Any guy who lifts knows that exercises like the bench press, dip, and incline press are essential to building a big chest. Big biceps require curls, curls, and more curls. But what exercises get you closer to a solid six-pack?
There's more to building great abs than just dieting, taking supplements, and doing crunches—the best ab workouts for men focus on foundational exercises that help build a strong midsection. As with any other muscle, the abdominals have to be trained with various exercises that challenge you and build upon existing muscle.
If you're unsure of which exercises to start with, you've come to the right place. We're here to fill your training toolbox with our ten favorite ab exercises for men. Take three to four of these exercises and create your own routine or do them as a circuit of ten reps for a 100-rep, core-burning marathon.
10 Best Ab Workouts for Men
- Hanging leg raise
- Bird dog
- Lying windshield wipers / Hanging windshield wipers
- Weighted plate side bend
- Medicine ball slam
- Standing twist with medicine ball
- Pike to superman
- Seated knee tuck
- Bear crawl
- Dragon flag
1. Hanging Leg Raise
Looking to target the lower abs? Then you may want to try the hanging leg raise. As a bonus, this exercise promotes lower back strength by forcing you to keep a stable, upright position. The result can be stronger abs and a healthier back, which combine to form a solid core.
To perform this movement, hang from a pull-up bar or connect ab straps to the bar and place your upper arms inside the straps while holding on to the top of the straps with your hands. Keep your legs straight while they hang. Your feet shouldn't be touching the floor.
Suck in your stomach and keep a slight bend in the knee. Lift your legs by contracting your abs. Continue to lift until your feet or knees are slightly above your hips. Hold this position briefly before slowly lowering your legs back down. Repeat and try to keep yourself from swinging too much while you do these. The focus here is on maintaining slow, even control throughout the movement.
Expert tip: If you have access to a captain's chair, use it for this exercise to protect your back (a captain's chair forces you into an upright position by keeping your back straight and stable). If you need extra weight to make it more challenging, go with ankle weights or a dumbbell between the feet.
2. Bird Dog
A little yoga never hurt anyone, right? This exercise may be uncomfortable at first, but as you improve, you'll see your abs improving as well. You'll also improve flexibility and overall athleticism by making this a regular part of your routine.
Start on your hands and knees. Your shoulders should be over your hands and hips over your knees. Once you feel stable, simultaneously lift your right arm and left leg. Stretch the toes out as you take your leg back and turn your hand so that your palm is closer to you. Once you're completely stretched, pause for a count of three. Bring your extended limbs back to the starting position and repeat with the opposite arm and leg.
Expert tip: This exercise would be a great choice for a stretching session or as a finisher at the end of a hard workout. To up the burn, consider doing them after a run as well.
3. Lying/Hanging Windshield Wipers
The best ab workouts for men offer a range of difficulty, allowing you to challenge yourself once you feel able. That's what you get with the windshield wiper exercise. Beginners can start by doing these on the floor. Advanced athletes can swing from the same pullup bar they did the leg raises with.
- Lying version: Lie on the floor with your arms straight to the sides and legs straight. Lift your legs so they are perpendicular to your body. While keeping control, use your obliques to turn your hips from side to side. Keep your legs together and straight throughout the movement. Left, right, and back to the middle is one rep.
- Hanging version: Hang from a pull-up bar. Keep legs together. Engage the back and shoulders by slightly pulling yourself up. Lift your legs towards the bar. Using your obliques, turn your legs and hips side to side until they are parallel with the floor. Left, right, and back to the middle is one rep.
Expert tip: If you try to use ankle weights for more resistance, make sure you master the correct form on the floor before you take it to the bar.
4. Weighted Plate Side Bend
On a time crunch today? If you're looking to maximize your ab training, this exercise is for you. This version of the side bend will hit the obliques hard, and you can work on mastering your grip too. Try to perform this movement slowly for the best results.
Hold a weighted plate to your side while keeping your arm straight. Try not to use plates with grips on them unless that's all you have to work with.
Stand straight and tall with your stomach braced. Using your obliques, bend to the side holding the weight as far as you can without losing your grip on the plate or without touching the plate to the floor. Stop just short if you're using a large plate. Slowly lift yourself back up and bend slightly in the opposite direction to get a stretch on that side. Return to the starting position. That is one rep. Repeat for as many reps as you can until you reach your goal or lose grip of the plate, then switch hands.
Expert tip: If one weight plate doesn't offer the proper challenge, squeeze two small plates together in your hand. Two 10-pound plates can also hit the forearms hard.
5. Medicine Ball Slam
Have you ever been so mad that you just wanted to slam something as hard as you can? With the medicine ball slam, you do just that while also toning your abs. Perform this exercise correctly, and your entire upper body will reap the benefits.
Stand up with your knees slightly bent and hold a medicine ball with both hands on the sides. Lift the ball over your head with your arms stretched. Rise on your toes and contract your abs to slam the ball down to the ground as hard as you can. Make sure you're standing on a solid surface when you do this. We recommend using a medicine ball that bounces so that you can perform this exercise in a consistent motion. When the ball bounces, catch it and reset yourself to repeat another rep.
If you're using a medicine ball that doesn't bounce, simply pick the ball up off the ground after you throw it down, reset, and repeat another rep.
Expert tip: Try to get 100 slams as quickly as possible without completely exhausting yourself. From there, you can try to perform this number of reps in a faster time or use a heavier ball in the next session.
6. Standing Twist with Medicine Ball
The standing twist would be good to superset with the previous exercise, or you can perform this exercise on its own. Either way, this movement helps the obliques grow stronger.
Stand with a medicine ball in your hands at about chest height. Hold the ball out at arms' length while you're turning: Your arms will feel the burn as well. While keeping your hips stationary and your arms extended (facing parallel to the floor), rotate your upper body as far as you can while holding the medicine ball. Once you go as far as you safely can, return to the starting position and repeat in the other direction. Go both ways and back to the center count for one rep. If you feel that the medicine ball that you're using is too easy, use a heavier ball.
Expert tip: Try performing this exercise near a wall so that once you return to the center count (facing forward) you can throw the ball against the wall and catch it. Do this motion on both sides and you'll soon feel the burn all over: mainly in your biceps, triceps, shoulders, and abs.
7. Pike to Superman
Make sure you have an exercise ball handy for this movement. The pike superman is a tough one to master for some, but it helps you become more familiar with the motion of bracing your core to stabilize the body, which can transfer to other lifts as well.
Assume the top of a push-up position with your toes on the ball and your shoulders directly over your hands. Using your abs, roll the ball towards your arms and lift your hips. Your upper body should be vertical at the end. Slowly roll the ball back to the starting position without losing your balance and repeat.
Expert tip: This one is going to take some practice. Make sure the ball you use is the proper size. If it's too small, you won't be able to roll it far enough and one that's too big will be hard to keep your balance on.
8. Seated Knee Tuck
You've probably performed knee tucks before, but they may have been less effective than you liked because of how simple they were. Add a medicine ball or weight into the equation, and you have a whole new exercise. This exercise is great for people that want to target their lower abs, but also want to protect their lower back.
Sit on a bench with your hands bracing behind you. Hold the bench and straighten your legs so that your feet are off the floor. Lean your upper body back slightly so your body is in a straight line. Lean the upper body forward and pull your knees in while holding the weight so your abs contract. Return to the starting position and repeat.
Expert tip: If you want more of a challenge, hold a dumbbell between your feet or add ankle weights. For more time under tension, take five seconds to lower the knees back to the starting position. After a few reps, the burning sensation grows more intense.
9. Bear Crawl
The bear crawl is one of those exercises that might look funny when someone else is doing it, but don't doubt its ability to torch your core. This movement works your entire midsection and can also serve as a great warm-up or burn-out exercise to add to workouts.
Contract into a push-up position with your knees bent at 90 degrees. Your knees should not touch the floor. Tighten your abs like you're about to take a punch, but don't let your back round out. You don't want to lose tension in this area.
Move your right foot and left hand a few inches forward. The return to the starting position and repeat with the opposite limbs. Once you've returned to the starting position once more, you've performed one rep.
Expert tip: Another popular way to perform this exercise (and one that's more common for some) is to keep crawling for distance if you're working out on a long stretch of space. Try crawling 50 feet down and back for 100 feet total.
10. Dragon Flag
You may recognize the dragon flag exercise as "Rocky's" (Sylvester Stallone famously performed this movement in the Rocky movies) but they take their name from the great Bruce Lee. Regardless of who made them famous, this exercise gets you well on your way to becoming an advanced ab master. The entire body has to be coordinated for this one to work, which is why it may take some time to learn how to do these properly. But the strength that comes from this exercise is well worth it.
Lie flat on a bench with your hands holding the bench behind your head. Bring your knees to your chest while maintaining a straight position with your legs so that they are pointed up towards the ceiling. Once your legs are lifted, slowly lower your legs (keeping them in a straight line), making sure your upper back and shoulders are the only points of contact with the bench. Repeat for the desired reps or until you break form.
Expert tip: If you lose your form while doing these, simply roll yourself back to the starting position and try again. Practice and repetition are essential to mastering this movement. Also keep in mind that you may only be able to perform a handful of reps when first starting. But once you start integrating this exercise into your ab regimen, you'll soon be able to complete more reps.
Bonus Training Tips
Training your abs intensely and consistently is going to be crucial for those abs to pop. Train them hard at least twice a week, and you stand a much greater chance of being proud to take your shirt off. However, although the ab exercises listed in this guide are effective, it takes more than training for your abs to show.
The crucial factor in forming a six-pack (and arguably the most important) is what you eat. Nutrition is important because maintaining a lower body fat percentage is necessary to see the abs you're working so hard to build. By losing body fat, your ab definition slowly becomes more visible. While there are various diets you can consider—all of which have their pros and cons—the best way to lose fat is a caloric deficit—where you're consuming fewer calories than you're expending).
Finally there is rest and recovery, which is just as important to getting ripped as it is to building muscle mass. Sleep well and take rest days so your muscles can rebuild. Follow these guidelines, and you will be proud of your results.