The Only Ab Exercises You Need
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These are the only ab exercises you need to do to develop 6-pack abs and balanced core strength.
Your abs have multiple layers of muscle. You want to make sure you work them all without wasting too much time doing more than necessary.
This quick yet effective 6-pack ab workout will show you how to get shredded abs with only 7 exercises.
Your abs are made of multiple layers of muscle starting with the rectus abdominus and the external obliques.
Under that layer, we find the internal obliques and, finally, further underneath we have the transverse abdominus.
Each layer of these muscles plays an important role in maintaining a flat and defined–looking midsection with nice abs.
For example, developing the rectus abdominus helps create blockier abs. Developing the transverse abdominus helps pull your stomach inward, which gives you that flat stomach look.
And the 7 ab exercises that I’m about to share with you are literally the only ab exercises you need to hit every muscle and develop perfect abs.
#1 Weighted declined sit-ups
The first ab exercise to start your workout with is the weighted declined sit-up. This is going to be one of the most important exercises for developing blocky abs.
We’re positioning it at the beginning because I really want you to push yourself to increase the weight that you use for this exercise over time.
Abs require progressive overload to grow, just like any other muscle in the body. So you’re going to select a weight that’s challenging for you to do 8-10 crunches with, on the decline.
Take a seat and hook your ankles underneath the pads. From there, you’re going to bring the weight behind your head and lower your upper body down until your shoulder blades touch the bench.
Sit back up to the starting position and repeat for reps.
If you don’t normally do decline sit-ups it’s important that you first build up your core strength by practicing this exercise without weights.
Once you’ve built up that core strength, I recommend taking a light dumbbell and getting stronger at crunching with it against your chest.
Finally, after becoming more efficient with that you can bring the weight behind your head which is the most challenging version of this exercise.
At that point, the goal is to slowly increase the weight over time which is something that most people forget about doing when it comes to abs.
By increasing the weight over time your ab blocks will become bulkier and more prominent, which helps increase visibility.
#2 Leg raises and pulse-ups
The next ab exercise is a leg raise in combination with a pulse-up. You’re going to use a dumbbell weight with this exercise.
Start laying down on the ground with your hands above your head holding something sturdy for support.
Close your feet around a dumbbell. From there you’re going to raise your legs and the dumbbell straight up until the dumbbell is pointed towards the ceiling.
Then really squeeze your core and push your hips up towards the ceiling for a pulse-up.
Slowly lower your hips back down to the ground, then lower your legs and the dumbbell almost to the floor.
But stop right before the dumbbell hits the floor and raise your legs again, repeating the entire process for reps.
Of course, when doing this with a dumbbell you have to be very careful. I’ve taught this exercise to many clients and I’ve never had anyone injure themselves.
But if you open your feet the weight will obviously drop down. So make sure you practice this exercise without a weight first.
Then, when starting to use weights, start light and work your way up. If you’re worried, ankle weights are also a great option.
#3 V sit-ups
With V sit-ups you can use a weight or you can go for a higher rep count, like 20 reps.
To use a weight you’ll need a medicine ball or a sandbag.
Begin by holding the medicine ball in your hands over your head, while lying flat on the ground with your legs extended out.
Raise your legs as you lift your upper body up at the same time. Your body should form what looks like a V-shape from the side.
At the top, you’re going to pass the ball from your hands to your feet.
Then lower back down to the starting position, with your hands above your head and your feet with the ball slightly above the floor.
Repeat the process, except this time after you sit up you’re going to pass the ball from your feet to your hands. And just keep repeating that back and forth for reps.
Remember that V sit-ups on their own are pretty challenging as it is. So if you can’t use a weight for this one it’s perfectly fine to just use your body weight.
#4 Forearm planks
Next, we’re going to Target that deep-layer abdominal muscle: the transverse abdominus.
Remember, this muscle is responsible for drawing your stomach inward and supporting your spine.
So, if you want a flat stomach you want to make sure that you’re doing exercises to strengthen this muscle.
One of the most basic yet effective exercises that can help us develop this muscle is the regular forearm plank. Performing this exercise is pretty straightforward.
Get down on all fours. Place your elbows on the ground directly under your shoulders. Then extend your legs out behind you and get up on your toes like you’re getting in a push-up position on your elbows.
Now you just hold it.
While holding that position do your best to keep your head, hips, and heels in a straight line. A very common mistake that can lead to a lower back injury is letting your hips sink downwards.
Don’t let them sink downwards and don’t let them come up either. Both incorrect forms will make the exercise less effective.
Once you can do this exercise for 45-60 seconds with good form, try to add weight.
Just place the weight between the top of your hips and your lower back. Then hold that position the exact same way.
#5 Oblique V sit-ups
Now for your obliques, one of the best exercises you can do using just your body weight is the oblique V sit-up.
Lay on your side with your body weight slightly shifted backward. Basically, you shouldn’t be fully on your side, laying on your hip bone.
Instead, you should be tilted a little backward, leaning more on your glute rather than directly on the side of your hip bone.
Your legs should be extended and the arm that’s closer to the ground should be extended straight out in front of you. This will help with balance as you do the exercise.
Your other hand should be behind your head in the same position that your hands would be for regular crunches. Refer to the above picture for proper form.
From there, raise your upper body and your legs off the ground at the same time.
Aim to bring your elbow in towards your legs and your legs towards your elbow.
Lower back down and repeat for reps. Do this on each side separately.
And even though you can hold a weight in your hand, for most people this exercise is challenging enough without any.
#6 Long arm crunches
The next one is a basic weighted floor crunch known as the long arm crunch.
Despite its simplicity, this is one of the best exercises you can do to develop your abs.
To set this one up you’re just going to grab a weight; I usually prefer to use a plate weight, but you can use a dumbbell as well.
Lay down on the ground and bend your knees to get into a regular crunch position.
Extend your arms straight out in front of you. Your hands, with the weight, should be pointing straight up towards the ceiling.
Sit up and drive the weight towards the ceiling as you come up.
Don’t make the common mistake of driving the weight forward, towards your knees.
That’ll actually help you sit-up, rather than create the resistance we’re looking for to develop the Abs.
Instead, concentrate on keeping it pointed straight up towards the ceiling the whole time throughout the movement as shown above.
Once you get to the top of the contraction, really squeeze your abs. Then slowly lower back down and repeat for reps.
This is an exercise with which I specifically like to do a drop set. Basically, I would do something like 10 reps with the weight, then drop the weight and do another 20 reps without a weight.
The whole time I’m focusing on keeping my hands pointed up towards the ceiling.
#7 Stability ball crunches
This is another great ab exercise that will hit multiple layers of muscles due to the stabilization component.
When starting out, you don’t even need a weight to find this exercise very challenging.
In fact, most people to whom I show this exercise will start to shake from a lack of stability just by getting into the starting position.
That shaking is normal; it’s just your stabilizer muscles working.
To get into this starting position, take a seat on the ball and walk forward until the ball is in the rounded part of your lower back.
Your upper hips should also be on the ball. But your shoulder blades shouldn’t be on the ball, unless you’re using a very large stability ball.
In this case, you may not want to be so high up the ball that you lose balance when you lower down for a crunch.
Once you’re in the correct starting position, put your hands behind your head. Then simply lower down and curve your spine around the ball.
Crunch up and squeeze intensely at the top. Then repeat for reps.
Keep in mind that the larger the stability ball the easier the exercise will be. And vice versa, the smaller the ball, the harder the exercise.
Also, it’s a very common mistake to extend the legs during each rep. By doing this you roll your hips back which will assist with completing the crunch.
So, do your best to keep your knees locked in that starting bent position rather than extending them.
#8 Bonus exercise – jackknives
So those are the only 7 exercises that you really need. One additional one that I would throw in as a high-rep exercise (20-40 reps) is jackknives.
This exercise is great to superset with one of the other weighted exercises I just went through.
You can do jackknives on the floor, but I recommend doing them on a bench.
This way you’ll get a better range of motion and you’ll be able to grip the bench helping with stabilization.
Take a seat on the bench and grab the bench with your hands behind your hips.
Straighten your legs in front of you as you lower your upper body down towards the bench.
Sit back up, bend your knees, and bring your upper body and your knees together. Then lower back down and repeat for reps.
#9 Workout setup recommendations
You can put all these ab exercises together into one gruelling ab workout, but it’s not necessary.
If you work your abs twice a week you can divide these in half between your workouts.
Here is an example of how I recommend combining these.
Start by completing 3 sets of weighted declined sit-ups.
Then do 3 sets of V sit-ups.
After those, do weighted leg raise pulse-ups.
Finally, do planks. And if you’re really advanced, you can superset each plank with jackknives until failure.
Specifically, after completing 45-60 seconds of planks move immediately to jackknives with no break in between.
Then take a break before moving back to planks and do that for three sets.
Start with weighted stability ball crunches for 3 sets.
Then do weighted long arm crunches for another 3 sets.
After that, do oblique V situps, for 3 sets on each side.
Finish off once again with planks. And again, it’s up to you if you want to superset those with jackknives or not.
As long as you use heavy weights on the weighted exercises, just 3 or 4 ab exercises per workout should be plenty to develop rock-hard abs.
That about wraps it up. I hope you guys enjoyed this article.
Now, remember that to get visible abs it’s not just about building the ab muscles themselves. You also have to consider the layer of fat that sits on top of your abs.
If you have too much body fat, it doesn’t matter how muscular your rectus abdominus is. Those abs aren’t going to show.
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My passion for fitness began when I was 14 years old. I naturally fell in love with training and haven’t stopped since. At 18 years I acquired my first personal training certification from ACE after which I opened my first of 3 transformation studios in 2011. I love to share my knowledge through personal training, my online courses, and youtube channel now with over 3,000,000 subscribers! I can happily say that we've helped over 15,000 people get in great shape over the years. I'm always here for my customers so if you need help don't hesitate to send your questions to email@example.com