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Abs Exercises Ranked Best to Worst (Optimise your Abs)

Optimise your 6 pack.

Check out these abs exercises ranked best to worst by Jeff from Athlean X.

Use the information to inform and shape your core training. Get the best possible results with the least amount of effort.

Abs Exercises Ranked Best to Worst

“There are many different ab exercises, but which are the best of the best and which exercises for abs should you avoid? In this video, I’m breaking down fifteen 6 pack ab exercises to come up with the ones you should focus your effort on and the ones that you are likely better off avoiding all together.”

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Abs Exercises Ranked Best to WorstSource: Photos Courtesy of CrossFit Inc / Deposit Photos

All Popular Abs Exercises

“The key to this selection of movements is that they are all popular abs exercises for men or slight variations of them.”

“Likely, you are doing or have done many of these at some point in your ab training. The key is determining whether or not you have wasted some time on exercises that aren’t giving you the type of results you are looking for.”

Abs Exercises Ranked Best to Worst – Start at the Bottom

“We start at the bottom of the ranking chart with the worst ab exercises for men and women.”

“Here we have the basic plank, russian twists, dumbbell side bend, lying leg raises and the bicycle crunch. You may be surprised at the inclusion of some of these movements but there is a reason why each of them are mentioned at the bottom. The criteria for selecting and ranking these exercises for abs in this way is based on the need for equipment, ability of the exercise to scale to all ability levels, danger of the movement, or the simple ineffectiveness of the choice considering that there are much better alternatives.”

Abs Exercises Ranked Best to Worst – Poorly Performed Russian Twist

“When it comes to the Russian Twist, I actually like the exercise. The problem is, it is probably the most commonly misperformed exercise in the gym for abs. Too often, people do not rotate at all on the exercise and instead tap their hands side to side. This turns this move into nothing more than an isometric with very little benefit to your six pack.”

Bicycle Crunch

“Likewise, the bicycle crunch is regarded as not only one of the most popular ab exercises but one that is most capable of giving you six pack abs if you do it. The problem once again is, due to this high praise many many people do it. However, most do it incorrectly. The lack of rotation at the shoulders is evident and it turns what should be a good move into one that is commonly done wrong.”

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Side Bend and Lying Leg Raise

“The obvious choices for the bottom of the rankings are the dumbbell side bend and the lying leg raise. Both of these add unnecessary stress to the low back by either overworking the quadratus lumborum or the hip flexors. The goal of any best ab exercise is to be sure it’s actually working the abs primarily. Neither of these do that.”

Basic Plank

“The basic plank is one of my least favorite exercises for abs since it is too easy and remedial for almost all doing it. You need to find a version of the movement that is challenging enough to knock you out of being able to do it in 90 seconds or less.”

Better Category

“Moving up the chart from the worst to the best ab exercises, we have the better category. Here we have the hanging leg raise and the ab wheel rollout. These are actually good movements as well but they have major limitations that renders them less globally successful in helping everyone that does them. For instance, if your grip strength is weaker than your abs then you are likely to have to come down from the bar before your abs fatigue on the hanging leg raise.”

Better Still Category

“Up the scale even further we have the better still category. Here you find the hanging knee raise, hanging corkscrew and the single sided slow carry. The hanging knee raise is an improvement on the hanging leg raise since it minimizes the tendency of the hip flexors to become too dominant in the movement.”

“The single sided slow carry is an amazing way to build up your lateral pillar strength of your core and abs. You will see that in order to keep your shoulders level you have to contract the opposite side oblique hard. The extended time under tension by walking slow is going to add an extra demand to your abs.”

Almost Best

“The almost best category gives us some ab exercises that are amazing. The swiper works the lower abs while ensuring that you lift your pelvis instead of your legs. The gymnast tuck is a home option that also hits the lower abs hard. The levitation crunch works the upper abs with a minimal ab exercise that anyone can do, and the side bridge twist involves rotation as well.”

Best Ab Exercise

“The best ab exercise however is the sliding tuck. This bodyweight ab exercise can be done with just some socks on a slick floor. The key is to not pull with the hip flexors but rather to hinge the pelvis into posterior tilt with the strength of the abs. Add a slight turn at the bottom and even pull in the knees if you desire more lower ab exercises.”

Video – Abs Exercises Ranked Best to Worst

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Muscles of the Core and Abs

The core is the trunk of your body, which includes the chest, back and abs. The muscles that make up the core are responsible for supporting your spine and helping you maintain proper posture. They help with everyday tasks such as sitting down and standing up from a chair, lifting objects, driving or walking up stairs.

Core strength has been linked to better balance and improved athletic performance.

Abs Exercises Ranked Best to Worst – Rectus Abdominis

The rectus abdominis is the main muscle of the core and it runs vertically along the front of your abdomen. The rectus abdominis helps maintain posture, breathing and proper digestion. It can be seen when you look down at your body, as it forms a “six-pack” shape.

The four other abdominal muscles are transverses abdominis, internal oblique muscle, external oblique muscle and pyramidalis

Abs Exercises Ranked Best to Worst – Transverse Abdominis

The transverse abdominis is a thin, flat muscle that wraps around your torso and supports the spine. It’s also known as the TVA (transversus abdominis) or “core,” which you may have heard of before. The most important thing to remember about this muscle is that it’s not visible or easily felt on its own.

The TVA helps stabilize your core by working with other muscles in the front, back and sides of your body. When you engage it, it draws your belly button in toward your spine while flattening out against your pelvis so that you maintain an upright posture even when moving through space.

You can work this muscle by performing exercises such as planks (with feet elevated), reverse crunches or jackknife sit-ups

Abs Exercises Ranked Best to Worst – Internal Obliques

Internal Obliques attach to the ribs and pelvis, and they support the spine and pelvis during rotation. They also contribute to flexion of the trunk, rotation of the trunk, side bends (i.e., twisting at your waist), as well as breathing.

The internal oblique muscle group is a deep layer of abdominal muscles that are responsible for lateral bending from side-to-side (think: twisting) as well as bending forward toward your chest (bending forward).

They work in combination with other core muscles groups to maintain proper posture by controlling excessive extension through lumbar spine or hyperextension through cervical spine due to faulty postural habits such as hunching over computers all day long.

Abs Exercises Ranked Best to Worst – External Obliques

These muscles are located on the side of your body, and they’re responsible for rotation and stability. They also help with flexing at the hip and side bending.

Abs Exercises Ranked Best to Worst – Erector Spinae

The erector spinae is a group of muscles that connect the vertebrae to each other and extends down to the sacrum. The erectors also extend the trunk, which is necessary when lifting heavy objects or reaching for something out of your reach.

Abs Exercises Ranked Best to Worst – Quadratus Lumborum

The quadratus lumborum (QL) muscle is located in the lower back, connecting the rib cage to the pelvis. It can be found on either side of your spine and connects with the skin, gently curving over each hip bone. The QL helps with rotation and flexion of your spine.

It also has a role in stabilizing your upper body when you’re standing or sitting by working with other muscles around it, like your glutes and hamstrings.

Abs Exercises Ranked Best to Worst – Gluteus Maximus

The gluteus maximus is the largest and most superficial of the three gluteal muscles. It originates on the outer surface of the ilium, sacrum and coccyx, and on the fascia covering them. It also attaches to some of your pelvic bones. The muscle fibers converge into a strong tendon that inserts onto iliotibial band (ITB).

The ITB runs along your thigh from just below your hip all the way down to just above your knee.

The ITB helps with lateral stability as well as walking upright.

Gluteus Medius

The gluteus medius is a muscle in your buttocks. It runs along the side of your hip and helps to stabilize your pelvis when you’re standing or walking. It also helps with side bending and rotation of the hip.

It can be strengthened by doing side leg lifts, which involve lying on your side with one hand behind you for support and lifting the top leg up toward the ceiling (without rotating). Repeat 10 times on each side, three times per week.

Gluteus Minimus

  • Location: The gluteus minimus is located on your upper outer thigh, just below the larger, more recognizable gluteus muscles.
  • What it does: The gluteus minimus helps to extend and rotate your hip joint, which is especially important for everyday movements like walking, running and climbing stairs.
  • Main action: Gluteus minimus’ main action is extension of the hip joint (e.g., straightening your leg when standing).
  • Secondary action: Gluteus minimus also stabilizes the pelvis in side-to-side movements when you’re walking or moving from side to side.


Sartorius is the longest muscle in the body. It connects your thigh to your pelvis and helps you walk, bend your knee and move your leg in a sideways motion. Sartorius is also a key muscle for athletic performance because it is involved in hip flexion, which means that it helps you lift one leg up behind you or cross one leg over another while running or jumping.

Pelvic Floor (aka pelvic diaphragm)

The pelvic floor is the body’s central support system. It consists of muscles and ligaments that help you maintain pelvic stability. Pelvic floor muscles also support the pelvic organs, including your bladder, bowels and reproductive organs (the ovaries, fallopian tubes and uterus).

The core is more than just the abs.

The core is a group of muscles that connect the legs, hips and torso. The core — which also includes your back and shoulders — plays an important role in posture, balance and movement. It also supports proper breathing during exercise, which in turn helps you avoid injuries.


We’ve covered a lot of ground in this article, but we hope you now feel more confident to talk about the muscles of your core and abs. Remember that while they may seem complicated at first, it all comes down to understanding the basics: how each muscle affects your posture and movement, how they work together when you exercise, and the importance of maintaining good form.

Use these core exercises to select and perform the right abs exercises for you.

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