10 of the Best Exercises for Six-Pack Abs

10 of the Best Exercises for Six-Pack Abs

Here’s the good news: if you can stand upright, you have abs. Sure, they might not be the defined, muscular, fat-free six-pack abs of your dreams — but they’re there. The real question, though — the one posited by fitness enthusiasts everywhere — is what are the best exercises you can do to get abs that show? That ripple like the Pacific in a squall? That stand out like the treads on a set of off-road Goodyears? Aside from looking at your body fat and diet, you need to work your abs just like you work any other muscles to make them grow stronger and more visible.

High-intensity interval training, or HIIT, which is any workout that alternates between periods of intense and less-intense activity, has been found to be the most effective such exercise. If you’re looking for some new moves, incorporate a few of these 10 great exercises into your current ab workouts three to four times a week.

 

1. Dolphin Hop

This plank variation works the entire core — with an emphasis on the rectus abdominis — while also working the shoulders and stretching the hamstrings and calves.

  • Assume a low plank position — forearms, palms, and the balls of your feet on the floor, body straight from head to heels. This is your starting position.
  • Keeping your legs straight and your core braced, hop your feet forward, raising your hips toward the ceiling until your feet are as close as possible to your elbows.
  • Jump both feet gently back to the starting position, and repeat.

 

2. Reciprocating Slow Switch Kick

This supine move hits the anterior core — the six-pack abs — while teaching you to stabilize the spine as you move your hips.

  • Lie on your back in “banana” position: arms extended with your elbows near your ears, head off the floor, legs straight, feet together and raised about 12 inches off the floor. Press your lower back into the floor. This is your starting position.
  • Keeping your upper body still, your legs straight, and your feet flexed (toes pulled toward shins), raise your left leg as high as possible.
  • Simultaneously lower your left leg back to the starting position as you raise your right leg as high as possible.
  • Continue alternating sides for one minute, performing equal reps on each.

 

3. Bridge Burner

This exercise works the entire core, with an emphasis on the oblique and transverse abdominis muscles that flank your torso.

  • Lie on your back in “banana” position: arms extended with your elbows near your ears, head off the floor, legs straight, feet together and raised about 12 inches off the floor. Press your lower back into the floor. This is your starting position.
  • Simultaneously raise your legs and your torso off the floor, forming a “V” shape with your body.
  • Balancing on your butt, bend your knees around 90 degrees and twist right, reaching both hands toward the floor beside your right hip, and repeat on the left. Repeat both twists.
  • Return to center, slowly return to the starting position, and repeat the sequence.

Too tough? Keep your feet on the floor throughout the move. Too easy? Hold a medicine ball or dumbbell in your hands to increase the difficulty.

4. High-Low Plank Spider Lunge

This plank variation forces the core to resist bending and twisting through your spine, and can improve hip mobility.

  • Assume a push-up position with your arms straight, hands slightly wider than your shoulders, and your body straight from head to heels.
  • Keeping your core tight and body rigid (resist any rotational movement), place your right forearm on the floor. Repeat with your left forearm to assume a low plank position.
  • Reverse the move, returning to push-up position.
  • Step your right foot forward, planting it beside your right hand, then return to push-up position.
  • Repeat the entire sequence, then switch sides, lowering your left elbow to the floor before your right, and stepping your left foot beside your left hand.

5. C-Curve Weighted Pass

This seated move places constant tension on your abdominals while building rotational mobility through the upper back.

  • Sit with your butt and heels on the floor and your knees slightly bent, holding a dumbbell with both hands in front of your chest at arm’s length.
  • Keeping your core braced, lean back slightly, creating a C curve in the spine. This is your starting position.
  • Passing the weight to your left hand, rotate to the left as you reach back to lightly touch the weight on the floor behind you. Keep your right arm extended in front of you throughout the movement.
  • Return to the starting position, and, without stopping, pass the weight to your right hand. Repeat the move to the floor on the other side.
  • Continue alternating sides, performing equal reps on each.

6. Weighted Hip Drop

In addition to cultivating six-pack abs, this weighted side plank targets the obliques.

  • Lie on your left side propped up on your left elbow and forearm, shoulders stacked over your elbow, legs stacked on top of each other, and hold a dumbbell in place on top of your right hip.
  • Raise your hips so that your body forms a straight line from head to heels. This is the starting position.
  • Keeping your core braced, slowly lower your left hip, tapping it gently on the floor.
  • Reverse the move, returning to side plank position.
  • Repeat for reps, then switch sides, performing equal reps on each.

7. Hip Escape Toe Tap

An MMA-inspired variation on the bear crawl, this exercise works the entire abdomen — front and sides — in an athletic, functional context.

  • Get on all fours in a bear crawl position — arms straight, hands below shoulders, and knees bent 90 degrees below hips with your knees a few inches off of the floor. Make sure you maintain a flat back.
  • Keeping your left hand and right foot on the ground, rotate to your right, lifting your right arm, extending your left leg a few inches above the floor, and tapping your toes with your right hand. Return to the starting position.
  • Repeat to the left, and continue alternating sides, performing equal reps on each.

Too tough? Keep your kicking leg bent rather than extended, and/or tap your opposite shoulder with the free hand.

8. Side Plank Hip Lift

side plank hip lift dumbbell weighted

Besides its abdominal advantages, this plank variation strengthens the obliques, hip abductors, and shoulder stabilizers.

  • Lie on your right side propped up on your right elbow and forearm, shoulders stacked over your elbow, legs stacked on top of each other.
  • Raise your hips so that your body forms a straight line from head to heels, and extend your left arm toward the ceiling. This is the starting position.
  • Keeping your core engaged, slowly lower your right hip toward the floor as far as possible.
  • Reverse the move, lifting your left hip toward the ceiling as high as you can.
  • Repeat for reps, then switch sides, performing equal reps on each.

9. V Sit Hold and Tap

This seated move trains the core to engage fully while you keep your back straight.

  • Sit on the floor with your knees bent, shins parallel to the ceiling, spine elongated. Your fingers can gently rest on your hamstrings, just under your knees.
  • Keeping your back flat, lean back until your abs engage, then extend your legs as high as possible.
  • Hold for a five-count, then bend your knees, and lower both feet to the floor.
  • Hold for a one-count, then straighten your legs, and repeat the entire sequence.

10. Seated Bike Twist

This exercise works the entire core rotationally, emphasizing the obliques, transverse abdominis, and abs.

  • Sit on the floor with your knees bent and your feet flat, holding a weighted plate or dumbbell in front of your chest.
  • Keeping your back flat, recline slightly, lifting both feet off the floor, and balancing on your glutes. This is your starting position.
  • Simultaneously rotate your upper body to the right as you straighten your right leg.
  • Return to the starting position, and, without stopping, repeat the move to the other side.
  • Continue alternating sides, performing equal reps on each.
Andrew Heffernan CSCS, GCFP

About

Andrew Heffernan, CSCS, GCFP is a fitness coach, Feldenkrais practitioner, and an award-winning health and fitness writer. His work appears regularly in Men's Health and Experience Life. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two children. Learn more at andrewheffernan.com and follow him on Instagram at @andrewheffernanfitness.