Advanced Ab Exercises

Knee Tucks

When choosing more advanced exercises for your abs, knee tucks are great for targeting balance, stability and, core strength. The arms and torso help stabilize your body as you draw the knees in and, at the end of the movement, give your abs an extra squeeze to intensify the challenge.

  1. Get into a pushup position with the ball under the shins/ankles (easier) or the tops of the feet (harder).
  2. Make sure the body is straight, back flat and the abs engaged.
  3. Roll the ball in, bending the knees towards the chest as you squeeze the abs.
  4. Try not to push back with your arms but, instead, keep all the movement in the knees.
  5. Don't collapse the back as you roll the knees in.
  6. Return to start and repeat for 10-16 reps.

Ball Pikes

Ball pikes are an advanced version of the knee tucks shown previously and are very challenging. You can always modify the move by keeping the knees slightly bent or by shortening the range of motion and only lifting the hips a few inches, lifting higher as you get stronger. The key to making this move challenging is to use the abs to draw the hips up, rolling the feet on top of the ball.

  1. Get into a pushup position with the ball under the shins/ankles (easier) or the tops of the feet (harder).
  2. Make sure the body is straight, back flat and the abs engaged.
  3. Squeeze the abs and lift the hips up towards the ceiling, rolling the feet on top of the ball.
  4. Keep the legs straight for more of a challenge, ending in a straight-leg pike with the toes on the ball.
  5. Return to start and repeat for 10-16 reps.

Oblique Knee Drops

Med Ball Knee Drops
Paige Waehner

Oblique knee drops are a great way to target the obliques as well as the rectus abdominis and the back. The key to this move is to use your abs to control your legs as you lower them down and then contract them to pull them back up. Avoid arching or straining your lower back by keeping the range of motion small, only lowering the knees as far as you comfortably can. You can also try this move without a medicine ball or with a rolled up towel under the hips for more support.

  1. Lie in the floor with knees pulled in and bent to about 90 degrees.
  2. Place a medicine ball between knees and stretch arms our to the sides like an airplane, palms facing up.
  3. Contract the abs and lower the knees down towards the right.
  4. Lower the knees as low as you can without lifting the shoulders off the floor or straining your back.
  5. Squeeze the abs, feeling your obliques contract and draw the knees back up and go to the other side.
  6. Alternate sides for a total of 1-3 sets of 10-16 reps.

Medicine Ball Extensions

Paige Waehner

This very advanced exercise targets multiple muscles including the abs, back, legs and arms. To try this move, you might want to prop the ball sideways against a wall for stability and begin without the medicine ball to practice your form. This move requires tremendous balance and strength. If you feel pain in your lower back, keep the arms over the chest or just slightly lowered instead of dropping them parallel to the floor.

  1. Position the ball under upper back to engage your abs and to stabilize the hips. Prop the ball sideways against a wall for stability if needed.
  2. Hold a light medicine ball or dumbbell straight up over chest and make sure knees are at 90 degrees.
  3. Lower arms behind you while simultaneously extending the right leg straight.
  4. Return to start and repeat, alternating legs for 10-16 reps.
  5. For less challenge to balance, do the leg extension without the medicine ball.

Plank With a Leg Lift

The traditional plank exercise is an excellent stabilization exercise that involves almost every muscle in the body with a focus on the abs and back. This version involves propping the feet on a ball and lifting the legs, one at a time, to add intensity to the exercise. To modify, place the ball under the shins or upper thighs.

  1. Place the ball under the shins or toes (harder) and the hands about shoulder-width apart on the floor.
  2. Contract the abs to hold the body in a straight line from head to toe.
  3. Keeping the abs contracted, lift the right leg off the ball a few inches, hold for a few seconds and lower. Repeat on the left leg, alternating feet for 8-16 reps on each side.


The woodchop is a challenging and dynamic exercise targeting the abs and back. It's a great way to strengthen the core for twisting motions like those involved in golf, baseball, or tennis. You can do this move from the bottom up (as shown) or reverse the move and do it from the top down to change things up. The key to keeping this move safe is to rotate the hips and knees in the direction you're moving and focus on contracting the abs.

  1. Attach one end of a resistance band to a sturdy object (such as a stair railing) near the floor.
  2. Hold the other end and take a few steps away to create tension on the band. You may need to loop the band around your hands several times.
  3. Keeping the arms straight, rotate the body and bring the arms up in a diagonal while squeezing the abs.
  4. Rotate the hips and knees as you turn to avoid injuring the joints.
  5. Rotate back and repeat for 10-16 reps before switching sides.

Rotations on the Ball

Ball Rotations
Paige Waehner

This advanced move not only works the core, with a focus on the obliques, it also targets balance, stability and flexibility. To keep this move safe, keep the exercise slow and controlled and keep the knees in line with the shins and ankles rather than twisting them to one side or the other.

  1. Lie with ball under shoulders, neck and head, hips lifted in a bridge position.
  2. Hold a medicine ball or light weight straight up over the chest.
  3. Tighten your abs and rotate your torso to the left as far as you can, allowing the hips and legs to move naturally with the motion.
  4. Rotate back up and then rotate to the other side.
  5. Repeat for 1-3 sets of 10-16 reps (one rep includes both the right and left sides).

Side Bridge with Hip Drops

Paige Waehner

The side bridge is an advanced exercise, particularly if you do the move on the forearm (another option is to balance on the hand). Adding a hip lift really challenges the obliques, making this a great overall core exercise. You can modify by keeping one knee on the floor or by taking the feet wide instead of stacked on top of one another.

  1. Lie on your side balanced on the forearm and feet.
  2. The hips and feet should be stacked on top of one another.
  3. Holding the torso steady, slowly contract your abs and lower the hip toward the floor (you don't have to touch).
  4. Avoid sinking into the shoulder.
  5. Bring the hip back up and repeat for 1-3 sets of 10-16 reps on each side.

Seated Torso Twist

Paige Waehner

The seated torso twist is a great way to target the obliques while strengthening the core and building endurance in the hip flexors. The key to keeping this move safe and effective is to keep the back straight and the chest lifted throughout the exercise rather than hunching the shoulders, which could strain the back.

  1. Sit holding a medicine ball with knees bent.
  2. Lean back slightly, engaging the abs and keeping the back straight and the chest lifted.
  3. Rotate to the right, touching the medicine ball to the floor next to the hip.
  4. Come back to center and rotate to the left.
  5. Repeat, alternating sides for 1-3 sets of 10-16 reps (one rep is to the right and left).

Ab Rolls on the Ball

Ball Rollouts
Ball Rollout. Paige Waehner

Ab rolls are a challenging exercise that targets all the muscles of the core. This advanced move requires attention to detail to avoid straining the back. Make sure you only roll out as far as you comfortably can. If you feel any strain in the back, back off the exercise or avoid it completely.

  1. Kneel in front of the ball and place the hands on the ball, parallel to one another and with the elbows bent.
  2. Contract the abs and pull the belly towards the spine.
  3. Slowly roll forward and out as far as you comfortably can, until the feel the abs engage. Don't go so far that you hurt your back or collapse.
  4. This move does not involve bending the hips, so keep them straight throughout the exercise.
  5. Keeping the body straight, slowly pull your body back using your arms and abdominals.
  6. Continue for 1-3 sets of 8-12 reps, avoiding this move if you have any back problems.
  7. You can change the difficult of the move by placing your hands closer in or further out.

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