Add these ab exercises into your training if you want to build a strong and fit core without even having to go to the gym.
5 Ab Exercises
These have been selected by Critical Bench. Watch the video below to see exactly how they should be performed.
- Dead Bug
- Single Leg Lift
- Starfish Crunch
- One Arm Plank to Toe Touch
- Side Plank Thread
Video – How to Perform the 5 Ab Exercises
- 5 Ab Exercises
- Video – How to Perform the 5 Ab Exercises
- What are the Benefits of a Strong Core?
- What are the Core Muscles?
- What is the Dead Bug Exercise?
- What Muscles Does the Lying Leg Raise Work?
- What are the Benefits of the Starfish Crunch Exercise?
- What are the Benefits of the Side Plank?
- Why are Rotational Movements Also Beneficial for Building Core Strength?
- How do Hanging Ab Exercises Target the Lower Abs?
- How Do Crunch Movements Target the Upper Abs?
- How Does a Strong Core Protect Your Body Against Injury?
- Learn More
What are the Benefits of a Strong Core?
A strong core offers numerous benefits for overall health, stability, and physical performance. Here are some key advantages:
Improved posture: A strong core helps maintain proper alignment of the spine, reducing the risk of poor posture-related issues such as back pain, muscle imbalances, and spinal abnormalities.
Enhanced stability and balance: A strong core provides a solid foundation for stability and balance, benefiting various physical activities like sports, dancing, and everyday movements. It helps you maintain control and coordination while performing dynamic movements or when faced with external forces.
Reduced risk of injury: Core strength contributes to better overall body mechanics and mechanics, leading to improved biomechanical efficiency. This reduces the risk of injuries during physical activities by stabilizing the spine, protecting vulnerable joints, and enhancing muscular support.
Improved athletic performance: Many athletic movements originate from the core. A strong core enables better force transfer between the upper and lower body, allowing for more powerful movements, increased agility, and improved performance in sports and other physical activities.
Functional strength: The core muscles are involved in almost every movement we make, from bending and twisting to lifting and reaching. A strong core improves functional strength, making daily activities like carrying groceries, lifting objects, and performing household tasks easier and safer.
Enhanced back health: Core strength plays a crucial role in maintaining a healthy back. Strong core muscles provide support to the spine, reducing the stress on the vertebrae and discs. This can alleviate or prevent back pain and promote spinal health.
Improved breathing and organ support: The core muscles include the diaphragm, which is vital for proper breathing. A strong core allows for better diaphragmatic breathing, optimizing oxygen intake and promoting relaxation. Additionally, core strength provides support for the internal organs, contributing to their proper function and stability.
Streamlined aesthetics: Developing core strength can enhance the appearance of the abdominal muscles, resulting in a toned and defined midsection. While aesthetic benefits shouldn’t be the sole focus, they can be a pleasant side effect for many individuals.
What are the Core Muscles?
The core muscles are a group of muscles located in the torso and pelvis that work together to provide stability, support, and movement for the spine and pelvis. The core muscles include:
Rectus Abdominis: Commonly known as the “abs,” this muscle runs vertically along the front of the abdomen and is responsible for flexing the spine, as well as assisting in trunk stabilization.
Transverse Abdominis: This deep abdominal muscle wraps around the sides and front of the abdomen, providing stability and compression for the abdominal cavity. It plays a significant role in maintaining core stability and is often referred to as the body’s natural corset.
Internal and External Obliques: These muscles are located on the sides of the abdomen, with fibres running diagonally. The internal obliques help with trunk rotation and side bending, while the external obliques assist in trunk rotation and flexion.
Multifidus: A group of small muscles located along the spine, the multifidus muscles help stabilize and control the movement of individual vertebrae. They are essential for maintaining proper spinal alignment and posture.
Erector Spinae: This group of muscles runs along the length of the spine and helps extend and rotate the back. It provides support and stability to the spine, particularly during activities that involve bending, lifting, or twisting.
Diaphragm: While primarily known for its role in breathing, the diaphragm also contributes to core stability. It separates the thoracic cavity from the abdominal cavity and plays a vital role in creating intra-abdominal pressure, which aids in spinal stabilization.
Pelvic Floor Muscles: The pelvic floor muscles form a hammock-like structure at the base of the pelvis. They support the pelvic organs, assist in urinary and bowel control, and contribute to core stability.
Hip Muscles: The muscles around the hips, including the hip flexors, hip extensors, and hip rotators, play a significant role in core stability. These muscles help stabilize the pelvis and allow for efficient movement and control during various activities.
It’s important to note that the core muscles work together as a functional unit rather than in isolation. Developing strength, stability, and coordination in all these muscles is crucial for optimal core function and overall physical performance.
What is the Dead Bug Exercise?
The Dead Bug exercise is a core-strengthening exercise that targets the deep abdominal muscles, specifically the transverse abdominis, while also engaging other core muscles. It is a popular exercise often included in fitness routines and physical therapy programs. Here’s how to perform the Dead Bug exercise:
Starting Position: Lie flat on your back on an exercise mat or the floor. Bend your knees and lift your legs, so your thighs are perpendicular to the floor and your lower legs are parallel to the floor. Keep your arms extended straight up toward the ceiling.
Core Engagement: Before initiating the movement, engage your core muscles by drawing your navel in toward your spine. Maintain this activation throughout the exercise to stabilize your spine.
Movement: Simultaneously lower your right arm and left leg toward the floor, while keeping them just above the ground. Focus on maintaining control and preventing any movement in your torso or lower back. Your opposite arm and leg should remain in the starting position.
Return: Bring your arm and leg back to the starting position, and repeat the movement on the opposite side, lowering your left arm and right leg toward the floor. Again, ensure that your core remains engaged and your back stays flat against the mat or floor.
Repetitions: Repeat the movement for a desired number of repetitions or time. Start with a manageable number, such as 8-10 repetitions per side, and gradually increase as your strength and control improve.
Keep your lower back pressed against the mat or floor throughout the exercise to avoid excessive arching or strain on the spine.
Maintain a steady and controlled movement, rather than relying on momentum.
Breathe steadily throughout the exercise, exhaling as you lower your arm and leg, and inhaling as you return to the starting position.
The Dead Bug exercise is an effective way to improve core stability, coordination, and control. It can be modified to suit different fitness levels by adjusting the range of motion and complexity of the movement. Consult with a fitness professional or physical therapist for guidance on proper form and variations based on your specific needs.
What Muscles Does the Lying Leg Raise Work?
The lying leg raise primarily targets the muscles of the lower abdomen, hip flexors, and the muscles of the inner thighs. Here are the main muscles worked during the exercise:
Rectus Abdominis: The lying leg raise activates the rectus abdominis, which is the long muscle that runs vertically along the front of the abdomen. It is responsible for flexing the spine and brings the pelvis toward the ribcage.
Hip Flexors: The exercise engages the hip flexor muscles, including the psoas major, iliacus, and rectus femoris. These muscles, located at the front of the hips, help raise the legs toward the torso and assist in hip flexion.
Transverse Abdominis: Although indirectly targeted, the transverse abdominis, which is the deep abdominal muscle responsible for stabilizing the spine and maintaining core stability, is also engaged during the lying leg raise to support the movement.
Obliques: The oblique muscles, including the internal and external obliques, play a secondary role in the lying leg raise. They assist in stabilizing the torso and rotating the pelvis during the movement.
Adductor Muscles: The inner thigh muscles, known as adductor muscles, are activated as they help stabilize the legs during the leg raise. These muscles include the adductor longus, adductor magnus, adductor brevis, and gracilis.
While the primary focus of the lying leg raise is on the abdominal muscles and hip flexors, other muscles such as the quadriceps, glutes, and lower back muscles also provide support and stability throughout the exercise.
To perform a lying leg raise, lie on your back with your legs extended. Keep your lower back pressed into the floor and your core engaged. Lift your legs off the ground while maintaining control and stability, then slowly lower them back down. It’s important to use controlled movements and avoid any excessive swinging or arching of the lower back.
As with any exercise, it’s recommended to consult with a fitness professional to ensure proper form and technique, especially if you have any pre-existing conditions or concerns.
What are the Benefits of the Starfish Crunch Exercise?
The Starfish Crunch exercise, also known as the Starfish Sit-up or Star Sit-up, is a dynamic core exercise that offers several benefits for the abdominal muscles and overall core strength. Here are some of the benefits of the Starfish Crunch exercise:
Abdominal muscle activation: The Starfish Crunch primarily targets the rectus abdominis, the front abdominal muscles commonly referred to as the “six-pack.” It effectively engages these muscles throughout the exercise, promoting their strength and development.
Core stability and strength: The exercise engages not only the rectus abdominis but also the deep stabilizing muscles of the core, such as the transverse abdominis. By incorporating these muscles, the Starfish Crunch helps improve overall core stability, which is essential for maintaining proper posture, reducing the risk of injuries, and enhancing overall physical performance.
Oblique muscle engagement: Alongside the rectus abdominis, the Starfish Crunch also activates the oblique muscles. These muscles, including the internal and external obliques, are responsible for rotational and side-bending movements. By involving the obliques, the exercise helps tone and strengthen the waistline and contributes to a more balanced and sculpted core.
Improved functional strength: The Starfish Crunch mimics movements that involve reaching and twisting, which are common in various activities and sports. By training these movement patterns, the exercise improves functional strength, allowing for more efficient and controlled movements in daily life and athletic endeavors.
Enhanced coordination and balance: Performing the Starfish Crunch requires coordination and balance between the upper and lower body. This exercise challenges your ability to coordinate the movement of your limbs while maintaining stability in your core. Over time, this can improve your overall coordination and balance.
Increased calorie burn: The Starfish Crunch is a dynamic and intense exercise that involves multiple muscle groups. As a result, it increases your heart rate and contributes to calorie burn and fat loss when combined with a balanced diet and regular exercise routine.
Variety and engagement: The Starfish Crunch adds variety to your core workout routine, helping to prevent boredom and keep your training sessions interesting. It offers a refreshing alternative to traditional crunches or sit-ups.
When performing the Starfish Crunch, it’s important to maintain proper form, engage your core throughout the movement, and focus on controlled and deliberate motions.
What are the Benefits of the Side Plank?
The Side Plank is an excellent exercise for strengthening the core and promoting overall stability. It primarily targets the muscles on the side of the body, including the obliques, but it also engages other muscles for support. Here are some of the benefits of the Side Plank:
Core strength: The Side Plank is highly effective in strengthening the deep core muscles, including the obliques and transverse abdominis. These muscles play a crucial role in stabilizing the spine and maintaining proper posture.
Improved stability and balance: The exercise challenges your ability to maintain balance and stability in a lateral position. By engaging the muscles along the side of your body, particularly the hip abductors and glutes, the Side Plank enhances your overall stability and balance.
Reduced risk of back pain: A strong core is essential for supporting the spine and preventing back pain. The Side Plank targets the muscles that contribute to spinal stability, helping to alleviate or prevent lower back pain and promoting a healthy posture.
Increased shoulder strength: The Side Plank also engages the muscles around the shoulder joint, including the deltoids, rotator cuff muscles, and scapular stabilizers. These muscles work together to support the shoulder and improve upper body strength.
Functional strength and performance: The Side Plank is a functional exercise that mimics movements and challenges stability in daily activities and sports. By strengthening the core and improving overall stability, it can enhance your performance in various physical activities, such as running, lifting, and rotational movements.
Improved hip and glute activation: To maintain the Side Plank position, you engage the muscles around the hips, including the hip abductors, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus. These muscles are important for hip stabilization, alignment, and overall lower body strength.
Mental focus and concentration: Holding the Side Plank requires mental focus and concentration to maintain proper form and balance. This can help improve mind-body connection and enhance overall body awareness.
Versatility and progressions: The Side Plank can be modified and progressed to meet individual fitness levels and goals. Variations such as the Side Plank with leg lifts, weighted Side Planks, or Side Planks on unstable surfaces can add further challenges and benefits.
To perform a Side Plank, start by lying on your side with your legs stacked and your elbow directly beneath your shoulder. Lift your hips off the ground, creating a straight line from your head to your feet, and engage your core and glutes. Hold the position for a desired duration, starting with 20-30 seconds and gradually increasing over time.
As with any exercise, it’s important to maintain proper form, listen to your body, and consult with a fitness professional if you have any underlying health conditions or concerns.
Why are Rotational Movements Also Beneficial for Building Core Strength?
Rotational movements are highly beneficial for building core strength due to several reasons:
Activation of multiple core muscles: Rotational movements engage a wide range of core muscles, including the obliques, transverse abdominis, multifidus, and the muscles of the lower back. These muscles work together to stabilize the spine and generate rotational force, making rotational movements an effective way to target and strengthen the entire core.
Functional movement patterns: Many daily activities and sports involve rotational movements, such as swinging a golf club, throwing a ball, or twisting to reach for an object. By training the core muscles to effectively generate and control rotational forces, you enhance your ability to perform these movements with greater power, stability, and reduced risk of injury.
Improved rotational power and athleticism: Strong core muscles that can generate and transfer rotational forces contribute to improved athletic performance. Whether you participate in sports like tennis, baseball, or martial arts, or simply want to enhance your overall athletic abilities, building core strength through rotational movements can help you generate more power and efficiency in your rotational actions.
Enhanced balance and stability: Rotational movements challenge your balance and proprioception (the body’s sense of spatial awareness and positioning). By performing controlled rotational exercises, you improve your ability to stabilize and control your body in different planes of motion, leading to better overall balance and stability.
Spinal health and injury prevention: A strong and stable core is essential for maintaining spinal health and reducing the risk of back injuries. The rotational movements target the deep stabilizing muscles of the spine, improving their strength and endurance, which can help prevent and alleviate back pain, muscle imbalances, and spinal abnormalities.
Increased calorie burn and fat loss: Rotational movements are often dynamic and involve large muscle groups, which increases calorie expenditure during the exercise. Incorporating rotational movements into your workout routine can contribute to fat loss and weight management goals.
Examples of rotational exercises that target the core include Russian twists, woodchoppers, medicine ball rotations, and cable or resistance band rotations. As with any exercise, it’s important to maintain proper form, start with appropriate weights or resistance, and progress gradually. If you have any underlying health conditions or concerns, consult with a fitness professional or healthcare provider before incorporating rotational movements into your routine.
How do Hanging Ab Exercises Target the Lower Abs?
Hanging ab exercises can effectively target the lower abs by engaging the muscles in the lower portion of the rectus abdominis, also known as the lower abs. Here’s how hanging ab exercises target the lower abs:
Increased range of motion: Hanging ab exercises, such as hanging leg raises or hanging knee raises, allow for a greater range of motion compared to floor-based ab exercises. By starting from a hanging position, you can initiate the movement with your legs hanging straight down, stretching the lower abs fully before contracting them to lift your legs.
Pelvic tilt and hip flexion: During hanging leg raises or knee raises, you initiate the movement by tilting your pelvis posteriorly, which activates the lower abs. This action brings the pubic bone toward the ribcage, flexing the hips and engaging the lower abdominal muscles.
Core stabilization: Hanging ab exercises require significant core stabilization to maintain control and prevent swinging or momentum. This stabilization engages the entire core, including the lower abs, to keep the pelvis and spine in a stable position during the movement.
Lower body control: In hanging ab exercises, you need to use your lower abs to lift your legs and control their movement. The lower abs act as the primary movers, especially when you focus on initiating the movement from the lower abs rather than relying on momentum or upper body swinging.
Additional engagement of hip flexors: While the primary target is the lower abs, hanging ab exercises also involve the hip flexor muscles, such as the iliopsoas and rectus femoris. These muscles assist in raising the legs and contribute to the overall contraction and control of the lower abs.
To perform hanging ab exercises, find a sturdy overhead bar or apparatus that allows you to hang freely with your arms extended. From there, you can perform exercises like hanging leg raises, hanging knee raises, or variations such as scissor kicks or windshield wipers. Remember to engage your core, initiate the movement from the lower abs, and focus on controlled and deliberate motions rather than relying on swinging or momentum.
How Do Crunch Movements Target the Upper Abs?
Crunch movements primarily target the upper abs, also known as the upper portion of the rectus abdominis muscle. Here’s how crunch movements effectively engage the upper abs:
Spinal flexion: The primary action of crunch movements involves flexing the spine by curling the shoulders and upper back off the floor. This motion brings the ribcage closer to the pelvis and activates the upper abs to initiate and control the movement.
Isolation of the upper abs: Unlike full sit-ups, which involve hip flexion and engagement of the hip flexor muscles, crunch movements isolate the upper abs by minimizing the involvement of the hip flexors. By focusing on spinal flexion and minimizing hip movement, you can place a greater emphasis on the upper abs.
Controlled contraction: Crunch movements are typically performed in a slow and controlled manner, emphasizing the contraction of the upper abs throughout the movement. This deliberate contraction allows for better engagement of the targeted muscles and enhances their strength and definition over time.
Limited range of motion: Unlike exercises that involve full trunk flexion, such as sit-ups, crunch movements have a shorter range of motion. This limited range allows for better isolation and targeting of the upper abs, specifically the portion closer to the ribcage.
Core stabilization: While the main focus is on the upper abs, crunch movements also require core stabilization to maintain proper form and prevent excessive arching of the lower back. The entire core, including the deep abdominal muscles and the muscles of the lower back, engages to stabilize the spine during the movement.
To perform a crunch exercise, follow these steps:
- Lie on your back on an exercise mat with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart.
- Place your hands behind your head, lightly supporting your neck, or cross your arms over your chest.
- Engage your core by drawing your navel toward your spine.
- Lift your upper back and shoulders off the floor, curling your torso toward your thighs. Keep your lower back pressed into the floor.
- Pause for a moment at the top of the movement, feeling the contraction in your upper abs.
- Slowly lower your upper back and shoulders back down to the starting position, maintaining control throughout the descent.
- Remember to focus on quality over quantity, using controlled movements and avoiding excessive pulling on the neck or strain in the lower back.
While crunch movements primarily target the upper abs, they also engage the lower abs and the oblique muscles to a lesser extent. For a well-rounded core workout, it’s beneficial to include exercises that target all areas of the core, such as lower ab exercises, oblique exercises, and exercises that focus on core stability and endurance.
How Does a Strong Core Protect Your Body Against Injury?
Having a strong core provides several benefits in terms of injury prevention and protection for your body. Here’s how a strong core can help protect against injury:
Spinal stability: The core muscles, including the deep stabilizing muscles such as the transverse abdominis and multifidus, work together to stabilize and support the spine. A strong core helps maintain proper spinal alignment, reducing the risk of excessive spinal flexion, extension, or rotation that can lead to back injuries.
Improved posture: A strong core helps you maintain good posture, which reduces strain on your muscles, joints, and ligaments. Proper alignment of the spine and pelvis minimizes the risk of overloading certain structures and decreases the likelihood of developing postural imbalances or musculoskeletal dysfunctions that can lead to injuries over time.
Enhanced balance and stability: The core plays a crucial role in maintaining balance and stability during various activities and movements. A strong core allows you to stabilize your body and maintain control in dynamic and unstable situations, such as during sports, exercises on unstable surfaces, or sudden changes in direction. This can reduce the risk of falls, sprains, and other balance-related injuries.
Injury prevention during lifting and daily activities: Many activities, such as lifting heavy objects, require a strong and stable core. By properly engaging your core muscles, you can protect your spine and transfer forces more efficiently throughout your body, reducing the risk of strains, sprains, or other lifting-related injuries.
Efficient transfer of forces: A strong core acts as a solid foundation for force transfer between the upper and lower body. It allows for efficient transmission of forces generated during physical activities, such as running, jumping, or throwing. By distributing forces evenly, the core helps prevent localized stress on specific muscles or joints, reducing the risk of overuse injuries.
Injury prevention during sports and physical activities: In many sports, a strong core is essential for optimal performance and injury prevention. It provides stability and power for movements involving rotation, twisting, and sudden changes in direction. A strong core can also help absorb and dissipate forces during impacts or collisions, reducing the risk of injury.
Spinal protection during impact: The core muscles act as a natural brace for the spine and can help absorb and distribute forces during impact or sudden movements. They provide an additional layer of protection for the spinal column, reducing the risk of spinal injuries in high-impact activities or accidents.
It’s important to note that core strength is just one aspect of overall fitness and injury prevention. A well-rounded exercise program that includes strength training, cardiovascular exercise, flexibility training, and proper technique in specific activities or sports is crucial for maintaining overall fitness, reducing injury risk, and optimizing performance. Consulting with a fitness professional or healthcare provider can help you design a personalized exercise program tailored to your specific needs and goals.
10 HIIT Exercises to Lose Belly Fat Faster
How to Use the Flat Dumbbell Bench Press to Build A Great Chest
How Many Exercises do you Need to Maximise Muscle Growth?
- Abs-and-Core-Strength-for-Athletes: Photos Courtesy of CrossFit Inc
- CrossFit shoe changes games reebok: Photo courtesy of CrossFit Inc
- Abs-and-Rotational-Exercises: Photos Courtesy of CrossFit Inc
- Injured: Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels