Your Best Abs: My Top Core Exercises

Who doesn’t want a tight and lean midsection? You see it plastered on the cover of every fitness magazine…”Get Flat Abs!” It takes consistency, discipline, hard work, and a great set of exercises!

Toned abs not only look amazing but they help aid and support almost every movement we do. Your entire core is made up of not only your “six-pack” abs, but your obliques, low back, hip flexors, and your deep abdominal muscles. Having a strong core will improve stability, balance, posture, and lower your risk of injury.

For your best abs, focus on overall core strengthening and training your abs from many different angles. There are hundreds of exercises, but here are my top choices that I incorporate into my workouts. I prefer to do a lot of supersets (doing two exercises back to back) as well as using resistance such as medicine balls, bands, etc. I try to keep my core workouts different and challenging. I like to switch the order and use different combinations to keep my abs progressing!

With every exercise and workout, preform these with the correct form and according to your fitness level. If you have a prior injury, modify (if necessary) and work up to a more advanced level when you are ready 🙂

Don’t forget the other pieces to the puzzle: CLEAN EATING and CARDIO! Abs are made in the gym, but revealed in the kitchen 😉

Hanging Leg Raises

One of the most difficult yet rewarding exercises! It is very easy for your quads/hip flexors to take over during this exercise; the key is to focus on engaging your entire core before raising your legs. Keeping your upper body relaxed and the rest of the your body still, slowly raise your legs until parallel to the ground. No swinging! I also will do these with my knees bent (a modification from the straight legs).

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Slider Knee Tucks

I LOVE this piece of fitness “equipment”! Okay…wanna know a secret?? They are actually furniture movers! Yes, I got them at Bed Bath and Beyond and they are a wonderful tool for core strengthening. Knee Tucks can be preformed with your feet on the ball as well, but I prefer them with the Sliders. (You may also try using towels on hardwood floors…!)

Start in a pushup position with a flat back and feet on the sliders. Engage your abs and slide your feet in towards your chest, focusing on crunching those abs. Slowly slide out to the beginning. Modification: Try doing them one leg at a time (alternating).

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Bench Hip Lifts

I love preforming hip lifts off of a bench rather than the floor; I get a better range of motion and can have more control. Lay flat and grab the bench behind your head and raise your legs to perpendicular to the ground. Tuck your abs in and raise your legs straight up off the bench. Try to avoid swinging your legs and raising them back towards your upper body. You can also try keeping your knees bent, turning this more into a reverse crunch.

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V-Ups

This is an advanced core exercise but one of my favorites! Start on your back with arms and legs extended. At the same time (takes balance ;)) sit up and reach your arms and legs together ( your body will form the letter V). With control, return to the starting position.

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Bicycle Crunches

This exercise will not only target your rectus abdominus (your “six-pack” abs) but will only strengthen your obliques from the twisting motion. Placing your hands behind your head for support, raise both legs parallel to the ground. Keep one leg extended while crunching the other knee towards your chest. Raise your shoulder blades off the ground and extend the opposite elbow to the knee. Hold for a count and then slowly switch sides. Be careful to not rush through this! Aim to bring your shoulder blades off the ground as your crunch up AND twist to that opposite knee.

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Seated Weighted Russian Twists

This is a great exercise to work your entire core, obliques, and low back. You can use any weighted object (medicine ball, dumbbell, etc.) Focus on keeping your back straight, chest out, and your hips still. Twist the weight side to side and concentrate on tucking in your abs and engaging your obliques. The twisting motion should come from your abs and not your upper body. You can make this easier by keeping your feet on the ground.

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Elevated Side Plank Raises

These always leave my obliques nice and sore! I like using a small box or step in order to get a larger range of motion. Stabilize with your forearm under your shoulder and feet apart (not stacked). Raise your hips off the ground as high as you can while keeping your body in a straight line. Lower your hips all the way to the ground before repeating. Modifications: Begin in a modified side plank, balancing on stacked knees (Photo 1). As you get stronger, balance on your forearm and feet with legs fully extended (Photo 2).

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Plank (with knee tucks):

The PLANK is one of the BEST exercises for core conditioning! There are many variations to this (like the knee tucks). The plank will strengthen your entire core! The basic plank starts with your body straight and resting your weight on your forearms. While keeping your elbows under your shoulders, slowly lift your hips off the floor and balance on your toes and forearms. Keep your feet shoulder width apart and your neck in a neutral position. It is very important to keep your body in a straight line; avoid letting your hips raise up or sink too low. Be consciously engaging your core muscles and drawing in your abs towards your spine. Once you are stable, drive one knee into your chest, actively crunching your core but without rotating or lifting your hips. In a controlled manner, continue alternating sides. You may also try adding in leg lifts, arm lifts, etc…lots of possibilities!

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High Plank Birddog

This exercise will strengthen your deep abdominals (transverse muscles), low back, and even shoulders while working balance and coordination as well! (This is an advanced version of the standard Birddog exercise, where you are stable on your knees instead of your feet). Get into a “high plank” position, stabilizing with straight arms, legs extended and your body is in straight line. Focus on keeping your hands under your chest and not dropping/raising your hips. Contract your core, and slowly extend opposite arm and leg until parallel to the ground. Be careful to not rotate your hips to either side and hold for a count before slowly switching sides. IMG_1389 IMG_1390

Prone Cobras

This exercise will help strengthen your low back muscles. Strengthening your low back is important, as it can help prevent injury and create balance between your abdominal muscles. Prone means facing down; extend your body with straight arms and legs on the floor. In a controlled manner, lift your chest off the mat (it is okay if your legs come off the ground a bit). Keep your head looking down and your neck in a neutral position.

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