Whether you're sporting a six-pack, two-pack or no-pack, the benefits of training your abdominal muscles are endless. When done correctly, ab exercises not only work your mid-section, but also help keep your lower back strong.
But with so many different types of exercises and workouts available, it can be difficult to know where to start and which ab moves are the best. That's why we asked three top trainers to share their favorite core-crushing moves to help you get your midsection in tip-top shape.
Marie Urban, Small Group Training Coordinator at Life Time , shares her four favorite ab exercises.
Full Body Crunch
Lie on your back and hold your upper body off the floor with your palms on the floor, extend both legs, then tuck them into your chest at the same time. Repeat 10 to 15 times.
Variations: single leg pulls in or leaning to one side to better incorporate the obliques. Make it harder by not using your hands to push off the floor.
Plank and Plank Variations
Get into the traditional plank position. Have your elbows under your shoulders and body hovering off the ground. Hold as long as you can, squeezing your core towards your lower back. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds.
Variations: plank "ups," hip dips, side planks, knee taps.
Straight Leg Sit-up
Lie on your back with your legs together and straight. Slowly roll up toward your legs and reach for your toes, going as far as you can. Slowly roll back down, letting your lower back touch the ground first, then middle back, then shoulders, then head. Repeat 10 to 15 times.
Variations: speed up the pace, reach toward one leg to incorporate obliques.
Get into a high plank position and "run" your legs into your core, switching quickly. Do this by drawing the right knee in toward the chest and then the left knee. Alternate back and forth between legs at a quick pace. Repeat for 30 seconds.
Variations: place gliders under your feet, bring your feet in together, add a push-up.
NASM certified personal trainer, Corey Phelps recommends these four core-crushing moves for ab day. To make this into a mini ab workout, perform each move for 60 seconds, then move on to the next exercise. Repeat this circuit four times. Take a 30- to 60-second rest between each round.
Begin by lying on your back with your knees bent, thighs perpendicular to the ground and your feet on the floor. Your arms should be by your sides close to the hips. Start by contracting abs forcefully to lift your tailbone off the ground and bring your knees towards your chest. Pull your feet off the floor and contract your abs to pull your knees in toward your chest. Hold this contraction for two counts. Slowly lower back to the starting position.
Begin by lying flat on the floor with your lower back pressed to the mat. Interlace your fingers to create a cradle and place behind your head. Elbows should be out of your peripheral vision. Float the legs up to a tabletop position (knees straight above hips and bent 90 degrees, and ankles in line with knees). Engage the abdominals deeply. Curl your head off the ground until your shoulder blades are hovering. Be careful not to pull on your neck—use your abdominals to lift. Straighten the right leg while turning the upper body left. Bring the right elbow toward the left knee. Twist at the ribs and lead with the shoulder rather than the elbow. Switch and repeat on the other side.
Begin in a full arm-extended plank. Lower down to a forearm plank, leading with your left arm then your right. Press back up to full a plank, leading with your left arm then your right. Repeat, alternating leading sides).
Plank With Leg Lift
Begin in a full extended-arm plank position. Lift your right leg up above hip height and squeeze your glutes, especially at the top. Lower and repeat on the same side for one minute. Repeat on your left side for the same time.