Let me ask you something:
Are you looking to develop a set of deep abs that turn heads and make you look like a fitness model? Of course, who doesn’t want an impressive six-pack?
You’ve also probably heard that saying that abs are made in the kitchen, which is true. You need to be careful with your diet and shed enough fat to reveal your abs.
But, aside from losing fat, you also need to develop the musculature that lies beneath. Doing so would allow you to reveal impressive midsection muscles.
The best part is that developing your abs will make them appear more prominently, even at a slightly higher body fat percentage. Just take a look at strongmen. Most are way over 15 percent body fat, yet the majority are rocking great abs precisely because they’ve developed the muscle group enough.
So, with that in mind, let’s go over the ten best ab exercises for strength and definition:
1. Ab V-Ups
V-ups are a challenging bodyweight that strengthens your abs through two motions: the sit-up and leg raise. Instead of doing the two exercises in isolation, you combine them by raising your legs and torso simultaneously, forming a V shape. Doing so forces your abs to work extra hard, making each repetition beneficial for muscle growth and strength gain.
2. Hanging Knee Raises
Hanging knee raises are an intermediate-level exercise that develops the rectus abdominis while improving core stability and grip strength.
The objective is to grab a pull-up bar and hang. Tuck your hips slightly and use your abs to raise your knees to your chest. Hold the position for a moment and lower yourself to the starting position, exhaling on the way down.
As you strengthen your abs, you can start raising your legs without bending your knees.
3. Ab Rollout
The ab rollout is a challenging but fun and effective exercise you can do to develop your abs and improve your core stability. Plus, unlike some movements, the ab rollout comes with a built-in progression that makes the exercise great for trainees of all levels.
You can start with ab rollouts on your knees to build some core strength and gradually work up to standing ab rollouts––the most challenging version.
4. Lying Leg Raises
Lying leg raises are another great exercise that emphasizes the lower abs, contributing to their balanced development and overall strength.
Lie on your back, place your arms to your sides, and raise your legs to the ceiling. From there, lower your legs to the floor, stopping a couple of inches short.
A common mistake people make with the lying leg raise is arching their lower back. Doing so isn’t necessarily dangerous, but it prevents trainees from contracting their abs and having them do all of the work. Instead, this forces the hip flexors to work, defeating the exercise’s whole purpose.
Planks are an isometric exercise that strengthens your abs and various other muscles in the body. The most common way to perform the exercise is to extend your body, supporting yourself on your toes and forearms. Once in position, tuck your hips to engage your abs and hold the position.
The great thing about planks is that you can pick from dozens of fantastic variations. So, regardless of your fitness level, you can find a plank variation that works well for you. For example, you can start with planks on your knees and progress to a full push-up position.
As time passes, you can start performing more challenging variations, including:
- Single-arm plank
- Stability ball plank
- Plank jack
- Spider plank
- Starfish plank
6. Hollow Hold
Like the classic plank, hollow holds are an effective isometric exercise that develops your abs and improves your core stability. But, unlike the plank, the objective here is to lie on your back. From there, raise your upper back and legs off the floor, holding the position for as long as possible.
7. Ab Crunch
Crunches are a simple and classic exercise for stronger and more defined abs. Unlike many exercises on today’s list, crunches are simple to learn and offer a limited range of motion.
The goal is to lie on the floor, bend your knees, and place your feet flat on the floor. Once in position, take a breath, engage your abs and crunch several inches, squeezing your midsection as hard as possible. Hold for a moment and lower yourself to the floor as you exhale.
8. Decline Sit-Ups
Decline sit-ups are a more challenging alternative to traditional crunches. Here, the objective is to lie on a decline gym bench and anchor your legs for support. Once in position, engage your abs to raise your torso to an almost vertical position. Hold the top for a moment and lower yourself slowly, controlling your torso by keeping your abs engaged.
The two primary ways to make decline sit-ups more or less challenging is to:
- Adjust the decline angle
- Do the movement with or without external weights
For example, you can start with a lesser decline and gradually increase it as you build ab strength. You can later start holding a small dumbbell or weight plate for extra resistance.
9. Ad Cable Crunches
Cable crunches are a practical and versatile exercise you can perform to strengthen your abs, regardless of your fitness level. The great thing about cable crunches is that you can adjust the resistance as you see fit because you’re doing these on a cable machine.
The objective is to set the load and attach a rope attachment to the top pulley. Grab the rope, raise your hands to the sides of your head and place the attachment behind your neck. Step back a bit, get down on your knees, and round your back slightly to engage your abs. From there, crunch in against the line of resistance, contracting your abs as forcefully as possible.
10. Cable Woodchop
Cable woodchops are a fantastic all-in-one core exercise that strengthens your abs, obliques, transverse abdominis, back, shoulders, arms, and glutes. Despite its seemingly simple exterior, the cable woodchop works your core through rotation, which is effective for a couple of reasons:
First, your obliques work extra hard to produce the torso rotation. These muscles also resist the opposite force you feel as you start rotating against the line of resistance. Second, all of your core muscles (including your abs) work extra hard to keep you rigid during the exercise.