37 Exercises that Target Your Abs, Back and Core

You know you should work your abs, but maybe you're tired of doing the same old crunches and planks.

That's a good thing because those exercises only do so much.  You want to target all of the muscles of your abs - The rectus abdominis, the transverse abdominis and the obliques with a variety of exercises, sitting, standing and on the ball.

Create Your Own Ab Workout 

You typically want to choose about 5-10 different ab exercises, making sure you choose exercises that target all of the muscle groups.

  • Beginners:  Choose 5-6 exercises that target all the different muscles.  Try ball crunches for the rectus abdominis, oblique crunches for the obliques, a modified plank for the transverse abdominis and seated rotations for a total core exercise.  Do each exercise for 1-3 sets of 12-16 reps.
  • Intermediate to Advanced Exercisers:  Choose 7-10 exercises that target all of the muscle groups from multiple angles and with different types of equipment.  Try for 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps.
  • Do each move at a slow and controlled pace.  Try not to use momentum, but really use your core to originate the exercise

What You'll Need for Your Ab Workout

The equipment needed varies, but the complete list is: Various weighted dumbbells, resistance bands, an exercise ball, a medicine ball and a mat. You can do this workout at the gym or at home if you have the equipment.

If you have any health conditions or an injury, talk to your doctor before you begin an exercise program. Ask about any restrictions or modifications you might need.

Seated Rotations

Seated Rotation
Paige Waehner

Sit with good posture holding a medicine ball or dumbbell in front of torso, elbows slightly bent. Keeping the abs contracted, rotate the ball to the right while keeping the hips and legs facing forward. Contract abs to bring the ball back to center and then to the left. Go slowly and concentrate on rotating only at the torso.  Repeat for 8-16 reps.

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Ball Crunch

Ball Crunch
Paige Waehner

Lie with the ball resting under the mid/lower back and place hands behind the head or across the chest.  Contract your abs to lift your the torso off the ball, pulling the bottom of your rib cage down toward your hips. As you curl up, keep the ball stable. Repeat for 1-3 sets of 8-16 reps.

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Bird Dog

Superhuman core exercise
Paige Waehner

On the hands and knees, lift the right arm and left leg until both are parallel to the floor. Hold for several seconds, lower and repeat on the other side, this time lifting the left arm and right leg. Continue alternating sides for 1-3 sets of 10-16 reps.

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Toe Taps

Toe Taps
Paige Waehner

Bring the knees up to a 90-degree angle.  Keep one leg bent and lower the other leg towards the floor, tapping the floor with your toe.  Complete 16 on the same leg and then switch sides. Keep the back pressed to the floor and the abs braced.

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Oblique Crossover Crunch

Oblique Crunch
Paige Waehner

Lie down and cross the left foot over the right knee. Place the right hand behind the head for support and, keeping the elbow back, lift the shoulder blades off the floor and then crossover, focusing on bringing the shoulder towards the knee.  Repeat for 1-3 sets of 8-16 reps.

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Modified Plank on the Knees

Plank on the Knees
Paige Waehner

Begin by resting on the elbows and knees. Pull the abs tight to hold your body in a straight line from head to knees without sagging in the middle, eyes looking naturally forward. Hold this position for as long as you can before losing your form.

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Plank

Plank
Plank. Paige Waehner

Begin on your forearms and knees and then lift up until you're on your elbows and toes, back flat, in a straight line from head to heels. Tilt your pelvis and contract your abs to prevent your rear end from sticking up in the air. Hold f30-60 seconds, rest and repeat.

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Bicycle Ab Exercise

Bicycle
Bicycle. Paige Waehner

On the floor, hands behind the head, lift the shoulder blades off the floor and rotate the left elbow towards the right knee. Switch sides, bringing the right elbow towards the left knee. Continue alternating sides in a 'pedaling' motion for 1-3 sets of 16 reps (1 rep is to the right and left).

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Vertical Crunch

Vertical Crunch
Paige Waehner

Lie on the floor and extend the legs straight up with feet crossed. Place your hands behind the head for support and contract the abs to lift the shoulder blades off the floor, as though reaching your chest towards your feet. Lower and repeat for 1-3 sets of 8-16 reps.

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Long Arm Crunch

Long Arm Crunch
Paige Waehner

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

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Reverse Crunch

Reverse Crunch Up
Paige Waehner

Lie on the floor and place hands on the floor or behind the head. Lift the knees, bending them to 90-degrees and contract the abs to curl the hips off the floor, reaching the legs up towards the ceiling. Lower and repeat for 1-3 sets of 8-16 reps.

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Crunch with a Heel Push

Crunch with Heel Push
Paige Waehner

Lie on your back with the knees bent and the hands gently cradling the head. Flex your feet and keep them flexed as your contract the abs, lifting the shoulder blades off the floor. At the top of the crunch, press your heels into the floor while pressing your back against the mat and slightly raising the glutes off the floor. Lower and repeat for 1-3 sets of 8-16 reps.

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Modified Side Bridge with Hip Lifts

Modified Side Bridge
Paige Waehner

Sit resting on your on the right hip with the legs out to the side, knees bent and stacked. Press into the forearm and contract the abs to lift the hips off the mat. Hold briefly and then lower, barely touching the hips to the floor before coming back up. Repeat for 1-3 sets of -16 reps on each side.

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Side Bridge with Hip Drops

Side Plank
Paige Waehner

Lie on your side balanced on the forearm and feet. The hips and feet should be stacked on top of one another. Holding the torso steady, slowly contract your abs and lower the hip a few inches. Bring the hip back up and repeat for 30 seconds on each side.

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Plank on the Ball with a Leg Lift

Plank Leg Lift on the Ball
Paige Waehner

Place the ball under the shins or toes (harder) and the hands about shoulder-width apart on the floor.  Contract the abs to hold the body in a straight line from head to toe and 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.

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Ball Walks

Ball Walks
Paige Waehner

Sit on the ball with the hands behind the head (harder) or resting on the ball, abs engaged. Slowly walk forward, rolling your torso down onto the ball. Continue walking the feet forward until you're in a tabletop position on the ball, head and neck supported and the hips lifted. Slowly walk back, coming all the way up to a seated position. Use a sticky mat or shoes with good traction to avoid slipping and hold onto a wall for balance if needed. Repeat for 1-3 sets of 10-15 reps.

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Plank Knee Press on the Ball

Plank Press
Paige Waehner

Begin on your knees, place forearms on the ball.  Straighten the knees and bring the body into a plank position. Hold for 1-2 seconds, lower the knees and repeat for 12-16 reps.

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Plank with Knee Bends

Plank Knee Bend
Paige Waehner

Begin in a plank position, on the hands and toes. Lift the left foot off the floor and bend the knee, pulling it in towards the chest. Your torso might bend a little as you bring the knee in. Cross the left foot over the right leg, hold briefly, then take left knee back to the chest. Bring the left foot back into your full plank and repeat on the other side. Repeat for 8 reps (1 rep includes a knee bend with both the right and left legs).

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Ball Rollouts

ballrollouts.jpg
Paige Waehner

Kneel with the hands on the ball. Keep the back straight and abs braced as you roll forward as far as you comfortably can (avoid arching the back). Roll the ball back in and repeat for 1-3 sets of 8-16 reps.

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Ball Exchange

Ball Exchange
Paige Waehner

Lie on the mat and squeeze the ball between the feet.  Lower the arms and legs as low as you can without arching the back, then bring them back to the middle, taking the ball in the hands.  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 8-16 reps.

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Ski Abs

Ski Abs
Paige Waehner

In a plank position, jump the feet forward and to the left, landing in a squat with your feet behind your left hand. Jump back to plank and then jump to the right, alternating sides for 30-60 seconds.

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Pushup Jacks

Pushup Jacks
Paige Waehner

In a pushup position, with hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, jump the feet apart as you bend the elbows into a pushup, going as low as you can. As you push back up, jump the feet back together. Continue for 1-3 sets of 8-16 reps.

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Captain's Chair Leg Raise

Captain's Chair Ab Exercise
Paige Waehner

Stand on the Captain's Chair and grip handholds to stabilize your upper body. Press your back against the pad and contract the abs to raise the legs and lift knees towards your chest. Lower and repeat for 1-3 sets of 8-16 reps.

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Single Arm Overhead Press

Overhead Squat
Paige Waehner

Stand in a wide stance holding light-medium weights.  Take the right arm up, letting the left arm hang between the legs.  Looking up at the right arm (optional) lower into a squat until the thighs are parallel to the floor.  Press back up, keeping the arm up and repeat for 1-3 sets of 8-16 reps on each side.

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Med Ball Circles

Med Ball Circles
Paige Waehner

Hold a med ball overhead and lean to the right, pivoting on the feet to rotate the body as you circle the ball the feet, rotating the body to the right as you circle the ball towards the floor. Continue in the circle, bringing the ball forward and then turning to the left as you circle the weight all the way around. Repeat for 16 reps on one side and then switch to the other side.

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Standing Side Crunch

Standing Side Crunch
Paige Waehner

Begin in a standing position, right arm straight up in the air. Shift your weight to your left leg and slowly bring the knee up and out to the side while bringing the right elbow towards right knee, squeezing the obliques. Take the arm up and the foot down and repeat, keeping the move slow and controlled. Repeat for 1-3 sets of 8-16 reps on each side.

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Standing Crossover Crunch

Standing Crossover Crunch
Paige Waehner

Stand with hands behind the head, elbows out. Bring the right knee up and across the body as you rotate through the torso, bringing the left shoulder towards the right hip. Return to start and repeat, keeping the move slow and controlled. Repeat for 1-3 sets of 8-16 reps on each side.

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Diagonal Woodchops

Band Woodchop
Paige Waehner

Attach one end of a resistance band to a sturdy object and loop one handle through the other.  Pull the other handle tight and step away from the anchor point until there's tension on the band.

Keeping the arms straight, rotate the body and bring the arms up in a diagonal while squeezing the abs.

Rotate the hips and knees as you turn to avoid injuring the joints.

Rotate back and repeat for 10-16 reps before switching sides.

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Horizontal Woodchops

Horizontal Woodchop
Paige Waehner

Wrap band around a sturdy object at waist level and stand to the left, holding handles in both hands.  Keeping the arms straight, bring the arms across the body, rotating to the left and contracting the obliques. Keep the move slow and controlled and the lower body stable.  Return to start and repeat for 16 reps before switching sides.

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Static Lunges with a Med Ball Rotation

Med Ball Lunge Rotations
Paige Waehner

Begin in a lunge position, right leg forward, left leg back. Hold a medicine ball with the arms straight out. Keeping the lower body stable, rotate from the torso to bring the arms across the body to the right. Come back to center and now to the left, keeping the move slow and controlled. Repeat for 8 reps, then switch legs and complete another set of 8 reps.

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Kettlebell Windmills

Kettlebell Windmill
Paige Waehner

Hold a medium kettlebell or dumbbell in the right hand, turning the right toes out and the left toes forward, almost like you're standing on a surfboard.

Take the left arm straight up and lean to the right, kicking the left hip out and bending the right knee as you lower the weight towards the floor.

Look up at your left hand for more of a challenge.

Straighten back to start, keeping the left arm up.

Repeat for 8-16 reps before switching sides, completing 1-3 sets. 

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Seated Med Ball Torso Twist

Med Ball Torso Twist
Paige Waehner

Sit holding a medicine ball with knees bent and lean back slightly, torso straight.  Rotate to the right, squeezing the abs and touch the medicine ball to the floor.  Come back to center and rotate to the left.  Repeat, alternating sides for 1-3 sets of 8-16 reps (one rep is to the right and left).

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Spiderman Planks

Spiderman Plank
Paige Waehner

Begin in a plank position, on the hands and toes, back flat and abs braced. Lift the left leg and bend the knee, bringing it towards the left elbow. Go back to the start and repeat on the other side. Repeat for 1-3 sets of 8-16 reps.

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Side Plank

Side Plank
Paige Waehner

Begin in a side plank, balancing the left hand and the outside of the left foot (feet stacked or staggered).  Take the arm straight up to the ceiling and hold for as long as you can before switching sides.  You can also put a knee down for a modification.

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Side Plank with Leg Lift

Side Plank Leg Lift
Paige Waehner

Begin in a side plank, balancing the left hand and the outside of the left foot (feet stacked or staggered). Lift the other arm straight up and hold that position as you lift and lower the right leg just a few inches. Complete 8 reps and switch sides.

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Modified Side Plank with Leg Lift

Side Plank with Leg Lift
Paige Waehner

Sit, resting on the left forearm and the left hip with knees bent and stacked.

Take the right arm straight up or put the right hand on the floor in front of you for balance and leverage, if needed.

Press into the forearm and squeeze the obliques to lift the hips off the mat.

At the same time lift the right leg up a few inches, focusing on the outer thigh.

Hold briefly, lower the leg and then go back down to the floor, just touching the mat before lifting the hips again.

Repeat for 1-3 sets of 8-16 reps on each side.

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Side Bend with a Med Ball

Side Bend Med Ball
Paige Waehner

Stand holding a med ball straight up overhead, arms straight. 

Lean to the right, keeping the hips and legs in a stationary position and going as low as you can.  Come back to center and repeat on the other side.  Repeat for

Repeat for 1-3 sets of 8-16 reps.

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