10 Exercises for Flat Abs
Andreea Macoveiciuc | On 11, Dec 2013
If you google “ab exercises”, you get over 22,000,0000 results, and this can be quite overwhelming for a beginner or for someone who’s used with gym workouts, but struggles with the stubborn midsection fat for a long time. How to tell which of these recommendations is the best?
As a passionate fitness practitioner, I love testing absolutely all exercises for abs that I can find online, or are recommended to me by other gym goers. Still, after so many years of daily workouts, I can usually say after the first try which exercises will actually benefit my core area and which won’t do much in terms of sculpting, fat reduction and muscle strength, for my abs.
I’m sure you already know spot reduction is a myth when it comes to physical exercises – you can’t lose weight only in your midsection, so if you’re trying to get rid of belly fat and get flat abs, there are a few things you need to understand before creating your personalized routine:
- Abs are made 80% in the kitchen and 20% in the gym. Unless you change your diet and get rid of those foods that favor the accumulation of adipose cells around your waist and on your lower ab, it will be a lot more difficult to get the flat belly you want. Or let me put it this way: you’ll have a solid six-pack covered by a solid layer of stomach fat.
- Focusing only on your abs won’t bring you as many benefits as working your entire body, as the more complex your training routine is, the more calories you’ll burn and thus the more fats your organism will destroy. It’s quite hard to convince your body to burn only the fats located on your belly, so the best strategy is for achieving flatter abs is to opt for complex workouts that target all the major muscle groups and keep your heart rate elevated.
- Like all your other muscles, abs need to recover. Don’t pay attention to those gym instructors saying that you must work your abdomen daily. Do you work your biceps or hams daily? I’m sure you don’t, and if you pick the right exercises for your midsection, you’ll be too sore after the workout to repeat the routine, without proper recovery.
With these recommendations in mind, let’s move on to the 10 exercises we’ve selected for flat abs.
Planks are among the most effective exercises when it comes to strengthening the abdominals, as well as the arms and back muscles. Besides thoroughly working these areas, planks are also extremely efficient in speeding up the metabolism and breakdown of fats as they push your body to its limit, forcing the muscles to stay contracted and to keep the right posture during the exercise. The longer you hold the plank, the more demanding it will be for your abs, thus the more efficient.
Tip: Make sure to keep your neck, spine and buttocks in line, your arms and legs straight and your core contracted. Breathe while holding the plank. For a tougher workout, keep your torso as it is and bring your left knee toward the chest, then extend it back and repeat with the right leg. For variation, mix high planks with low planks. Do as many reps as you can, until your feel your abs burning (then add 10 more repetitions).
2. Scissor kicks
These are also excellent for strengthening your obliques and lower abs and getting a flatter stomach. Scissor kicks work your transverse abdominal muscles and also your thighs, so they contribute to a more dramatic calorie consumption and promote faster fat loss. Start by lying down on your back with legs straight and palms on the ground, and slowly raise your feet at about 45 degrees. Contract your abdomen, lifting your shoulders and head off the floor, but make sure your lower back remains on the ground.
Maintain this position for a few seconds, then start moving your legs and feet up and down, imitating a scissor’s movement. Make sure your lower abdomen is perfectly contracted and repeat for one minute. Then add 10 more reps, for the love of it!
Tip: To make this tougher, add ankle weights and maintain the V-shape (legs lifted, shoulders lifted, back on the ground, arms near your body) for 10 seconds after each 10 reps of scissor kicks.
3. Weighted squats
Squats are considered very effective in toning and conditioning legs, hips and buttocks, but they’re efficient in improving your abs’ shape as well, as they require lots of coordination and resistance from your core. For correctly performing a squat, your abdominal muscles need to be contracted and to keep the body stable, and if you add some dumbbells, the effort will be even greater.
Tip: To make this tougher, add squat pulses after each 10 reps of regular or weighted squats. Focus on your form and keep your core contracted during the routine. Make sure your knees are always behind your toes.
4. Regular and oblique crunches
Not sure why so many people hate crunches, they’re actually very effective in strengthening the abs, as they target the rectus abdominis, the internal and external obliques at the same time. To get the most of this exercise, make sure to keep your lower back on the floor, as this isolates the abdominal muscles.
Tip: If you don’t like regular crunches, opt for reverse crunches or stability ball crunches, they work the same area and can also help you get the much wanted flat abs.
These exercises are especially useful for getting more definition in the waist area and destroying the much hated love handles, as they workout the obliques. To do side bends correctly, grasp a dumbbell with your left arm and bend your waist in the opposite side while keeping your legs shoulder width apart. Repeat for one minute on each side.
Tip: To maximize the effects of these exercise, make sure to only bend your waist and avoid moving your hips and feet. Still too easy? Then do them on the abdominal bench (and add 10 more reps for the superhero in you).
6. Vertical leg crunches
By working the rectus abdominis and oblique muscles at the same time, this exercise tones the entire core area, making it easier to achieve a nicely shaped and ripped abdomen. Lying on the floor with your legs lifted and knees bent, place your hands behind your head and contract your abdomen to lift your shoulders off the floor. Curl as much as possible, lifting your torso toward your feet and lowering it slowly. Repeat for one minute and then, you guessed, add 10 more reps, for the love of it!
7. Mountain climbers
Whether you do these standing or in the plank position, mountain climbers are great for shredding the midsection, BUT make sure to lift your legs from your lower abs. All the movement and effort should come from your contracted lower abdominal muscles, and your core shouldn’t move too much during the exercise. You’re not supposed to jump but to bring your knees toward the chest, lifting them over your hips and feel the lower abdomen working.
8. Leg raises
Leg raises focus on your lower abs, but if you slightly raise your shoulders off the ground while doing these exercises, you’ll also engage your upper abs, thus your entire abdominal area will benefit from this workout. Go really slowly, so that you can feel your muscles contracting and relaxing; breathe out when your legs are up and inhale when lowering the legs.
Tip: To make the routine tougher, add ankle weights and avoid touching the ground with your heels when lowering the legs. Also, don’t lift the legs too much – the V position is ideal for working the abdominal muscles. A nice variation for this exercise are the Captain’s chair leg raises, done really slowly, with ankle weights for extra fun.
Sprinting raises your heart rate and forces your body to burn more calories, so if you want flat abs and visible muscles in your core area, you need to focus not only on strengthening the muscles but also on trimming down the belly fat. Sprints, alternated with short jogging or running intervals, are very efficient in reducing the overall body fat percentage.
10. Oblique push-ups
These are killer exercises for your abs, shoulders, chest and arms, but the results are worth every second of soreness. To do these correctly, start with a classical push-up, then bring your left knee toward your left elbow, when you’re in the lower position. Repeat on the right side and again, make sure to go as slow as possible and to focus on form, not on speed.
Keep the core contracted during the exercise and if you find it too easy, add some variation: bring the left knee toward the left elbow, then change the angle and bring it toward the right elbow. Repeat for another minute, and if it’s still not tough enough, mix this exercise with opposite arm-opposite leg raises – in the push-up position, of course.
I hope you’ll find these both useful and challenging! To get the most of this routine, repeat each exercise for 1 minute, then do a 30-second cardio recovery interval (jumping jacks work great for this), then repeat each exercise for another minute.
For variation you can also incorporate C-sit holds and twists, Russian twists, deadlifts and oblique planks. Enjoy your ab workout and don’t forget: you don’t stop when you’re tired, you stop when you’re done!