10 Best Ab Workouts

Building a flat stomach is not just about concentrating on the diet. Although eating healthily is indispensable, in order to obtain a perfectly toned stomach and even work towards the ‘six-pack’, doing the best ab workouts is essential.

There are numerous articles available online, all indicating that they have the perfect routine for the abdominal muscles. It’s true that some of these are highly effective, but many others are just part of the latest ‘fad’ and may have minimal effect.

Sun Tzu wrote in The Art of War, “Know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result.” This article will arm you with that knowledge. It will explain how the abs work and the benefits of obtaining a toned and tight stomach. We will provide the best ab workouts, with or without equipment, to help you win the battle.

What Are the Abs?

Understanding the abs, or abdominal muscles is essential to ensure that your workouts are targeting every one of the four main muscles in this area. Concentrating too hard on one muscle and neglecting the others can prevent you from achieving that perfectly flat stomach and/or ‘washboard’ look.

The abdominal muscles are:

Rectus Abdominis

The longest and most prominent of the abdominal muscles, the rectus abdominis is most frequently referred to as ‘the abs’. The rectus abdominis extends from the pubic bone upwards to the rib cage.

This muscle contains one vertical and three horizontal tendons, which make up the well-known ‘six-pack’ appearance. It is responsible for the frontal and sideways movement of the body, from the pelvis to the ribs.

Transversus Abdominis

The deepest layer of abdominal muscle. It provides strength to the trunk and spine, also assisting with the breathing mechanism.

External Oblique

These muscles are located on either side of the rectus abdominis. They allow the body to both twists and bend sideways.

Internal Oblique

Found below the externals, the internal oblique muscles connect the lowest ribs through to the lower back. This allows the spine to flex and bend.

What Are the Benefits of the Best Ab Workouts?

Working out the abdominal muscles is not simply about gaining a tight and toned appearance, although this is a natural result of an effective workout regime.

Ensuring that your entire core is strong has numerous additional benefits which go much further than aesthetic beauty.

Protects Against Lower Back Pain

Improving abdominal strength by doing the best ab workouts can not only prevent spine issues but has also been shown to alleviate pain in individuals suffering from chronic lower back pain.

Boosts Sporting Performance

Many sports involve the unleashing of power through the limbs (football, boxing, tennis, soccer, etc.).

In order for this to happen, the body requires a strong core to stabilize the trunk and allow efficient transfer of energy. The stronger the abdominal muscles, the more power can be exerted.

Improves Balance and Posture

Having a powerful core through the best ab workouts ensures that the spine is stabilized, whether playing a sport, walking or just going through your normal daily routine.

Weak abdominal muscles can cause the body to tilt forward, placing stress on the back and increasing its curvature. This can result in bad posture and increase the likelihood of spine issues.

Improves Breathing

Whether for sporting enhancement or just to improve everyday life, strengthening the abdominals can result in more efficient breathing.

Protects Against Disease

Studies have shown that executing the best ab workouts properly, along with other forms of resistance exercise, reduce the risk of inflammatory related diseases.

Health issues, such as cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, can be life-threatening. Working the abdominal muscles can help prevent these problems from taking hold.

The Best Ab Workouts Without Weights or Equipment

If lack of time makes it impractical to go to the gym, or you do not possess any equipment at home, you can still effectively work and strengthen the abdominal muscles.

Here is a complete workout which doesn’t require any additional equipment at all.

Hollow Body Hold

A powerful exercise that is taught to gymnasts on their entry into the sport, making it a perfect beginning to the workout.

  1. Lie flat on your back, arms by your side and pull the abdominals down towards the floor.
  2. Raise the head, shoulders and straight legs from the floor. Arms should also be raised but kept horizontal, pointing towards the feet. The only part of the body touching the ground should be the lower back and pelvis.
  3. The lowest position that the arms, head, and legs can be held in the optimum position for strength gain.
  4. Hold this position for 60 seconds. Rest for 3 minutes, then repeat.

There is another variant where the arms are stretched out behind the head and raised, instead of by the sides.

This exercise improves abdominal strength and increases torso flexibility.


Next on our list of best ab workouts is the plank. One of the most popular core-strengthening exercises, it targets a wide range of muscles. There are many variations, but the traditional plank remains one of the best.

  1. Starting from a kneeling position, lean forward and support your upper body on your forearms. Your elbows should be located directly below your shoulders.
  2. Ensure that your arms are at a 90-degree angle.
  3. Take your feet back individually and support the rest of your body on bent toes.
  4. At this stage, the only points of contact between you and the floor are your forearms and toes.
  5. Ensure that your back is horizontal and straight if viewed from the side.
  6. Hold for one minute. Rest for 4 minutes, then repeat.

When doing this exercise, do not look forward; keep the eyes focused on the floor instead. To begin, try and aim to hold the position for at least one minute, then increase. The world record is eight hours.

The plank exercises the rectus abdominis, transversus abdominis, internal and external obliques and the gluteus muscles.


A classic exercise but not one without controversy. It is sometimes suggested that this exercise can cause issues by compressing the discs in the spine. However, if done correctly, it is very safe and effective in promoting abdominal strength.

  1. Lie on your back, knees raised and your feet on the floor.
  2. Ensure that your feet are pressed flat to the ground, either by a friend or under a piece of furniture.
  3. Place your hands on your ears as if you are trying to drown out noise.
  4. Using your abdominal muscles, pull your torso slowly upwards towards your knees.
  5. Keeping the abs tight, gently lower yourself down again and repeat.
  6. Start with 12 repetitions daily, then increase by two reps per day.

There is one key element to concentrate on in this exercise. Always raise and lower yourself through the use of your abdominal muscles, not by creating a rocking movement.

Not only will this ensure that the abs are being worked hard, it can prevent against any spine issues.

Leg Raise

One of the best ab workouts which can work all the muscles in the abdomen.

  1. Lay flat on your back with arms by your side and legs extended.
  2. Push down with your arms for support.
  3. Keeping legs straight, slowly raise them until they are at right angles to the floor (or as close to it as you can achieve).
  4. Slowly lower down again, all the time keeping the abdominals tight, controlling the descent of the legs to the floor. Do not just let them drop.
  5. Start with 20 repetitions. Rest for 5 minutes, then complete another set of 20 reps.

This is an exercise where slower is better. Aim for around 8-10 seconds for raising and the same for lowering.

Reverse Crunch

A variant on the traditional crunch, the reverse is an excellent strengthening exercise if you have fairly good flexibility.

  1. Lie on the floor, legs extended and your arms by your side, palms down.
  2. Raise your legs so that the thighs are at right angles to the floor, calves parallel to the ground. Looking from the side, you would appear like a doorstep.
  3. From this starting position, raise your hips off the floor and pull your knees upwards towards your head.
  4. Once knees are directly above your face, hold for 5 seconds.
  5. Lower legs back to the starting position.
  6. Repeat ten times.

To obtain maximum benefit from this exercise, ensure you work at a slow speed and control in the holding position.

The Best Ab Workouts With Weights and Equipment

Using the above workout without weights will vastly improve abdominal tone and strength. However, if obtaining a clearly defined ‘six-pack’ is the aim, using additional equipment can push your muscles much harder.

Here are the best ab workouts that will provide heavy resistance on the muscles, leading to sizeable gain.

Pull-Up Bar Circles

This exercise uses a pull-up bar which should be high enough off the ground so that when you’re hanging from it, your feet do not touch the floor.

  1. Hang from a pull-up bar with arms both extended and parallel.
  2. Keeping the feet together and legs straight, create circles in the air directly in front of you.
  3. Slowly make one circle clockwise, then another anti-clockwise.
  4. Repeat eight times.

This exercise places a lot of stress on both the rectus abdominis and obliques.

Ab Rolls

A fun but also highly effective exercise that uses a normal ab roller.

  1. Using a floor mat, kneel down on the floor.
  2. The knees should be below the hips but not touching each other.
  3. Hold onto the ab roller.
  4. From the kneeling position, push directly forward on the ab roller until you are almost horizontal, but without touching any upper body on the ground.
  5. Slowly roll back to the kneeling position, using your abdominal muscles for power.
  6. Repeat this exercise, rolling forward to the right, then to the left, and finally back to the front roll again.
  7. Repeat eight times.

This is another important exercise for working the oblique muscles.

Russian Twists

The appeal of this exercise is that it can be completed with or without equipment. What’s more, increasing the ‘load’ can be an individual decision, based on your own capability and stage of training.

  1. Sit on the floor, legs bent at the knees and feet firmly planted, either by a friend or under equipment.
  2. For the ‘loaded’ version, hold a weight or medicine ball between your hands (alternatively complete without weights if you desire).
  3. Lean back slightly to put pressure on the abdominals. You should be looking for your torso and thighs making a ‘v’ shape.
  4. Extend both arms forward so they are perpendicular to the chest.
  5. Slowly twist the upper body to the right until your arms are parallel to the floor.
  6. Hold for 2 seconds and then return back to the starting position.
  7. Repeat on the left side.
  8. Repeat eight times.

Using weights, this is a hard but effective exercise. Try to aim for eight reps to begin. If you cannot achieve this number, reduce the weight load. This exercise enhances the obliques, transversus and rectus abdominis.

Exercise Ball Pull

One of the most difficult in our list of best ab workouts, it requires excellent balance.

  1. Start with your shins resting on an exercise ball. The rest of your body should be supported off the floor by your arms, in the fully extended push-up position.
  2. Slowly pull your knees in towards your chest, the back remaining straight at all times.
  3. As you pull your knees, the ball will roll down to your toes.
  4. Hold for 5 seconds.
  5. Roll back the ball by extending your legs.
  6. Repeat 10 times.

This exercise does not just strengthen the rectus abdominis through the ball pulls. The obliques are also worked hard as your body fights against gravity to remain balanced on the ball itself.

Barbell Seated Twists

A good final ‘warm-down’ exercise for the abdominals that is not difficult but will still work the four main core muscles.

  1. Commence by sitting on the end of a bench, feet flat on the floor, about shoulder width apart.
  2. Starting with the barbell safely on your thighs, grip with both hands, palms downwards.
  3. Raise the barbell above your head until arms are in the fully extended position.
  4. Slowly lower the bar behind your neck so it is resting across your shoulders and lower neck.
  5. Slowly twist to the right, but only as far as is comfortable. Hold this position for two seconds and then return to center your body.
  6. In the same manner, twist to the left side and return.
  7. Repeat 10 times.

Increasing weights on the barbell as you advance will increase the resistance on the oblique muscles.

Best Ab Workouts Conclusion

The best ab workouts are an extremely productive way of toning, strengthening and enhancing the four main abdominal muscles.

Not only are these workouts effective, they also improve body shape, confidence and overall appearance. What’s more, they will improve posture, prevent spine issues and enhance sporting ability.

With the two workouts included above, either with or without equipment, you will see positive results in just a few weeks.

Take it steady, increase repetitions or weight resistance when able, and the benefits will soon come.