The Best Abs Exercises from Every Type of Workout
Score a Rock-Solid Core
Confused whether Pilates, yoga, kickboxing, CrossFit, or something else entirely is the best way to work your core? That's probably because they all include some amazing abs-toning exercises. Combine the best from every discipline to strengthen and chisel from every angle for a truly hard-core workout.
How it works: Do a 3- to 5 minute dynamic warmup. Complete each pair of exercises back-to-back with little to no rest between, then repeat the pair for a second set. Rest 30 to 60 seconds, and move on to the next pair, again performing two sets. (You can also add any of these exercises to your own routine.)
You’ll need: Yoga mat, kettlebell (5 to 15 pounds, depending on your level)
1A: Bob and Weave
Though it’s usually used in kickboxing to maneuver around an opponent’s punch, the bob and weave move is also a killer way to work your obliques and abdominal wall (in addition to your legs and back)—all while keeping your heart rate up for a greater calorie burn.
How to: Stand with feet wider than hips, shift weight into left leg, and lift right heel with arms "on guard" (elbows bent in front of ribs, hands in fists at chest level). Quickly bob and weave from right to left by lowering into a low squat, tracing a letter U with upper body from the left to the right. Immediately repeat to opposite side, keeping abs pulled into spine the entire time. Do 10 quick alternating reps.
1B: Front Kick
When done correctly, a front kick in kickboxing isn't just a great move to sculpt powerful legs and fend off attackers, it's also an effective way to synergistically work important core muscles like your abdominals, back, and hips.
How to: From a split stance with left foot forward and arms on guard, shift weight into left leg and bring right leg into a chamber (bending right knee up toward chest). Quickly extend leg, exhaling forcefully through mouth while kicking out from hip and leaning torso back slightly, pushing out through ball of foot. Return leg to chamber, then step right foot back into left split stance (arms remain on guard the entire time). Do 10 quick reps; repeat on the opposite side.
2A: Curl and Cross
Great for developing strong, pulled-in, flat abs, the curl and cross combo often found in barre classes will definitely make you feel the burn!
How to: Lie faceup with knees bent and feet flat on the floor hip-width apart. Inhale through nose. Keeping chin relaxed on chest and eyes straight ahead, exhale as you slowly curl upper back off the floor, drawing navel deep into spine and holding onto backs of thighs with hands. With shoulder blades lifted off floor and middle back pressed down, bring body up an inch closer to legs. Lower back an inch. That’s one rep. Do 20 quick reps then move into the cross curl by turning shoulders toward left leg and moving both hands to outside of left thigh. Repeat inching movement for 20 reps to the left, then 20 reps to the right.
Another barre exercise, pretzel is a killer core strengthener because it works the glutes, lower back, and obliques together, which forces you to use your abs to balance.
How to: Sit with right leg bent at about a 90-degree angle in front of body and left leg bent at 90 degrees behind you. Reach arms toward the floor in front of right leg, shifting weight slightly forward, lining up chest over right leg, and keeping spine naturally straight and abs engaged. Lift left leg off the floor as high as possible without moving torso, and bring hands to prayer, pressing palms together and shoulders down to hips. Pulse left leg up an inch or two higher, then back down an inch or two without touching the ground 20 times. Repeat on opposite side. (Too challenging? Keep hands on the ground during the movement instead of bringing palms to prayer.)
If you've ever attempted crow arm balance before, you know how much your abs (especially the lower region) have to work to keep your body up in this yoga posture. If you've never tried it, start off with the set-up version and then gradually advance into the full pose.
How to: Lower into a deep squat with knees wider than hips. Lean forward and place hands on the floor about shoulder-width apart, elbows bent. Round back and engage abs by pulling them into spine as inner thighs squeeze sides of torso, shifting weight into arms and lifting up onto balls of feet. Hold pose here if needed, with toes lightly on the floor, or try lifting feet completely, pointing toes, drawing heels close to tailbone, and balancing on arms for up to 1 minute.
RELATED: Step-by-Step Breakdown: Crow Pose
3B: Half Moon
It may not look like your traditional abs exercise, but half moon will have your core muscles working like crazy to help keep you from falling over during this balancing yoga pose.
How to: From standing, fold forward, placing hands on the ground beneath shoulders. Keeping soft knees, transfer weight into right foot, then lift left leg high behind you. Keep right fingertips on the ground, open left hip on top of right, and turn torso to the left. Extend left arm straight up and look up toward left fingers. (If it's too tough to find your balance at first, try placing a yoga block under the supporting hand to make this pose a little easier to master while building strength and flexibility.) Hold for up to 1 minute; repeat on the opposite side.
4A: Mermaid Side Plank
While all of Pilates is centered on the core, the mermaid side plank in particular does an amazing job of working your abs from every angle.
How to: Begin in a side plank position with right hand directly under shoulder, left arm extended to the ceiling over shoulder, left leg crossed over right, and edges of feet pressed into the floor. Engage abs and press away from the floor with right side of body. Inhale and look up to left hand. On exhale, reach left arm under and behind body, bracing abs in tight to spine, lifting hips up (body resembles an upside-down letter V), and pivoting on balls of feet. Return to the starting position. Do 6 reps; repeat on the opposite side.
The signature Pilates teaser is so much harder than it looks, so be patient. Don’t forget to use your breath to maximize your abdominal strength and control with every rep.
How to: Lie faceup with knees bent at a 90-degree angle over hips, arms extended by ears, abs drawn into spine, and ribcage flat (avoid letting ribs pop open with arms overhead). Inhale and begin to roll up through spine, lifting head and shoulders off the floor, reaching fingertips toward feet as legs extend straight and lower about 10 degrees toward the floor. Exhale and draw abdominals in deeper to spine to continue rolling up, lowering legs a little further, until body is in a full V-sit position, balancing on sitz bones. Hold for 1 count. Reverse movement to lower back to the starting position with control. Do 6 to 8 reps. (Make it more challenging by starting with legs extended straight on the floor and rolling up into the full V-sit from there.)
5A: Que Te Mueve
This oblique-targeting, hip-swiveling Zumba move's name means "what moves you."
How to: Stand with feet together, arms by sides. Take a wide step to the right, pivoting on feet to turn right toes out and lift left heel off the floor as hips swivel left and arms swing to the left of shoulders with elbows bent and hands in fists. Quickly step left foot into right, turning hips back to front and swinging arms to the right. Take two quick steps to the right, then immediately reverse to the left. Repeat for at least 30 seconds.
5B: Merengue Out and In
Keep bumping up your heart rate without any impact on your joints while continuing to work your obliques with this simple and fun merengue out and in Zumba step.
How to: Stand with feet together, arms by sides. Shift weight into left leg as right foot steps out to side slightly wider than hips, pushing left hip back as right hip rotates slightly forward and left arm swings in front of body and right arm back with elbows bent. Immediately step left foot out to repeat the movement. Repeat again with right foot, this time stepping foot in, doing the same with the left until feet are back together. Move quickly to an out-out-in-in rhythm, keeping weight toward balls of feet to make it easier to shift side to side at a fast tempo. Repeat for at least 30 seconds.
The very nature of kettlebell training typically engages your abs with almost every move, and the windmill is killer for your obliques, cinching in your waist.
How to: Stand with feet slightly wider than hips, left toes slight turned out and right toes turned to the right, knees slightly bent. Holding a kettlebell in left hand with bell behind hand, extend left arm to the ceiling, keeping wrist straight. Engage abs and reach right hand to inside of right thigh, looking up to kettlebell, shifting weight into left leg. Hinge at hips, lowering torso as right arm slides down to inside of right calf or ankle, extending left arm in line over shoulder. Press back up through left side of torso to return to the starting position. Do 6 to 8 reps; repeat on opposite side.
6B: Turkish Get-Up
A functional kettlebell move, the turkish get-up is a popular one because of how effective it is, engaging your entire body while working your core during every second of the move.
How to: Lie faceup with legs extended and hold a kettlebell above chest with a straight right arm. Extend left arm out to side and bend right leg so foot is flat on the floor. Engage abs and use left hand to sit up while keeping right arm extended overhead. Push hips off the ground using right leg and left arm, and quickly swing left leg under body to end in a kneeling position with right foot forward and left knee on the ground. Still holding right arm overhead, stand up, quickly stepping left foot about hip width from right. Stand tall while holding weight in extended arm. Reverse the move and return to the starting position. Do 3 reps; repeat on opposite side.
7A: Hollow Rock
The hollow rock may sound innocent enough, but don’t be fooled—it's a dynamic core CrossFit exercise that will have your abdominal wall working overtime.
How to: Lie faceup with arms extended overhead by sides of ears and legs pressed together and extended out straight at about a 45-degree angle from hips. Engage abs and lift head and shoulders off the floor, bringing body into a slight C curve. Gently rock forward, maintaining curve, lowering legs closer to (but not touching) the ground, then rock back toward shoulders, keeping head slightly off the floor (arms remain extended by ears and legs extended the entire time). Do 8 to 10 reps.
We know you love to hate burpees (we do too), but they are not only super effective for sculpting your abs, these CrossFit staples burn a lot of calories to help blast off fat faster so you can see the results of your hard work sooner.
How to: Stand with feet hip-width apart, arms by sides. Squat and place hands on the ground under shoulders. Keeping abs tight to spine, jump feet back into plank position and immediately lower into a pushup. Extend arms back to plank and jump feet back into hands, landing in squat position. Quickly jump straight up, reaching arms to the ceiling. Do 5 to 10 reps as quickly as possible with good form.