Get the most out of your workouts by targeting your abs with the right exercises. Check out our list of the top 10 abs workouts to find the perfect routine for you.
Before engaging in any ab workout, it is important to warm up your body in order to avoid injury. A warm-up can consist of light cardio such as a quick jog or jump rope, some dynamic stretching, or a few bodyweight exercises such as squats or lunges. Warm-up exercises should be tailored to the specific ab exercises that you will be doing. A proper warm-up routine will help to prepare your body and make the workout more effective.
Light cardio exercises
Light cardio exercises are great for increasing circulation, burning calories and warming up the muscles prior to core-focused exercise. Examples of light cardio exercises include brisk walking, jogging, cycling or swimming. At least five minutes of light cardio should be done before beginning any core workout in order to prepare your body for the more vigorous exercise and help you avoid muscle strain. If you’re doing more vigorous forms of cardio like running or cycling, you can reduce your warm-up time to three minutes. Additionally, these light aerobic exercises can be used as a between-set cooldown after intense ab workouts.
Dynamic stretching is a form of stretching that involves movements that take your body through a full range of motion. This type of stretching should be done as a warm-up prior to engaging in an exercise regimen. It is an effective way to increase flexibility, enhance performance and reduce the risk of injury for both beginner and advanced athletes.
Dynamic stretches are designed to prepare the body for the activity ahead by loosening your muscles and mobilizing joints. They work on improving the range of motion around the joints, while activating muscle groups which will be used during the activity you are preparing for. Common dynamic stretches include lateral shoulder raises, walking lunges, glute bridges, arm circles, leg swings with band resistance, skipping and high knees. All of these dynamic stretches help to increase blood flow and oxygen delivery to muscles which can further enhance performance capability.
It’s important to realize that dynamic stretching should only be part of your pre-workout warm-up routine; it is not intended to provide the same level of stretching as static stretching does for recovery post-workout. The main goal is to prepare the body for an exercise routine by increasing core body temperature, heart rate and respiration rate as well as preparing muscles and joints for movement while simultaneously activating muscle groups that will used during your workout session.
Core exercises are an essential part of any ab workout. Core exercises help to strengthen the muscles of the abdominals and back, which can help you gain a stronger midsection. This section will dive into some of the most effective core exercises to do for abs. We will discuss how to do each one, the benefits of each one, and the proper form to do them in.
Crunches are one of the most effective core exercises out there and many fitness experts consider them the go-to ab exercise. This bodyweight exercise targets both the upper and lower abdomen, giving you a very effective toning workout and helping you sculpt your midsection.
When performing crunches, you should get into a comfortable position by lying flat on your back on an exercise mat. From there, start with a basic crunch, slowly using your core muscles to lift your torso off the floor until your torso is at a 45 degree angle compared to the floor. Always keep your abdominal muscles tight throughout this move. After performing that full crunch, slowly lower yourself down again until you are lying back flat on the mat. A good range of motion for each crunch rep is about 8-12 inches off the floor — if it’s too hard or too easy for you, feel free to adjust as needed.
In addition to traditional crunches, there are several variations of this move that can help engage different parts of your core while also providing additional challenge as needed — try reverse crunches, alternating crunches (switching sides every couple of reps), or other popular variations to mix things up!
Planking is a core exercise that works all the muscles in the trunk and abdomen, including the rectus abdominis, obliques, transverse abdominis, and the lower back muscles. It requires strength, stability and balance. When executed correctly, planking can help you strengthen your core muscles and improve your balance.
To perform a plank exercise, lie face down on an elevated surface with your feet on the ground. Your forearms should be bent 90 degrees so that you are supported with your weight resting on your forearms and toes. Activate your glutes, abs and quads as if performing an abdominal crunch followed by exhaling deeply while keeping tension in those muscles. Hold this position for 30 to 60 seconds while maintaining good body form before relaxing in reverse order starting at the spine to prevent a compensated posture under stress. Remember to breathe during this workout as it helps maintain tension in your core while enabling you to hold it longer with correct form.
Abdominal V-Ups provide a great core workout. This exercise builds abdominal strength and works both your upper and lower abs. To do the V-Up, start by lying flat on your back on your mat with your arms outstretched above your head. From here, raise both of your legs off the ground to create a “V” shape with your body and press your arms down into the mat as you lift up. Enjoy the full workout as you lower and raise your legs, keeping them slightly bent in between reps to ensure a greater range of motion. For greater intensity, you can further challenge yourself by doing twisting variations or weighted V-Ups with a medicine ball or weights. Explosive power is needed for maximum gains within this exercise so focus on speed to work those abdominal muscles!
Lower Ab Exercises
Lower abdominal exercises are a great way to target the hard-to-reach muscles that help define your core. Doing effective lower ab exercises can help you improve your posture and strength, as well as help you reduce the risk of injuries. Lower ab exercises also help with balance, coordination, and stability. Let’s look at some of the best lower ab exercises you can do.
Leg raises are an effective and highly beneficial ab exercise that help tone and strengthen the core, particularly your lower abs. Lie on your back on the ground with your hands either crossed over your chest or placed on either side of you for stability, with your legs together and pointing straight up in the air. Peel away from the ground by engaging your abs, keeping control as you lower both of your legs to just above the floor while maintaining a straight line of movement. Hold this position for a few seconds before exhaling as you raise both legs back up to the starting position. Make sure to keep these movements slow and controlled in order to maximize muscle engagement. Perform 3 sets of 12-15 reps at a comfortable pace for best results.
Reverse crunches are a staple in any lower ab workout routine. This exercise can be performed by lying on your back, with your hands resting next to your body, and bringing both knees up towards your chest. As you lift your legs up, brace the core and imagine curling the lower back off the floor. If desired, you can add a light weight in between the feet while performing the reverse crunches for an added challenge. Reverse crunches target the abdominal muscles from every angle and are excellent for targeting those hard to reach lower abs. Be sure to keep breathing throughout this movement for best results!
Bicycle crunches are a great core exercise that targets both your upper and lower abs, while also engaging your obliques. To do the move, begin by lying flat on the floor with your lower back pressed against the ground. Place your hands lightly behind your head and bring your knees up to a 90-degree angle. Next, twist slowly alternate bringing one elbow to the opposite knee as you straighten out the other leg away from you. Continue alternating legs in a slow and controlled manner for 15-20 reps for two sets. By engaging both sides of your core simultaneously, bicycle crunches can help to strengthen and tone the muscles in this area of your body.
Upper Ab Exercises
If you want to build and tone your upper abs, you need to focus on specific exercises that target these muscle groups. Upper ab exercises can help you get the most out of your workouts and see results. This heading will focus on upper ab exercises that you can include in your workout routines. We will talk about the different exercises available and the benefits of each one.
Hanging Leg Raises
Hanging leg raises are a great exercise for targeting the upper abs, as well as the coronary muscles of the lower abs. To begin, use an overhead bar or pull up bar. Grip the bar firmly with an overhand grip so your hands are slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Keep your body straight and engaged and then with a tight core, lift both of your legs until they are perpendicular to your body. Slowly lower down to start position and repeat for one to three sets of 10-15 reps per set.
You may also try to add a twist by slightly rotating your torso in different angles when performing the exercise. This variation further engages the upper abs muscles when you reach at full extension in each repetition. If this variation is too difficult for you, you can reduce the difficulty by keeping your legs less than 90 degrees from start position. It is important that you keep good form throughout each set in order to maximize your results and minimize injury risk.
Decline sit-ups, often referred to as decline crunch and reverse crunch, are great exercises for targeting the upper abdominal muscles. During the exercise, the head and shoulders are lifted away from the floor while the feet remain against a flat or elevated surface, such as a bench or stability ball. As you perform this motion, your abs will be lengthening as they contract and stretching your mid-section.
Decline sit-up exercise can vary in intensity depending on what angle you use for your feet. For instance, keeping your legs extended at an angle of 45 degrees requires more effort than simply pushing them perpendicular to the floor. For increased difficulty try using an inclined bench and placing a weight plate on your chest to increase resistance against gravity as you perform each movement. You can also use ankle weights if available to challenge yourself even further during decline sit-ups.
When done correctly, decline sit-ups can help strengthen your core and abdominals while toning muscles in the lower back if applied correctly. A proper form during decline sit-ups is essential for avoiding any possible injuries that may occur from incorrect movements or positioning. When performing this exercise start by lying flat on the bench with arms crossed over chest and interlacing fingers for support, keep chin close to chest throughout movement as you crunch up tensing abdominal muscles at peak of contraction then return back down slowly until shoulders touch floor again, be sure not to raise neck during motion but instead keep chin close to chest throughout entire range of motion for proper technique execution.
Seated Russian Twists
Seated Russian Twists are an effective exercise for toning and strengthening your upper abdominal muscles. This challenging move targets the obliques, which run along the sides of your abs and help to support the spine. To do this exercise correctly, sit up straight with your feet flat on the floor. Hold a weight or medicine ball in both hands in front of you. Slowly rotate from side to side as far as you can comfortably go—keeping your torso stationary—while holding onto the weight with both hands. Aim for 30 reps for 2-3 sets.
For best results, work out 3 times a week with at least one rest day between each session and make sure to properly warm up before starting exercise! Adding a good diet into your routine will help you achieve great results in addition to a regular workout regimen that includes seated Russian twists as part of your upper abdominal exercises.
A proper cool down after any workout is important to avoid injury. After a workout focused on abs, this is even more important. A cool down should include a few minutes of light aerobic exercise, such as walking, to help your body and heart rate to return to normal. Cool downs should also include stretching to optimize your range of motion and flexibility. Let’s take a closer look at cool downs and how they can help you get the most out of your workouts.
Light stretching is a great way to cool down after a workout, so you should incorporate some type of stretching routine into your post-exercise routine. Stretching can help lower tightness and soreness in the muscles as well as lead to improved circulation and flexibility throughout the body. To ease into it, start by doing some light static stretches for 15-20 seconds each on all major muscle groups that were worked in your ab workout. This may include stretches for your hamstrings, hip flexors, outer thighs, quads and abdominals. As you improve flexibility and range of motion over time, you can increase how long you hold each stretch if desired. Finish up with some dynamic mobility flows — moving your body in various exercises for 15-20 seconds — to flush out any remaining lactic acid from the workout and help relax muscles even further before returning to everyday activities!
Foam rolling is a great way to cool down after an intense abdominal workout, as it helps reduce muscle soreness and increases flexibility. Foam rolling also increases blood flow and circulation, allowing lactic acid buildup to be cleared from your muscles. When foam rolling the abdominals, you want to focus on the lines of tension that may exist in the core area and roll them out one by one. Begin with a smooth and slow back-and-forth rolling motion along each side of the body –– roll from lower abdomen to mid chest for best results. Keep your body relaxed at all times during this process and use deep, even pressure for maximum benefit. After foam rolling has been completed, use static stretches like Child’s Pose or supine torso twists to further calm your body down from the workout.
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