The abs are one of the most aesthetically sought out muscle groups on the human body.
Let’s call it what it is, but most everyone wants six pack abs at the beach, which is great and all, but that’s not the only reason you should strive to have a strong core, or “abs” for that matter. When most think of “abs” they limit their thinking to the top bumpy layer of the stomach, but the core as a whole is so much more than this top bumpy layer, aka the rectus abdominis.
The core as a whole includes all of the muscles throughout the torso, which includes things like the transverse abdominis, internal obliques, external obliques, and those are just some of the main core muscles. The culmination of a strong core will improve not only lifting, but also things like posture, performance in sports, and daily wellness.
Outside of just looking great, in strength sports a strong core will help prevent torso collapse in movements like the snatch, clean & jerk, and squat. Below we’ve included five of our absolute favorite abs/core exercises.
Best Abs Exercises
The plank is an awesome core exercise because it requires the full body to work in unison to maintain a static position. In the world of lifting, a strong plank is pretty much a right of passage for working out, and it’s often used as a prerequisite before starting most training routines. Possibly the best part of performing planks is that they’re incredibly easy to do and have multiple variations.
Since the plank is universal with a low bar of entry, any level of fitness can benefit by utilizing them. Plank variations can include things like using weight, taking away a point of contact, or adding in a level of instability. On top of their dynamic nature, planks are easy to track progress with, so there’s really no reason not to throw then into a training routine.
Read about all of the variations you can perform for the plank!
2. Ab Roll-Outs
The ab roll-out is potentially the most advanced exercise on our ab list. This movement requires a lifter to maintain a contracted core, while moving the body into unstable positions. For this reason, we recommend only performing ab roll-outs once you’ve built a base level of core strength.
Once you’ve done that and there’s confidence in one’s form, then this movement can be progressed in multiple ways, which includes the utilization of implement, tempo, points of contact, and much more.
Check out our ab roll-out guide for form, progressions, and what to avoid!
There’s a reason gymnasts love to perform this movement. The L-Sit is often an underutilized exercise in training programs, and that stinks because this movement holds a ton of benefits. For starters, the L-Sit can be performed at almost every fitness level and can be progressed by simply adding time. This makes it a great movement for the beginner or veteran to use for easy tracking and core strength progression.
In addition, the L-Sit not only strengthens the core, but it also helps strengthen the hip flexors, as it requires them to remain contracted to properly maintain the “L-shaped” form. If you’re lacking in hip flexor strength, or sit all day for work, then this is a great movement to add to your program.
Read our L-Sit guide and learn all there is to know about this movement.
4. Hollow Rocks
The L-Sit isn’t the only gymnast-esque core movement that’s making our list. Another one of our favorites is the hollow rock. This movement is often utilized to teach body awareness, improve body control, and strengthen the core. For the beginning strength athlete, this movement is great to use because it requires the core to fully contract, which can help highlight weaknesses in the upper, middle, and lower torso.
In addition, the rocking nature of this movement helps teach one body control, which is a big reason why gymnasts like to use this movement in their training. It goes without saying that if body control improves, so will lifting. After all, it takes a lot of awareness and coordination to lift a barbell from the ground to overhead.
Want to start rocking? Check out our in-depth hollow rock guide!
5. Pallof Press
In the BarBend office, Pallof Presses are done on a daily basis. Every time we walk past our squat rack, we do a few Pallof Press reps because, yes, they’re that beneficial. This movement is awesome because it requires the full body to work in unison to create strong postures. Additionally, there’s a ton of variations you can perform with the Pallof Press, so any strength athlete can find benefit in doing them.
Want to learn more about Pallof Presses? Check out our Pallof Press guide!
The sit-up is a core training “gold standard” type of movement. It’s probably safe to say that everyone knows the sit-up and how to perform them. This movement doesn’t take years of experience or training to perform, which is why it made our list. On top of its beginner friendliness, this movement is also incredibly easy to load, track, and progress core strength with.
For example, you can perform sit-ups with weight, on a decline surface, with one leg fixed, or isolate certain sections of the core with them. But possibly the best part of sit-ups is that they can be performed nearly anywhere and don’t require too much energy for a good amount of benefit.