.


Mistakes: Not keeping your abs braced, moving too quickly, or without control.


Exercise #3: V-Sit


How to do it: Sit on the floor with your legs bent and your feet flat on the floor. Use your abs to lean back a few inches while keeping your back straight. From here, raise your legs up so that your body forms a V shape.


Cues: Brace your core, avoid rounding your back, and move slowly and with control.


Mistakes: Not keeping your abs pulled to your spine, moving too quickly or without control.


Exercise #4: L-Sit


How to do it: Sit on the floor with your legs bent and your heels touching the floor. Place your hands on the floor beside you. Use your abs to lean back a few inches while keeping your back straight, then raise your legs up and straighten them so that your body forms an L shape.


Cues: Avoid elevating your shoulders when lifting your body up, keep your core braced, and bend your knees if you have a hard time keeping them up when they're straightened. If you struggle with holding yourself up you can try using parallettes or two benches to elevate your body.


Mistakes: Not keeping your abs pulled to your spine, moving too quickly or without control.


Exercise #5: Cable Crunch


How to do it: Attach a rope handle to the low pulley of a cable machine and kneel down in front of it. Grasp the rope with your hands and place them behind your head. Use your abs to crunch down and forward, then return to the starting position.


Cues: Keep your abs pulled to your spine throughout the entire movement. Move slowly and with control.


Mistakes: Not keeping your abs pulled to your spine, moving too quickly or without control.


Exercise #6: Dragon Flag


How to do it: Lie on a bench or the floor (with a sturdy handle behind you) and grasp the bench or handle with both hands behind your head. Engage your core and with your legs straight, lift your body off the surface until you are at a 45-degree angle. Make sure your body is completely straight and only your shoulders are touching the surface. Slowly lower your body back to the starting position.


Cues: Toes should be pointed and your chin and elbows should be tucked. Lead the movement with your hips and engage your entire core and glutes. If the exercise is too difficult perform a variation with your knees bent.


Mistakes: Not engaging the core, bending at the hip, rounding the back, or allowing the lower back to touch the bench.


Summary

There are a variety of ab exercises that can be performed to target different muscle groups in the abdominals. The key is to focus on quality over quantity and to make sure you are using proper form. Remember to keep your abs engaged throughout the entire movement, and to move slowly and with control. Try incorporating some of these exercises into your next workout routine and see how they can help you build strength and sculpt your abs.


For a complete routine, check out our full-body training program to develop a strong body and aesthetic physique; you will benefit from one of our programs. We designed a program that gives you the tools to build muscle with an easy-to-follow routine that will fit any schedule. To find out more:


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