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10 exercises that will seriously make your abs rock hard

Updated on March 30, 2007

It's what WE ALL WANT- sleek, firm, trim abs. We try machines, balls, twisting and turning, anything to get them to look great, but most of us are just left disappointed when we don't get the results we are seeking. But there is hope! The following exercises are part of the American Council on Exercise's study to determine the most effective ab exercises.

No. 1 - Full Vertical Crunch

In a full vertical crunch, you really work the abs by involving both the upper and lower body. To do it right:

  1. Lie on your back and extend the legs up towards the ceiling.
  2. Place hands behind your head (lightly cupping it) and contract the abs to lift the shoulder blades off the floor.
  3. At the same time, press the heels towards the ceiling, creating a 'u' shape with the torso.
  4. Lower down and repeat for 12-16 reps.

No. 2 - The Captains Chair

The Captain's Chair is the second most effective move for the rectus abdominis as well as the obliques and can be found in most health clubs and gyms. To do it right:

  1. Stand on chair and grip handholds to stabilize your upper body.
  2. Press your back against the pad and contract the abs to raise the legs and lift knees towards your chest.
  3. Don't arch the back and remember to breathe smoothly.
  4. Slowly lower back down and repeat for 12-16 reps.

No. 3 - The Exercise Ball

The exercise ball is an excellent tool to strengthen the abs and comes out number three for working the rectus abdominis. To do it right:

  1. Lie face-up with the ball resting under your mid/lower back.
  2. Cross your arms over the chest or place them behind your head.
  3. Contract your abs to lift your torso off the ball, pulling the bottom of your ribcage down toward your hips.
  4. As you curl up, keep the ball stable (i.e., you shouldn't roll).
  5. Lower back down, getting a stretch in the abs, and repeat for 12-16 reps.

No. 4 - Vertical Leg Crunch

The vertical leg crunch is another effective move for the rectus abdominis and the obliques. To do it right:

  1. Lie face up on the floor and extend the legs straight up with knees crossed.
  2. Contract the abs to lift the shoulder blades off the floor, as though reaching your chest towards your feet.
  3. Keep the legs in a fixed position and imagine bringing your belly button towards your spine at the top of the movement.
  4. Lower and repeat for 12-16 reps.

No. 5 - The Plank Exercise

The plank exercise is a great way to build endurance in both the abs and back, as well as stabilizer muscles. To do it right:

  1. Lie face down on mat resting on the forearms, palms flat on the floor.
  2. Push off the floor, raising up onto toes and resting on the elbows.
  3. Keep your back flat, in a straight line from head to heels.
  4. Tilt your pelvis and contract your abdominals to prevent your rear end from sticking up in the air.
  5. Hold for 20 to 60 seconds, lower and repeat for 3-5 reps.

No. 6 - The Torso Track

The Torso Track is a tough exercise because it can hurt your back if you're not careful. To do it right:

  1. Grip the handles of the Torso Track and pull the abs in without holding your breath (as though bracing them).
  2. Exhale and glide forward as far as you comfortably can. If you collapse in the middle and feel it in your back, you've gone too far.
  3. Contract the abs to pull your body back.
  4. Add tension by using more tension chords.

No. 7 - Should Blade Lift

This move emphasizes the upper part of the abs. To do it right:

  1. Lie on a mat and extend the arms straight out behind the head with hands clasped, keeping the arms next to the ears.
  2. Contract the abs and lift the shoulder blades off the floor.
  3. Lower and repeat for 12-16 reps.

No. 8 - The Bicycle

The Bicycle exercise is the best move to target the rectus abdominis (i.e., the 'six pack') and the obliques (the waist), according to a study done by the American Council on Exercise. To do it right:

  1. Lie face up on the floor and lace your fingers behind your head.
  2. Bring the knees in towards the chest and lift the shoulder blades off the ground without pulling on the neck.
  3. Straight the left leg out to about a 45-degree angle while simultaneously turning the upper body to the right, bringing the left elbow towards the right knee.
  4. Switch sides, bringing the right elbow towards the left knee.
  5. Continue alternating sides in a 'pedaling' motion for 12-16 reps.

No. 9 - The Reverse Crunch

It may seem like the reverse crunch is for the lower abs but, remember, the rectus abdominis is one long muscle, so you can't separate upper from lower. To do it right:

  1. Lie on the floor and place hands on the floor or behind the head.
  2. Bring the knees in towards the chest until they're bent to 90 degrees, with feet together or crossed.
  3. Contract the abs to curl the hips off the floor, reaching the legs up towards the ceiling.
  4. Lower and repeat for 12-16 reps.
  5. It's a very small movement, so try to use your abs to lift your hips rather than swinging your legs and creating momentum.

No. 10 - The Ab Rocker

The Ab Rocker (or roller) is for targeting the rectus abdominis. To do it right:

  1. Sit on the Ab Rocker and grab the bars in each hand.
  2. Contract the abs and rock forward, originating the movement from the abs rather than using momentum.
  3. Release and repeat for 1-3 sets of 12-16 reps.
  4. Go slowly to reduce momentum. Try to focus on the abs rather than pushing with the arms.

Keep in mind that ab exercises alone won't give the results you truly want because they do not reduce fat over the abs, but rather just work the muscles under the fat. These muscles will raise your metabolism as they increase in size and strength, but to really get good results cardio need to be part of your workout as well, I suggest 30 minutes 3 times a week at an absolute minimum, just get yourself moving to reduce fat and reveal your beautifully toned abs underneath!


Submit a Comment

  • profile image


    11 years ago

    Great tips. I've done about a third of these and am anxious to try the others.

    My trainer had be do another one with the exercise ball. You lift your legs and arms up so you're like \__/ (from the side). Grab the ball with your hands, and pull both towards each other like |__| (or even /__\) and pass the ball to your feet to grab. Then lower both to almost the floor. Then lift both towards each other and pass the ball from your feet to your hands.

    10 reps will DESTROY your abs. You'll be crying in pain for at least 3 days.


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