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July 29, 2021 10 min read

When it comes to the most aesthetic muscles on the human body, it’s hard to compete with the stomach muscles.

Washboard abs are the pinnacle of fitness for many. Not only do they signify strength, but also the commitment to stay lean and cut. Further below, we’ve compiled a list of 15 of some of the best core exercises you can do to revamp your abs workouts and turn heads next beach day.

Why You Want Chiseled Abs

The most prominent abdominal muscle—and the one known as the six-pack—is called the rectus abdominis. It’s a long and flat muscle that goes from the pubis to the seventh rib, and it’s necessary for flexing the spinal column, bending, and stabilizing the trunk.

athletic man with six pack, perfect abs

And while a six-pack always looks good, there are other reasons why you might want to consider developing your core muscles as well. For example, developing the core will improve your posture and help prevent lower back pain. Most core exercises are also extremely functional movements.

This means there’s a lot of transfer to movements you do on a day-to-day basis, such as bending down or twisting. And if you lift weights, developing the core can also have carry-over effects to your other lifts, since it’s utilized so often.

1. Bicycle Crunch

We’re going to start off this list with a heavy hitter—the bicycle crunch. All the way back in 2001, the American Council on Exercise (ACE) sponsored a study looking for the best abs exercises out there. And what came out on top? The bicycle crunch.

It’s an intermediate version of the fundamental crunch movement, but it also places a greater emphasis on the obliques (sides) of your stomach. If done at a good pace, it’s also guaranteed to burn some calories and trim your waistline in the process. All in all, a terrific movement for getting the most out of your abs workout routine.

Begin by lying down on your back and bending your knees. Your feet should be on the floor and hip-width apart. Bring your hands behind your head and engage your abs, lifting your knees up to 90-degrees and raising your upper body off the floor.

This will be the starting position. Then, rotate your torso and bring your right elbow to your left knee while straightening your right leg at the same time. Pause and reverse the movement into the starting position. Continue with the opposite side.

2. Mountain Climbers

This is another great bodyweight ab exercise to increase your heart rate. So, not only will you be working your abdominals, but you’ll also be burning through fat and getting shredded. Although mountain climbers are a relatively simple, bodyweight exercise, they can also be very challenging with the results to back them up.

Get into the high plank position with your hands shoulder-width apart on the floor. Make sure your body is in a straight line and that your core is engaged. Then, pull your left knee as close to your chest as you’re able to. Reverse the movement and return to the starting position, before switching to the right leg.

3. Side Planks

This is a good exercise to do if you’re looking to avoid any unnecessary stress on your lower back and neck—this is an especially useful exercise for those who are pregnant because of this. The primary muscles worked are the obliques, the gluteus maximus, and the gluteus medius for hip stabilization purposes.

Along with carving out your core muscles, it’s a great way to develop balance and a better posture. Begin by lying on your side, with your legs extended and the top one stacked on the bottom leg. Your elbow should be supporting your weight, directly underneath your shoulder.

Try to ensure that your body is perfectly aligned, along with the arm on top. Initiate the hold by bracing your abdominal muscles, lifting your knees and hips off of the ground. Continue up until your body is in a straight line and hold the position—try for 60 seconds.

4. Russian Twists

This is a popular movement with athletes since it helps develop rotational movement in the core—a common movement in a lot of sports. But even if you’re not the sporty type, you can still benefit a lot by including the Russian twist into your core workouts.

Rather than working your body like sit-ups and crunches, it’ll challenge your body in the transverse plane. Begin by sitting down on the floor. Your feet should be flat on the ground in front of you, while your knees should be bent. Continue by leaning back, going far enough so you’re upper body is at a 45-degree angle to the ground.

This is how your back should remain throughout the entire movement. Bring both hands together in front of you. Engage your abdominal muscles and lift your legs up off the ground, then, rotate your arms all the way to one side—alternate sides.

5. Burpees

When it comes to burning calories and getting your heart rate up, burpees are some of the best exercises you can do. It’s a bodyweight, full-body exercise that’ll not only develop major muscle groups all across your body but also get you shredded. Expect to feel the burn in your shoulders, chest, quads, inner thighs, triceps, glutes, and of course: the abs.

Start with both feet planted shoulder-width apart, with your arms at your sides. Enter into a squat by pushing your hips back and bending your knees. Continue downward until you can place your hands on the ground in front of you, just inside your feet. Quickly jump your feet backward and enter into a plank position, ensuring that your body is in a straight line.

Bend your elbows and lower yourself down into a push-up until your chest almost touches the floor. Reverse the movement and push yourself back up onto your feet, jumping into the air at the end and reaching your arms above your head.

6. Kettlebell Swing

The kettlebell is an extremely useful piece of equipment to have in the gym, and the kettlebell swing makes full use of its benefits. This movement trains your explosive strength, helping you burn through fat when performed at a high intensity. However, this exercise is also rarely performed with perfect form, making it especially dangerous if using a heavy weight.

But stick to perfect form, and not only will you reap all of the benefits but also avoid injury. Standing shoulder-width apart, place a kettlebell in front of you, between your feet. Hinge at the hips and bend just slightly at the knees, grabbing onto the kettlebell handle as you do so.

Pull it backward, between your legs. This will give you momentum as you drive your hips forward while straightening your back. The kettlebell should swing up to shoulder height before coming back down between your legs.

7. Thrusters

Another full-body movement that’ll engage your shoulders, glutes, quads, and core, the thruster is also guaranteed to torch fat and get you shredded. Popular in CrossFit circles, the thruster has earned a reputation as “the most draining” of all exercises.

This is because it requires a full extension of the ankle, hip, knee, shoulder, and arm—coming from a full flexion. Involving all of the major muscle groups in the body, it’s sure to get your body beach-ready. Standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, grasp a barbell, also at shoulder-width. Your feet should be under the bar.

With an overhand grip, slowly bring the barbell up to your collarbone, with your elbows underneath it and facing forward. Enter into a deep squat before driving through your feet as you explosively stand up and push the barbell above your head.

8. Lying Dumbbell Extension

The dumbbell extension is normally known for its ability to target the triceps, but with a slight modification, you can also work your stomach area. You’ll want to choose a weight that you’re comfortable handling, and that you can hold above your head, while lying down, for an extended period of time.

Lying on your back, begin with knees bent into your chest and your arms holding a dumbbell, extended towards the ceiling. With your back pressed into the ground, extend your legs out until your knees are straight.

Similarly, move your arms behind your head until your biceps are by your ears. Keep your legs about a foot off the ground, and your arms out, for a few seconds before reversing the movement.

9. Dumbbell Flutter Kick

When you’re looking to specifically target the core area without worrying as much about working up a sweat, the flutter kick is the way to go. One great thing about this movement is that it works multiple areas of the core, including the lower abs and your back.

If you’re looking for six-pack abs that are as functional as they are good-looking, the dumbbell flutter kick is a must-have in your training routine. Similar to the lying dumbbell extension, you’ll want to begin by lying on your back on the floor. You’ll also need one dumbbell, held by both hands above your head.

Engage your abdominals and lift your upper body and legs, keeping them straight. With arms outstretched above you with the dumbbell, drive your lower back into the matt. Then, begin quickly moving your legs up and down—while the left leg goes down, the right leg goes up.

10. Tuck Jumps

Another fantastic plyometric exercise, tuck jumps build lower body and core strength while also developing your cardiovascular health. And if you’re doing them at a good pace, you can also push your body into the anaerobic zone, helping to develop your stamina and endurance.

Expect to feel the burn in your hamstrings, quads, glutes, and calves. Stand with your feet planted slightly narrower than shoulder-width apart. Hinge at the hips and bend your knees, going down into a quarter squat.

Pause at the bottom and then drive through your feet, extending your legs and hips. As you jump up into the air, try to tuck your knees up into your chest before landing and immediately going into another quarter squat.

11. Turkish Get-Up

Although complicated, the Turkish get-up is probably one of the most functional movements you can do. It includes twisting, pressing, a lot of core control, and every major muscle group in the body. It takes the very basic (and very essential) skill of getting up off the floor and makes it into a challenging exercise that is sure to trim belly fat and sculpt out your core.

athlete with strong abs is doing the exercise turkish get up with a kettlebell

Begin by lying on the floor, facing your left. Take a kettlebell in your left hand and lean it against the back of your wrist and hand (this is called racking the kettlebell). Lower your right arm down to your right side to keep you stable as you press the kettlebell up over the left shoulder.

The leg and arm supporting you should be at about a 45-degree angle. Roll onto your right elbow and straighten your arm, putting yourself in an upright position.

Engaging the core, bring the right hip off the ground while placing your right leg underneath you so that you’re in a kneeling position. Move your right leg forward, which should put you in a standing position, with the kettlebell still overhead. Reverse the movement.

12. Medicine Ball Slams

Not only do medicine ball slams hit pretty much every major muscle group in your body, but they’re also extremely fun to do. Considering the explosive power needed to perform them successfully, you’ll also be torching fat as you challenge and develop your six-pack muscles.

If you can, try to find a slam ball that’s designed just for this type of activity. Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart, knees and hips bent slightly. With a ball in your hands in front of you, go into a shallow squat before pressing through your heels and bouncing up, bringing the ball above your head.

As you come down, you want to slam the medicine ball straight down as powerfully as you can. Try to aim in between your feet to generate the maximum amount of force.

13. BOSU Ball Planks

The plank is a classic hold for those looking to strengthen their abdominal muscles. Planks activate a ton of muscles in your body, from your core to your arms and legs. Even when compared to classics like crunches and sit-ups, planks can engage more muscles while also being significantly easier on your spine and neck health.

The BOSU ball variation adds a lot more instability into this exercise, forcing your muscles to work harder and for your physique to reap more rewards. You’ll want to place the curved side of the BOSU ball on the floor, grasping the sides of it with your hands. Extend your legs straight out behind you while also keeping your arms straight. The straighter your body is, the better results you’ll get.

14. Bird Dog

The bird dog is a relatively simple, bodyweight exercise. While it’s great at strengthening the core—especially the abdominal muscles, glutes, lower back, and thighs—it’s necessary to do it with perfect form. In that case, perfect form also means doing it with intention, and slowly.

This can also be a safe exercise to do if you’re recovering from lower back pain and can’t do other exercises to strengthen this region. Get on your hands and knees, with your hands planted about shoulder-width apart. Brace your core and glutes. Take the right arm and extend it straight out in front of you.

Simultaneously, you’ll want to take the left leg and extend it straight out behind you. Ideally, you should form a perfectly straight line from your back leg to your front hand. Try to hold this for about 10 seconds before slowly returning to the starting position. Continue doing reps while you alternate sides.

15. Dumbbell Overhead Lunge

The overhead lunge primarily builds strength in the lower body—the quads and glutes. However, the difficulty of the movement is also going to get you working up a sweat, which is necessary for shaving off extra body fat.

With the added weight overhead, you’re also going to be challenging your core as your body struggles to remain stable and balanced throughout the movement. Take a dumbbell in one hand and raise it directly over your head, with your feet planted shoulder-width apart.

Let your knees stay slightly bent. Initiate the movement by stepping forward into a deep lunge, with your front knee remaining right over your forward foot. Drive your heel into the ground and return to the starting position, alternating sides.

Getting Shredded

The right ab exercises will help you build muscle and burn belly fat at the same time, building a strong core and flat belly. However, most of your fat loss and  six-pack shred is going to happen in the kitchen—not the gym.

While fats, proteins, and carbs are all important in a well-rounded diet, you will want to pay special attention to the types and amount of carbs you consume. Even a simple home workout routine with a good diet and cardio (or HIIT), will help you lose belly fat fast and get you the chiseled midsection of a Greek statue.