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What’s the Most Effective Ab Exercise? 5 Exercises You Need to Do

Looking to take your core workouts to the next level? These are five fantastic ab exercises you need to do.

Core workouts are an essential component of any fitness regimen. When looking to improve your overall strength and endurance, factoring a few core workouts into your weekly routine will keep you on track. You may be familiar with some of the better-known ab exercises like crunches and planks, but this helpful article will familiarize you with some lesser-known essentials that will up your ab workout game and get you well on the way to achieving your fitness goals.

1. Russian Twists

The Russian twist is a powerful ab exercise that also benefits your hips and shoulders. If you’re looking to melt some fat off your middle, working your core using Russian twists is a great move. 

To perform a Russian twist, sit on the ground with your legs elevated. Then, with your hands interlocked in the center of your chest, rotate your torso back and forth, keeping your legs off the ground. The movement takes coordination and balance, and it can take a bit to get used to it. 

For an additional challenge, try holding a medicine ball while performing Russian twists. The addition of weight to the exercise provides more resistance and can keep your progress going after you have mastered the initial exercise. Starting out, stick to just doing Russian twists as a bodyweight exercise. Adding weight too soon can leave you discouraged and overly sore. As with any other form of working out, upping the intensity in increments can help keep you on track.

Whereas some core exercises are isolated and solely target your abs, Russian twists will also boost your hip and shoulder strength. Exercises that work multiple muscle groups are called compound exercises. Compound exercises are great because they serve multiple purposes in your workout routine. When you are looking to target your abs while also benefiting in other areas, Russian twists are a perfect choice. 

2. Side Bends

This ab exercise requires use of a dumbbell, kettlebell or other form of weight. It’s excellent for solely targeting your abs – it’s an isolated exercise. Weighted exercises may require a bit of equipment, but they’re a powerful asset to include in your ab workouts. As with weighted Russian twists, side bends can be adjusted for more resistance.

When doing a side bend, keep your back straight, tilting your shoulder down to engage your abs. You should feel a significant amount of resistance in your side. If you’re not feeling it, try increasing the weight.

It’s essential to increase your weight for side bends in slow increments, making sure that you have mastered a certain level of weight before you go up. Overdoing the weight too early in your training can leave you with inordinate soreness – and no one wants that. Moving up in slow increments means your body will have time to adjust to the strain you are putting on it. 

Typically, side bends are done with a dumbbell. However, if you have a kettlebell at home and prefer to use it instead of going out and buying a new piece of equipment, it will suffice. The key is to have a means of increasing your weight after a certain point. One of the best ways to do this is using an adjustable dumbbell. Adjustable dumbbells allow you to add and remove weight when needed. Investing in an adjustable dumbbell set can be a major help when trying to build a minimal home gym setup. If you are on a budget and trying to avoid a gym membership, these dumbbells can save you money and space. 

3. Hanging Leg Raises

This ab exercise is quite a challenge, but it’s extremely rewarding in the long run. If you’re at the gym, you can perform hanging leg raises using a pull-up bar, using the bar to hold yourself up off the ground. If you’re trying to do hanging leg raises at home, all you need is an elevated surface that can support you. Leg raises can be done with your hands over your head or with them supporting you at hip level. What matters is keeping your body off the ground, supported by your arms. 

Hanging leg raises are another compound exercise that targets your abs. They’ll also boost your upper and lower body strength and endurance. Leg raises engage your abs as you lift your legs using only core strength. Since your body is elevated off the ground, getting your legs up to chest level is challenging. 

Once you get to a point where you’ve mastered bodyweight hanging leg raises, you can add weight to the exercise for extra resistance. Weighted hanging leg raises can be done by holding a dumbbell between your legs while performing the exercise. As with any other form of exercise, be sure to give yourself enough time doing the bodyweight version of hanging leg raises before you add weight. Once you’re ready, you can add weight in small increments. Don’t overestimate the challenge with this particular exercise – weighted hanging leg raises are not for the faint of heart! However, their benefits are huge.

4. (Side) Planks

Side planks will strengthen your core, but also benefit your back and arms. This variation of the classic plank involves supporting yourself on one arm, propping yourself off the ground to engage your core. In addition, if you struggle with back pain, performing side planks can be a major help. This is because side planks engage and strengthen your back, particularly back muscles play a key role in giving your back the support it needs to be pain-free. 

Including both standard planks and side planks in your ab workouts will ensure that you reap the full benefits of this exercise. Planks are an isometric exercise, meaning they involve contracting your muscles and holding them in a contracted position for an extended period of time. Combining multiple isometric exercises, like standard planks and side planks, in a workout will ensure that you strengthen multiple muscles. Isometric exercises are often more isolated, so putting them together in a workout ensures that you cover as much ground as possible. 

If you are looking for an additional challenge, try adding weighted planks to add to your workout. This variation of the standard plank involves putting a weight, usually a barbell weight, on your back while planking. This exercise can also be performed by wearing a weight belt during a plank. 

5. Bicycle Crunches

A powerful variation of one of the most well-known ab exercises, the bicycle crunch involves lifting one leg and leaning into it in a standard “crunch” motion. This form of the crunch specifically targets your obliques and lower abs and can play a key role in your ab workout routine. 

Variations of the crunch can be implemented into your workout to specifically target different ab muscles. Standard crunches are a very isolated exercise, specifically targeting your abdominal muscles and not working other surrounding muscle groups. However, bicycle crunches can also improve your overall flexibility by engaging your body in a farther-stretching motion. 

Why work your abs?

Even if you don’t have aspirations to get a six-pack, core workouts are still essential for anyone trying to up their strength, endurance and overall physical health. A strong core will support your other workouts, giving you the stability and the strength you need to build muscle by working the other muscle groups in your body. 

Make the most of your ab workouts

To get the maximum amount of benefits from working out your abs, make sure to pair diligent working out with a solid diet regimen. Exercising plays a major role in keeping you healthy and building up your strength, but it’s only half the battle. If you want to make major changes to your body composition and physique, you need to make sure you’re eating a good combination of healthy sources of carbs, fat and protein. 

Pairing a nutrient-dense diet with a well-constructed workout routine is a surefire way to see major improvements in your health and physique. It’s important to know that when it comes to six-pack abs, body composition has just as much to do with your results as working out does. In order to see your core muscles, you need to have a low enough body fat percentage. 

A key step in getting your body composition to a point where your abs will show is eating well. This means limiting sugar, refined carbohydrates, and junk food and prioritizing whole, unprocessed foods. When you make real food the center of your diet, you’ll gradually see major changes in your physique. When you combine a good diet with your ab workouts, you’re on track to see great results as time goes by. Remember to keep challenging yourself, upping the intensity of your workouts as you progress. The journey to a strong, ripped core is tough, but it’s well worth the hard work!