From a performance standpoint, the abs are key in supporting an athlete in all forms of fitness. The core is central (literally) to your body's ability to do most things that require balance and stability, as well as playing an important role in injury prevention in your lower back. There is also the aesthetic aspect of the way the abs look. Many people want their abs to pop out when their stomach is exposed, which means there has to be muscular development.
We're going to help you get in great ab workouts at home by showing you a variety of exercises that can be performed with basic equipment or your own body weight. Whether you have plenty of time or need to finish that ab workout quickly, we have the workout for you.
This home ab workout will be basic, but effective. If you perform 3-4 sets of 20 reps each with one minute of rest between sets, you can be finished in around 20 minutes. All you need for this is open space and a mat if it will make you more comfortable.
Straight-Leg Sit-up: 3-4 sets of 20 reps
- Lie on your back with your legs flat on the floor. Make sure you have an arch in your back while you're on the floor.
- Stretch your arms out in front of you. Sit up as quickly as you can and lift your arms at the same time. You should be sitting completely up at the top of the exercise and your arms should be pointing toward the ceiling.
- Lower yourself slowly back to the lying position.
Tip: If this is too difficult, try crossing your arms over your chest instead.
Lying Leg Raise: 3-4 sets of 20 reps
This movement will shift the focus to the lower abdominals.
- Lie flat on your back with your legs flat on the floor.
- Position your arms either out to the sides or under the small of your back. Contract your abs to lift your legs up until they are pointed toward the ceiling. Don't allow your hips to come up.
- Once you reach the top position, slowly lower your legs until they are about to touch the floor again. Stop an inch or two short of touching and lift your legs again for the next rep.
Side Plank Hip Dip: 3-4 sets of 20 reps
- Assume a side plank position with your weight on your forearm. Your elbow should be directly beneath your shoulder and your legs should be straight.
- Keep your non-working arm on your hip. Slowly lower your hips as low as you safely can without losing balance.
- Contract your obliques and lift your hips back up again.
- Once you complete all reps on one side, switch to the other side and repeat.
Exercises with Basic Equipment
Having equipment to work out with can be beneficial, but you don't need a full-scale gym to train your abs. Basic items such as an ab wheel, exercise ball, and a few dumbbells can take your home ab workouts to the next level. If you feel the basic bodyweight exercises aren't enough, then add these to your routine for even more benefits. You can perform a circuit of these three exercises for 4 rounds of 15 reps each. Rest for one minute between rounds.
Exercise Ball Crunch: 4 sets of 15 reps
Before you start this exercise, make sure you're using a ball that works for your height. Someone who is shorter won't be able to perform this correctly with a large ball, while larger people may not be able to safely work on a smaller ball. If you're sitting on the ball and your legs are at a 90-degree angle, you're good to go.
- Lie on an exercise ball with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
- Lower your head and shoulders as far back as you safely can to stretch the abs.
- Contract your abs to slowly lift your upper body up to about a 45-degree angle. You shouldn't be sitting completely up at the top.
Ab Wheel Roll-out: 4 sets of 15 reps
- Get into a kneeling position and hold the handles of an ab wheel with both hands.
- Place the wheel on the floor while maintaining your hold. Your arms should be straight under your shoulders.
- Pull your abs toward your spine to engage your core, then roll the wheel forward as far as you safely can without your torso touching the floor.
- Once you've reached that position, contract your abs to pull the wheel back to your starting position.
Dumbbell Side Bend: 4 sets of 15 reps
- Stand straight and tall with your feet shoulder-width apart and a dumbbell in one hand, down at your side.
- Place the non-working hand on your hip or oblique. Lower the dumbbell down your side as far as you safely can in order to stretch the oblique.
- Once you feel that stretch, bring the dumbbell up and lean the opposite way to contract the oblique.
- Return to the starting position and repeat. Once you finish all of the reps on one side, place the dumbbell in the other hand and repeat for the same number of reps.
Doing a set number of reps is a great approach to ab workouts, but you can also perform any combination of these movements for time instead. Set a timer for 30, 60, or even 90 seconds and see how many reps you can do with proper form. Allow yourself the same amount of time to rest before doing another set. Perform two such sets with any three exercises here, and your abs will be worked thoroughly and effectively.
For more great ab training exercises and tips, check out our Ab Training Guide, which includes movements and workouts for all fitness levels.