How to Work Your Abs Standing Up

Functional Training for Your Core

Man Doing Knee Lift
Getty Images/Maskot

Adding more standing exercises can give you a well-rounded ab routine that makes you strong in every position, whether you're standing, sitting or lying down. Learn why and how to get your ab routine up off the floor.

Typical Ab Exercises on the Floor

Doing ab exercises on the floor makes sense—to work your muscles, you have to be in a position where your muscles work in direct opposition to gravity.

For the ab muscles you are most concerned with (the rectus abdominis), that means lying down and crunching the shoulders towards the hips, with gravity adding resistance in just the right direction. In fact, of the 10 most effective ab exercises, all but one are done lying down, including bicycles, ball crunches, and vertical leg crunches. These exercises are the best for recruiting all those muscle fibers in your abs, but with the shift towards functional training, it's now understood that you need strong abs, not just while lying on the floor, but for all the movements you perform each day.

Standing up for Your Abs

The problem is, while you feel like you've really worked your abs, you've often missed out on more functional core training by focusing so much of your energy on crunches. It's time to look at a new way of working your abs with exercises that are more effective, more functional and, even better, get you off the floor.

Working the body as a whole is a lot more effective than trying to isolate different muscle groups (like crunches do). What that means for your abs is that, while crunches and other floor exercises still have a place in your training routine, standing ab work can add a new depth and dimension to your workouts, giving you more than just strong abs, but a strong core.

Standing Ab Exercises

The best standing ab exercises will involve moving your body through multiple planes of motion and include movements like bending, rotating and bracing your core. It's also a good idea to include a mixture of both standing and floor exercises to hit all the core muscles for a strong, fit torso.

The following are just a few examples of standing exercises that target all the muscles of the core, including the rectus abdominis, internal and external obliques, the transverse abdominis, and the lower back muscles. Many of these exercises will also challenge your balance and stability, both of which require heavy core involvement:

  • Reverse Woodchop
  • Horizontal Woodchop
  • Medicine Ball Side Bends
  • Windmills
  • Overhead Squats
  • Medicine Ball Circles
  • Static Lunges With Med Ball Rotations
  • Figure 8s With a Med Ball
  • Standing Side Crunch
  • Standing Crossover Crunch

Integrated Core Training

Keep in mind that you don't have to train your abs separately. Core training happens during almost every workout, especially weight training. Any exercise that requires you to stabilize your body as you lift weight will involve your core, particularly if you're doing compound exercises, moves that involve both the upper and lower body at the same time.

Some examples include:

  • One-Legged Deadlifts
  • Side to Side Med Ball Lunges

Add more core challenge to your workouts by trying the above exercises or combining your own moves together. You can also do exercises on the exercise ball while standing on one leg, or on an unstable surface (like a BOSU). Not only will your abs be stronger and better able to handle all of life's movements, but you also won't have to do a single crunch.

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