Once you master this beginner ab workout, challenge your core even more with these intermediate and advanced exercises as well.

By Cara Kagan
Updated April 15, 2020
Credit: JGI/Tom Grill

A strong core acts as the foundation to help you crush every other workout, not to mention prevent lower back pain. Start with this beginner ab workout, then work your way up to challenge your abs in new and increasingly intense ways.

How it works: Three to five times a week, add these beginner ab workout moves, designed by Tom Seabourne, Ph.D., a personal trainer and karate expert, to your usual exercise routine. (Need some inspiration? This is what a perfectly balanced week of workouts looks like.) Once the beginner ab workout moves start to feel easy, progress to intermediate, then advanced.

What you’ll need: A yoga mat, two sturdy chairs, a resistance band, and a stability ball.

Beginner Ab Workout Moves

Butterfly Crunch


Targets rectus abdominis 

A. Lie on your back with the soles of your feet together as close to your body as possible, with knees bent out to sides. 

B. Place hands behind your head, elbows in line with ears. 

C. Keeping back flat on the floor and stomach muscles contracted, exhale and curl your chest up a few inches off the floor toward your legs. 

D. Lower to start.

Do 10 reps.

Side to Side


Targets obliques

A. Lie on your back, knees bent and feet flat on the floor, with your arms at your sides. 

B. Exhale and engage your core as you slide your right hand toward your right foot. (Your head and neck should remain aligned and your lower back pressed to the floor.)

C. Return to start, then switch sides and repeat the beginner ab workout move. 

Do 15 reps.

Front Plank


Targets transverse abdominals

A. Start on your hands and knees. 

B. Keeping your back and ab muscles contracted, drop down to your forearms while extending legs out behind you so you are resting on the balls of your feet. (Be sure to keep your back straight, hips up, and neck relaxed—check out more on perfect plank form here.) 

C. Hold for 3 seconds, then return to start. 

Do 10 reps.

Intermediate Ab Workout Moves

Fingers to Toes


Targets rectus abdominis

A. Lie on your back with your legs straight and extended toward the ceiling, with arms down by your sides.

B. Keeping your back flat on the floor, exhale and contract your abs as you crunch up from your waist and extend your hands toward your toes. 

Do 2 sets of 15 reps.



Targets obliques

A. Lie on your back with your fingers resting behind your head. 

B. Keeping your abdominals tight, raise your left knee and touch it to your right elbow. 

C. Return to start, then raise your right knee and touch it to your left elbow. 

D. Alternate for 15 reps in a smooth, continuous motion, keeping abs engaged and hands relaxed so you don't pull on your neck. (Related: The Complete Guide to Abs Muscle Anatomy)

Do 2 sets of 15 reps. 

Reverse Crunch with Resistance Bands


Targets transverse abdominals

A. Lie on your back with your knees bent, arms down by your sides, holding one end of a resistance band in each hand, with the band wrapped around tops of shins. 

B. Raise your knees toward your chest until your hips leave the floor. 

C. Hold for 3 seconds; lower to start. 

Do 2 sets of 10 reps.

Advanced Ab Workout Moves



Targets rectus abdominis

A. Brace yourself between the backrests of two sturdy chairs, keeping elbows slightly bent, shoulders down, neck relaxed, head and chest lifted. 

B. Keeping your abs tight, exhale and then very slowly bring your knees to your chest without swinging back and forth. 

If this is too difficult, consider modifying by starting in the same position, then slowly raising right knee to chest, then left knee to chest. Continue alternating for indicated number of reps.

Do 3 sets of 15 reps.

Leg Swings


Targets obliques

A. Lie on your back with arms out to sides, legs and feet pointing up. 

B. Exhale and draw navel in toward the spine as you lower your legs to the left side about 5 inches from the floor. 

C. Return to start and repeat on the right side. 

Do 3 sets of 15 reps per side.

Ball Leg Lift


Targets transverse abdominals

A. Lie facedown on a stability ball and roll forward until your hands are on the floor and just the tops of your feet are flat on ball. (Related: The Exercise Ball Workout Moves for Your Whole Body)

B. Keeping your back and right leg straight, slowly lift leg a couple of inches toward the ceiling. 

C. Hold for 3 seconds, then lower. 

Do 10 reps per side.