Who doesn’t like to flaunt six-pack abs? Whether it’s at a beach or through a well-fitted T-shirt, a chiselled body sure gets a lot of attention. However, that is not the sole reason why you should aim to build six-pack abs. You may not realise it, but your core strength impacts everything you do. Whether you’re lifting heavy or running long distances, a strong core is key in preventing injuries as it keeps your surrounding muscles as well as internal organs safe. And the easiest way to strengthen your core is through an abs workout.
When we say ab exercises, the first mental image that pops in our head is crunches. However, ab workouts go way beyond crunches and simple sit-ups. There are loads of variations that you can include in your routine to fire up your core. And the best part about core exercises is that they require minimal-to-no equipment, meaning that you can actually do them right at your home.
That being said, before you actually start working out, there are a couple of aspects you need to keep in mind to ensure that you make the most of your time and effort. First, one is that there are in all four major muscle groups that make the abs, and you need to target all of them to sculpt rock-hard six-pack abs. These four muscle groups are external obliques, internal obliques, rectus abdominis and transversus abdominis.
Another thing you need to understand is that having visible abs and having a strong core are two different things. Whether your abs are visible or not depends on a couple of things such as genetics, diet, hormones, etc. With that out of the way, let’s dive into the seven best abs workouts that can strengthen your core.
List of Best Abs Workouts
Here are some of the best ab exercises that you can do right at home:
Regardless of whether you are on the beginner, intermediate or advanced level, planks are arguably one of the best ab workouts any individual can opt for. Contrary to sit-ups and crunches, planks do not add extra tension to your back and work on your transverse abs. Additionally, planks work not only on your core but also shoulders, back, glutes and quads, making them one of the most effective upper body workouts.
Additionally, planks help improve your core strength and flexibility and improve posture. The best part about planks is that they are extremely easy to modify. So if you are finding regular planks too simple, you can opt for variations such as wrestler planks, planks with knee taps or plank up-downs.
To perform the perfect plank, first, get into the starting position of a push-up. Then, lower down onto your forearms so that your elbows are directly under your shoulder and your body forms a straight line from the shoulders to the ankle. Ensure that you flatten your lower back and support your weight with your toes and forearms.
Mountain climbers are another great abs workout that is a bang for the buck. One of the best ab exercises for beginners, these are a great choice when you want to boost the intensity of your workouts and work on your rectus abdominis. Similar to planks, this workout also targets multiple muscle groups, like the abs, hip flexors and shoulders.
Since mountain climbers also double as a cardio exercise, they improve your heart health while also burning those extra calories which are necessary to unveil the abs. Mountain climbers too, have a plethora of variations, which you could turn to if you get bored of the regular one.
Even though mountain climbers are a high-intensity exercise, they are extremely easy to perform. Start in a high-plank position, with your wrists under the shoulders and your core engaged. Bring the right knee in toward the chest and then return to the starting position. Repeat the same with your left knee. Increase your speed gradually, alternating each knee as fast as possible.
When it comes to workouts that offer the most significant stimulus to both the obliques and abs, bicycle crunches are your best bet. This exercise primarily targets the rectus abdominis muscle while also strengthening the obliques, giving them definition.
A major aspect that you need to keep in mind while performing bicycle crunches is that you must do the reps slowly and steadily. Moreover, while doing this exercise, make sure you are not leading with the neck and not arching your lower back, which are some of the most common mistakes.
To begin, lie down on the floor with your lower back firmly pressed to the ground. Extend your legs just above the floor, keeping your hands behind your head. Use the strength of your abdominals to lift your shoulder blades off the floor. While pulling the leg towards your head, touch the right elbow to your left knee. Repeat the same for the other leg, and keep contracting your ab muscles constantly.
For individuals looking for an abs workout that challenges their entire core, the hollow hold or hollow rock is a great one. A hollow hold, also known as a hollow body hold, is a staple of gymnastics conditioning and can be extremely testing when performed correctly. However, that does not mean that beginners shouldn’t perform it. In fact, if you are a beginner and struggling with a hollow body hold, you can modify it by changing your arm or leg position.
This is one of the best workouts you can do at home which targets the transverse abdominis, rectus abdominis, inner thighs, hip flexors, quadriceps and internal as well as external obliques.
Perform the perfect hollow hold by lying down on your back and extending your arms overhead, with legs straightened and toes pointed. Tighten your core and raise your feet, legs and shoulders off the ground, with your lower back flat on the ground. You can add a progressive overload by extending the hold duration for 15 seconds first and then 30 seconds, and so on.
Leg raises are one of the most basic yet effective abs workouts anyone can opt for. They help you to not only tone your abs but also improve the strength and flexibility of your hips and lower back which is beneficial for everyone, especially individuals who work sedentary jobs.
Unlike regular crunches, leg raises work on your lower abdominal muscles, which are particularly difficult to tone. Leg raises also tone your thighs by working on the abductors that run along the inner thighs. You can do this ab workout at home easily, and the only equipment you require is a yoga mat.
To perform this ab workout, lie down on the mat with your legs as straight as possible. Raise one leg slowly until it is exactly vertical and then lower it back gently with control. Repeat the same for the other leg in a slow and controlled manner while keeping your abs constantly contracted.
Flutter kicks, also known as the scissor kick move, are one of the most effective intermediate ab workouts which target the muscles of your core, specifically the lower abdominal muscles, hip flexors and quadriceps. These are low-impact exercises and are known to hit your abs from multiple angles, helping you build a rock-solid midsection.
The benefits of performing flutter kicks perfectly include loosening up of tight hips, strengthening legs, improving posture and reducing back pain, to name a few. Not only this but they also double up as a cardio exercise, helping you shed calories.
Although there are quite a few variations available, the basic one can be done by lying down on your back and raising your legs at least 15 centimetres above ground level. Lift one leg and then the other in a flutter motion, keeping the reps slow and controlled. You can modify the set duration from 15 to 30 seconds and so on, depending on your level.
If you want to strengthen and completely tone your core, it is crucial that you include an abs exercise that targets your obliques. This is where side planks come into the picture. Since side planks are a unilateral exercise (i.e., they work on one side of the body at a time), they make the target muscles work double-time as they have to support the weight of your entire body.
Not only are they one of the best obliques exercises, but they also work on your hips and shoulders simultaneously, eliminating any strength imbalances. Additionally, side planks are major spine stabilizers, thereby reducing any risk of back injury.
To make the most of this exercise, it is necessary that you get your form spot on. Start in a low plank position with your elbows directly under the shoulders. Keeping your core and glutes engaged, shift the entire body weight onto your right elbow, roll over to the right side of your right leg and keep your left leg over it. Ensure that your legs form a straight line. Repeat the above step for the other side as well.
What are the Benefits of Ab Workouts?
Sure, being able to flaunt six-pack abs is nice, but abdominal strength means much more than that.
Once you start incorporating ab workouts regularly into your routine and strengthen your core, the benefits automatically translate into sports performance as well as daily life. Here are some of the benefits of ab workouts:
Prevents Lower Back Pain
Performing ab workouts with the correct form helps improve mobility and strength in the hips and back. Not only does it help you prevent back pain, but it also plays a major part in relieving aches.
In this day and age, when a sedentary lifestyle is becoming far more common, working towards a neutral stance and good posture is all the more important. A strong core supports your spine, thereby ensuring that you maintain a neutral posture.
Better Sports Performance
It’s an absolute given that all sports use the midsection of your body for stabilization and action. And so, it’s only natural that a stronger core will help you outperform your opponents.
Slimmer and Firmer Waistline
When combined with a good diet, ab workouts can actually help reduce your body fat and waistline. And a reduced waistline works wonders for that shoulder-to-waist ratio, which further improves the overall aesthetics of our body.
What are the Dos and Don’ts of Ab Workouts?
Contrary to popular opinion, ab workouts need not be too complex nor boring. Striking the perfect balance is critical to ensure that you are able to enjoy your workouts. To help you achieve this, we have curated a list of dos and don’ts for ab exercises:
If crunches or sit-ups have become too simple for you or are not providing the required contraction, mix it up with some other options like side planks or flutter kicks. You can even include a Pilates or Yoga class in the middle of the week to keep it a mixed bag.
Don’t be afraid to modify basic exercises to match your fitness level. Any exercise can be adjusted to a variation that challenges you. For example, a plank can be modified into a plank up and down.
Focusing on the form is key to getting the best of every exercise. This way, not only will you make the most of your workouts, but also be able to perform slow and controlled reps, adding progressive overload gradually.
As the saying goes, “Abs are built in the kitchen,” you must ensure that nutrition doesn’t take a back seat. Include foods like green vegetables, lean meat, fruits, etc., to have a balanced diet in addition to working hard at the gym (or home).
With that, we have come to the end of our blog. We hope it helped you understand how some of the most basic yet effective ab workouts can give you sculpt rock-hard abs. The best thing about all of these exercises is that they can be done at your home using little to no equipment. For more such home workouts and diet tips, sign up to CultFit right away!