14 Ab Exercises to Strengthen Your Core

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Ball Exchange Ab Exercise

Ball Exchange
Paige Waehner

The ball exchange is an excellent way to work the abs while adding intensity to your workouts. This is a whole body movement, involving the arms and legs along with the abs and the lower back. Your inner thighs work as you squeeze the ball between the feet and your arms and chest work when you exchange the ball and hold it in your hands. To modify, shorten the range of motion or bend the knees.

  1. Begin by lying on your back with the legs straight up.
  2. Hold the ball in both hands with the arms extended above you.
  3. Put the ball between the feet, squeezing them to keep the ball in place, and lower both the arms and legs down towards the floor. Only lower down as far as you can without arching or straining the back.
  4. Bring them back up and take the ball in your hands.
  5. Lower the arms and legs down towards the floor again and continue, exchanging the ball between the hands and feet for 1-3 sets of 8-12 reps.
  6. Avoid arching the back at the bottom of the movement. If you have trouble with that, place a rolled up towel under the hips, bend the knees and/or or only lower the arms and legs a few inches instead of all the way down.

Next Exercise:  Plank Knee Press on the Ball

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Plank Press on the Ball

Paige Waehner

This challenging exercise is a great way to add a little movement to your plank exercises while incorporating a balance challenge by adding the exercise ball. The key to this move is to, first, try not to sink into your shoulders. If you find you're wobbling on the ball, prop it against the wall for more stability or try this move on the floor first.

  1. Begin on the knees with your forearms on the ball.
  2. Roll forward until your back is flat. Holding that position, and keeping the shoulders away from the ears, straighten the knees, bringing your body into a plank position.
  3. Hold for 1-2 seconds and lower the knees, lightly touching the floor before pressing back up.
  4. Repeat for 1-3 sets of 8-16 reps.

Next Exercise:  Bridge with Leg Drop

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Bridge with Leg Drop

Paige Waehner

This exercise focuses on the core, but it also works the hamstrings and glutes of the standing leg, making it a dynamic exercise. This move is tougher than it looks, so take your time and modify by keeping the leg bent.

  1. Lie down on a mat with the knees bent.
  2. Lift the hips so that you're in a bridge position, in a straight line from the knees to the chin.
  3. When you feel stable, lift the right leg off the floor, extending it straight up until it's perpendicular to the floor.
  4. Keeping the foot flexed, slowly drop the right leg out to the side a few inches without moving the rest of the body. The movement is very small, so keep it slow and controlled.
  5. Bring the leg back to center and repeat for 1-3 sets of 8-16 reps on each side.

Next Exercise:  Single Arm Overhead Squat

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Single Arm Overhead Squat

Paige Waehner

The overhead squat is a challenging total body exercise, focusing on core strength, flexibility and balance. Taking one arm overhead adds to the balance challenge and focuses more attention on the core and shoulders. Looking up at the weight (as shown) adds more of a core challenge so, if this is uncomfortable, keep the head forward. If you have back problems or shoulder problems, you might want to avoid this exercise or try the move without any added weight to get a sense of your balance and flexibility.

  1. Stand with the feet shoulder-width apart and, holding light weights, take the right arm straight up overhead, leaving the left arm hanging down.
  2. Keeping your eyes on the weight overhead (optional), bend the knees and lower into a squat, keeping the abs engaged and the knees behind the toes.
  3. Lower down until the thighs are parallel to the floor, keeping the arm up the entire time.
  4. Repeat for 30-60 seconds and switch sides.

Next Exercise:  Squat Thrusts

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Squat Thrusts

Paige Waehner

Planks are a great way to work the core, but you can add more power and intensity to the exercise by adding a jump. This advanced move not only works your core, it targets your legs and arms while elevating your heart rate.

  1. Begin in a plank position with the hands wider than shoulders and the body in a straight line from head to heels.
  2. Jump the feet in, bending the knees and landing in a squat while keeping the hands on the ground.
  3. Jump the feet back into a plank position.
  4. Repeat, jumping the feet in and out as fast as you can for 30-60 seconds.

Next Exercise:  Ski Abs

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Ski Abs

Paige Waehner

Planks are a great way to work the core, but you can add power and intensity by adding a jump to the exercise. By jumping the feet in and out to either side of your body, you'll focus on the obliques while elevating the heart rate in a challenging, advanced exercise.

  1. Begin in a plank position with the hands wider than shoulders and the body in a straight line from head to heels.
  2. Contract the abs and jump the feet in to the left, landing with knees bent and the feet behind the left hand.
  3. Jump the feet back to plank and then jump the feet in to the right, landing with knees bent and the feet behind the right hand.
  4. Continue jumping in and out from side to side for 30-60 seconds.

Next Exercise:  Pushup Jacks

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Pushup Jacks

Paige Waehner

Pushups are great for working the upper body and chest, but they're also a great core exercise. You can add even more intensity by adding a jumping jack to your pushup. This is an advanced exercise, so modify by bending your knees or jumping the feet out and in without the pushup. If you have any back problems, you may want to avoid this exercise.

  1. Begin in a plank position with the hands wider than shoulders and the body in a straight line from head to heels.
  2. Jump the feet wide at the same time you bend the elbows into a pushup, going as low as you can.
  3. In a smooth movement, spring back up, jumping your feet back together into your plank.
  4. Continue with pushup jacks for 30-60 seconds.

Next Exercise:  Side Bends with a Med Ball

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Side Bends with a Medicine Ball

Paige Waehner

The side bend is a classic exercise that focuses on the obliques and taking the weight overhead will really challenge your core. Focus on keeping the lower body stable throughout the movement, moving only from the waist and avoid using momentum.

  1. Stand with feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent and hold a medicine ball with the arms straight up.
  2. Keep the shoulders down and brace the abs as you lean to the right, keeping the hips and legs in a stationary position.
  3. Rotate as far as you can, keeping the chest open and slowly move back to center.
  4. Repeat the move on the other side, keeping the movement slow and controlled to really engaged the abs.
  5. Repeat for 1-3 sets of 8-16 reps.
  6. You can also do this exercise with a dumbbell, an exercise ball or a resistance band.

Next Exercise:  Medicine Ball Circles

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Medicine Ball Circles

Paige Waehner

Medicine Ball Circles are another way to work the core from a standing position and it's also a great warm up exercise for almost any workout. The idea is to take the body through a full circle, bending the knees and keeping the back straight throughout the exercise.

  1. Begin with the feet wider than hips, holding a medicine ball or weight straight over the head.
  2. Lean to the right and then turn towards the right, pivoting on the feet and bending the knees into a lunge as you circle the ball towards the floor.
  3. Continue in the circle, turning the feet forward and into a squat as you bring the weight between your feet.
  4. Circle to the weight to the left, again pivoting on your feet and keeping the knees bent in a lunge.
  5. Continue circling the weight all the way up until the weight is overhead once again.
  6. Repeat for 1-3 sets of 8-16 reps in each direction.
  7. Keep the movement slow and controlled and avoid rounding through the back. Keep the abs braced and the back straight throughout the exercise.

Next Exercise:  Medicine Ball Rotations with Static Lunges

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Medicine Ball Rotations with Static Lunges

Paige Waehner

This exercise is perfect for working the abs from a standing position while also building endurance and stability in the lower body. For maximum effectiveness, keep the move very slow and controlled, only rotating from the torso while keeping the lower body stable.

  1. Begin in a lunge position, right leg forward, left leg back. Hold a medicine ball with the arms straight out (more advanced) or close to the chest (easier).
  2. Keeping the lower body static, rotate from the torso to bring the arms across the body to the right.
  3. Come back to center and now rotate the torso, bringing the weight to the left.
  4. Continue rotating from one side to the other slowly for 1-3 sets of 8-16 reps on both sides.

Next Exercise:  Standing Side Crunch

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Standing Side Crunch

Paige Waehner

The standing side crunch is a great way to work the abs from a standing position. To really focus on the abs, do this move in a slow, controlled way rather than using momentum, taking care not to round through the back. For more cardio, speed things up and do this move as fast as you can to get your heart rate up.

  1. Begin in a standing position, taking the right arm straight up in the air.
  2. Shift your weight to your left leg and slowly bring the knee up and out to the side.
  3. At the same time, bring the right elbow down towards right knee, squeezing the obliques.
  4. Take the arm up and the foot down and repeat for 1-3 sets on each side.

Next Exercise:  Standing Crossover Crunch

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Standing Crossover Crunch

Paige Waehner

The standing crossover crunch is a great way to work the obliques from a standing position. The idea is to generate the movement from the torso, rather than swinging from the elbow and knee. Keep the move slow and controlled to focus attention on the core, or speed it up to make it more of a cardio exercise.

  1. Begin with the feet hip-width apart, hands behind the head with the elbows bent and out to the sides.
  2. Bring the right knee up and across the body as you rotate through the torso, bringing the left shoulder towards the right hip.
  3. Squeeze through the obliques and keep the move slow and controlled.
  4. Return to start and repeat for 1-3 sets of 8-16 reps on each side.
  5. Avoid swinging the elbow to the knee but, instead, focus on the rotation of the torso and the movement of the shoulder to the hip.

Next Exercise:  Horizontal Wood Chops

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Horizontal Wood Chops

Paige Waehner

Like diagonal wood chops, horizontal wood chops put the focus on the obliques. This version is a bit more static, with all the movement coming from the core while the lower body stays in place. Avoid over-rotating on this one, just turning as far as you can without straining.

  1. Secure a resistance band around a sturdy object a bit higher than waist level.
  2. Stand sideways to the tube and hold the handle in both hands, taking a few steps away for added tension.
  3. Keeping the arms straight, rotate from the torso, bringing the arms across the body towards the opposite side.
  4. Return to start and repeat for 10-12 reps before switching sides.
  5. Keep the move slow and controlled and avoid swinging or using momentum. The hips, knees and feet should remain planted and facing forward.

Next Exercise:  Toe Taps

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Toe Taps

Paige Waehner

Toe taps are a great way to strengthen the abs and core. The idea is to keep your pelvis tilted and the core braced so that your lower back doesn't arch as you tap the toes to the floor. This is also a great postpartum exercise for the abs.

  1. Lie on your back and bend the knees to 90-degree angles.
  2. Keep the abs contracted as you lower one foot, tapping the floor. Make sure your back doesn't arch. If it does, keep the movement smaller or place a rolled up towel under the hips.
  3. Lift the foot back to starting position and repeat for 10-16 reps on the same leg before switching to the other side.
  4. Repeat for 1-3 sets.

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