We get it. You want lean body. And while no single exercise will ever flatten your belly or give you a six-pack (you need to adjust your diet for that), there are ways to work your abs even harder so that as you lose fat, you uncover a hard body. We asked Jim Smith, C.S.C.S, a strength coach at Diesel Strength & Conditioning, to identify the hardest core exercises. Try these and your abs will never look or feel the same.
#29 Kneeling Plank
Start in pushup position, but shift your weight onto your knees and elbows. Press your elbows hard into the floor, and squeeze your abs like you’re about to be punched in the stomach. Hold the given time.
#28 Side Plank - Kneeling
Lie on your side with your knees bent. Prop your body up onto your left hand, and squeeze your abs tight as if you were about to be punched in the stomach. Raise your hips and hold for time. Once finished, roll onto your other side and repeat.
Start in pushup position, but place your weight on your forearms instead of your hands. Your body should form a straight line from your ankles to your shoulders. Squeeze your abs tight and press your forearms into the floor. Hold for the given time. (30-60 seconds is a good starting goal)
#26 Plank on Swiss Ball
Place your hands on a Swiss ball and position your body in pushup position. Squeeze your abs tight and brace your entire body, trying not to let your body move with the ball. Hold this position for time.
#25 Side Plank
Lie on your left side with your legs straight. Shift your weight onto your left hand and raise your hips so that your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your ankles. Squeeze your abs tight and hold for time. Then, switch sides and repeat.
#24 Plank - One Foot Up
Perform a regular plank (see abs exercise #27) but raise one leg up and off the floor as high as you can. Make sure you squeeze your abs tight, press your elbows hard into the floor, and don’t allow your torso to sway or your hips to raise or drop.
#23 RKC Plank
Set yourself in plank position (see exercise #27), but more your elbows out farther so they are in line with your head (instead of your shoulders). Squeeze your glutes, brace your abs, and squeeze your quads to lock out your legs and prevent any movement. Hold for time.
Start on your hands and knees with your hands about shoulder-width apart. Squeeze your abs tight and then raise your arm and leg so that they are in line with your body. Hold for time (start with 5-10 seconds), return to the starting position, and repeat with your other arm and leg.
#21 Swiss Ball Mountain Climbers
Place your hands on a Swiss ball and start in a plank position. Brace your abs and prevent your body from moving. Then, raise your knees towards your just without rounding your lower back. Alternate legs for reps.
#20 Stir the Pot
Position yourself in plank position with your elbows on a Swiss ball. Your body should form a straight line from your shoulders to your ankles. Then, while keeping your body rigid, move your elbows in a circular pattern (like stirring a pot). Do 10 reps, then repeat in the opposite direction.
#19 Swiss Ball Roll Outs - Kneeling
Sit on your knees and place your forearms on a Swiss ball. Brace your abs tight and the roll out so that your arms extend in front of your body. Go as far as you can without allowing your hips to sag. Pause, and then use your abs to roll back to the starting position.
#18 Kneeling Chop
Attach a rope to a high pulley on a cable stack. Kneel on one knee in a staggered stance. Grab a rope at arm’s length with your shoulders turned toward the stack (but hips forward). Without moving your torso, pull the rope down towards your opposite hip. Return, complete all reps, and then repeat on the other side.
#17 Kneeling Lift
Perform the kneeling lift like the kneeling chop, but instead of starting above your shoulder, begin with the cable attachment below your hips. Then bring the rope up and across your body and above your opposite shoulder without rotating your hips.
#16 Tall Kneeling Chop
Perform a kneeling chop (see #18), but have both of your knees on the floor instead of in a staggered stance. Remember to chest your torso “tall” and to NOT allow your hips to rotate.
#15 Tall Kneeling Lift
Perform a kneeling left (see #17) but have both knees on the floor instead of in a staggered stance. Remember to keep your abs braced, and pull the rope out and across to the other shoulder without rotating your hips.
#14 Pallof Press
Grab a band (or a cable) that’s attached to a cable station at chest height. Stand with one side facing the anchor point and step away till you feel tension. Slowly extend your arms in front of your body until they’re straight and hold. Then return to the start. Perform for reps, switch sides and repeat.
#13 One Arm Farmers Walks
Grab a heavy dumbbell in one arm and stand tall. Then, walk forward for 25 to 50 yards without allow the weight to make you lean to a side. Your chest should remain up and your shoulders tucked down and back. Complete the walk, grab the weight in the other hand and repeat.
#12 Hip Thrusts
Place your upper back on a bench and lie faceup on the floor with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground. Then, raise your hips until your body forms a straight line from your knees to your shoulders. Pause, then lower. To make it harder, place a barbell across your hips
#11 TRX Flutters
Grab the TRX handles and face away from the anchor point. Hold the handles at your waist with your arms straight. Lean forward and raise your arms so they’re overhead and in line with your torso. Perform alternating pressing movements with your arms as you maintain your posture from your feet to your shoulders and keep your abs tight
#10 TRX Fallouts
Grab the TRX handles and face away from the anchor point. Squeeze your abs and hold the handles at your waist with your arms straight. Lean forward and raise your arms until they are in line with your torso. Keep tight while you pull your arms back to the start.
#9 Ab Roller
Kneel on the floor and grab an ab wheel with both hands (or you can place your hands on Valslides or towels). Slowly push the wheel forward and extend your body as far as you can without allowing your hips to drop. Then, use your abs to pull your body back to the start
#8 One Arm Dumbbell Bench
Grab a dumbbell and lie on your back on a bench. Hold the dumbbell at the side of your chest and then press it up. Pause, then lower the weight back to the start. Do all reps and then repeat on your other arm.
#7 One Arm Military Press
Stand holding a dumbbell in one hand with your feet about shoulder-width apart and your knees slightly bent. Press the dumbbell overhead until your arm is nearly straight, and then lower back down. Perform all reps and then switch arms.
#6 Goblet Squats (dumbbells or kettlebells)
Hold a dumbbell vertically with both hands and keep it close to your chest. Squeeze your abs and then push your hips back, bend your knees, and lower your body as far as you can. Pause, then stand back up.
#5 Back Extension Rows
Setup yourself face down in a back extension machine and make sure you feel tension in your upper back, hips, glutes and hamstrings. Grab a pair of light dumbbells and extend your back until your entire body forms a straight line. Then, perform a typical rowing movement with both dumbbells without allowing your torso to dip downward
#4 Back Extension Alternating Rows
Setup yourself face down in a back extension machine and make sure you feel tension in your upper back, hips, glutes and hamstrings. Grab a pair of light dumbbells and extend your back until your entire body forms a straight line. Then, perform a typical rowing movement—alternating arms—without allowing your torso to dip downward or your torso to twist
#3 L-Sit Pull-Ups
Grab a pullup bar with a double overhand grip. Without allowing your torso to move, hinge at your hips and lift your legs together until they are at 90 degrees. Then, perform conventional pullups while keeping your legs locked in this position.
#2 Treadmill Pike Ups
Turn off the treadmill and set your body in pushup position. Drive your hips upwards by pulling your feet toward your hands against the tension of the treadmill belt. Try to keep your torso and legs straight and only hinge upward at your hips. Then, return to the starting position by pushing your feet away from your hands.
#1 Medicine Ball Walk Outs
Put a medicine ball at your feet. Push your hips back without rounding your lower back. Place your hands on the med ball and slowly start walking your hands on top of the med ball driving it away from you. Walk your hands as far as you can without letting your hips sink, and then walk your hands backwards as you roll the ball back towards your feet