You want 6-pack abs.

Or maybe you just want to go from squishy to strong. The point is, you’re tired of all the fluff talk out there promising that eating “this”, taking “that”, or doing crunches alone will give you the body you’ve always dreamt about.

This is why we’ve compiled a list of the top 14 exercises that specifically target abdominal muscles and the surrounding muscles needed in order to help give you a stronger core.

Check out the list below and incorporate them into your weekly workout routine for some intense, ab-sculpting exercises.  

1. Pull-up

    • Why: This seems strange, right? When you think about pull-ups, chances are you’re thinking about strengthening your arm muscles and back (which you are), but it also takes a considerable amount of strength from your core. When you pull yourself up, your core naturally will tighten, helping to keep your body straight instead of swinging from side to side.
    • How:
      1. Firmly grasp the bar with palms facing outward. Your grip should be slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
      2. Bend your legs and cross your feet. Squeeze your glutes and abs tightly as you brace to pull yourself up.
      3. Pull yourself up to collarbone level, then slowly return back to starting position.
      4. This can be made easier by using an exercise band (see photo).

2. Medicine Ball Slam

    • Why: This exercise will feel like your arms are doing most of the work, but when performed properly, it’s an intense, ab-burning, exercise that makes use of your core.
    • How:
      1. Grab a medicine ball or slam ball and raise it above your head. Make sure your posture is tall and not hunched.
      2. Without dropping down into a squat, take the medicine ball and throw it as hard as you can downward towards the ground. Keep your core tight when throwing the ball. Your knees should only bend slightly.
      3. Pick up the medicine ball or slam ball and repeat. Bend at your knees and not with your back to prevent pulling any back muscles.

3. Pallof Press

    • Why: You probably haven’t heard of this exercise before, but if 6-pack abs are what you’re aiming for, you’re going to want to add this exercise to your list. This exercise helps make sure your core is strong to help prevent your upper body from moving.
    • How:
      1. There are two ways to perform this exercise; either with a D-handle attached to a cable cross machine (see photo) or with a resistance band.
      2. If using the D-handle, adjust the pulley to chest height.
      3. Stand about 2 feet away from the machine, holding the handle.
      4. Push the handle away from your chest, towards the machine, while keeping your core engaged. Return the D-handle back to your chest without moving your body.

6. The Pendulum

    • Why: Imagine the arms of a ticking clock, or a pendulum (hence the name). The swinging back and forth should be exactly what your legs imitate. And if you think this is an easy ab workout, we challenge you to give it a try for yourself and feel just how on-fire this workout will leave your abs.
    • How:
      1. Lie on your back, ensuring your back is flat against the floor.
      2. Raise your legs towards the ceiling until your legs are at a 90-degree angle at the hips (see photo).
      3. While keeping your legs straight, tilt them from side to side without your torso turning side-to-side.
      4. Your legs should almost touch the floor before bringing them back up to the center before switching sides.

7. Hanging leg raise (or lying leg raise)

    • Why: This is a great (and simple) exercise that can be done a variety of ways that all result in strengthening the abdominal muscles.
    • How:
      1. Step onto the dip, chin and leg raise machine. Resting your forearms against the pads. Your back should be flat against the backrest.
      2. Step off the standing platforms and let your feet dangle below you as you maintain holding yourself up by the forearm rests.
      3. You have the choice now to either bring your knees up to your chest or you can keep your legs straight and use your abdominals to bring them up to hip level (making sure they are straight the entire time) before lowering them and repeating the same move.
      4. You can increase the level of difficulty by holding a weighted medicine ball between your knees for added weight.

8. Plank variations

    • Why: Plank is the new crunch! And if you don’t believe us, try holding yourself in a plank position and feel the burn for yourself!
    • How:
      1. Assume pushup position. Now hold it. Stomach sucked in. Back flat. Arms directly beneath your shoulders. That’s it, and yet it’s so challenging!
      2. Alternative position: You can also do this same move but with your forearms flat against the floor. Make sure your back stays flat. Your spine is aligned and not drooping and that your feet and arms are about hip and shoulder width apart.
      3. Are you a fan of planks but looking for an extra ab-sculpting challenge? Try sideways planks!

9. Woodchop

    • Why: The twisting motion of this exercise alone will burn away fat and help chisel that toned and tight tummy area!
    • How:
      1. Grab a weighted medicine ball and hold it in front of you.
      2. Twist your body to one side while simultaneously raising the medicine ball up and to the side of your head.
      3. Twist to the opposite side of your body, while swinging the medicine ball downward, towards your opposite side knee.
      4. This motion should resemble something close to an axe chopping down a tree.

10. Swiss ball pike

    • Why: This move will help strengthen your arms, hips, shoulders, and pecs while also targeting your abs (although you may feel it the most in your lower abdominals).
    • How:
      1. Grab a stability/exercise ball and place it on the mat or floor next to you.
      2. Position yourself in a pushup position but with your calves and feet/toes balanced on top of the stability ball.
      3. Carefully, bring the stability ball towards your upper body using the strength of your core and the added assist of your legs.
      4. Once the top half of your body is in a vertical position (or as close to vertical as it can get), let the stability ball roll back to its original starting position.

11. Toe Touchers

    • Why: This may be the closest thing to crunches that’s listed here. However, it’s not a crunch – it’s way better.
    • How:
      1. Lie on your back with your arms at your side and your legs extended in front of you.
      2. Simultaneously lift your straight legs towards the ceiling with your arms reaching towards your toes. Your abs should be in a contracted state.
      3. Release your arms and legs back to the ground (make sure they come down together) and repeat.

12. Dead Bug

    • Why: Don’t let the name fool you, this exercise is more than lying on the ground imitating a dead insect. Add this move into your workout routine and your abs will be
    • How:
      1. Lie flat on your back against a workout mat.
      2. Raise your knees up so that they are at a 90-degree angle.
      3. Raise your arms straight towards the ceiling, palms facing away from your face.
      4. Straighten one of your legs all the way out without quite touching the floor. At the same time, lower the opposite arm behind your ahead.
      5. Return to starting position. Switch opposite arms and legs. Repeat.

13. Dumbbell Side Bend

    • Why: This move will do some serious sculpting for your side obliques!
    • How:
      1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Hold a dumbbell at your side (tip: heavier weight for men, lighter weight for women*).
      2. Lower the dumbbell by bending to your side. Creating a side crunch type movement.
      3. Ensure that your back stays straight and that your body stays stationary.
      4. Once you’ve completed your desired reps. Switch sides.

*This movement builds muscles on the side of the body. If you’re a female who does not want the chiseled square-like shape that men achieve from this exercise, use a lighter weight to help maintain that curvy, hourglass shape.

14. Dragon Flag

    • Why: This ab exercise is tough, intense, and one of the moves that will build and sculpt your mid-section for that 6-pack summertime look. Note: This move is a bit advanced, so if you feel like you may be pushing yourself too far with this one, try some of the other exercises first before building up to the Dragon Flag workout.
    • How:
      1. Lie flat on your back on a workout bench.
      2. Reach your hands up over your head and grab a hold of the bench. Make sure you have a firm and tight grip against the back of the bench.
      3. Keeping your body straight, raise your knees up to your chest and push out or kick towards the ceiling until your legs are straight above your head.
      4. Very slowly lower your straightened legs back to the starting position.