The Best Abs Exercises to Get A 6 Pack

The Best Abs Exercises to Get A 6 Pack featured image

A six-pack is one of the most common workout goals for men and women. While most guys want to pair their six-packs with bulging biceps and rippling pecs, women are more likely or want toned legs and a firm butt.

To get a six-pack, you need to adopt a two-pronged approach of diet and exercise. That’s because you not only have to build the muscles that make up your six-pack, but you also need to lose the fat that could otherwise cover them up.

You may even have a six-pack right now; it’s just hiding beneath a layer of unwanted adipose tissue.

We’ll have to leave dieting for a six-pack for another article and, today, we’re going to reveal some of the best abs exercises.

The exercises we’ve chosen will help tone and strengthen your abdomen, so your six-pack becomes more prominent.

However, it’s important to remember that you can’t build a six-pack in isolation; you also need to train the rest of your muscles. Your body likes balance, and you won’t get the results you want training your abs by themselves.

Use these tried-and-tested exercises to sculpt the midsection of your dreams – alongside a well-balanced diet, of course!

Anatomy of Six-Pack Abs

While you don’t need a degree in anatomy to sculpt the perfect six-pack, knowing a little about the muscles that make up your marvelous midsection may be helpful.

If nothing else, it will help illustrate how you need to train more than just the muscle on the front of your abdomen to get the results you want.

The main muscles that make up your six-pack abs:

perfect abs of womanRectus abdominis – this is the muscle at the front of your abdomen.

It’s divided into sections by bands of ligamentous tissue called the linea alba, which give it that distinctive six-pack shape.

The main function of the rectus abdominus is the flexion of your spine.

Obliques – the obliques frame your six-pack and are basically your waist muscles. There are two sets of obliques; the inner and outer.

They work together to rotate and laterally flex your spine.

Transverse abdominus – the TVA runs horizontally around your midsection, acting not unlike a corset or weightlifting belt. A strong TVA will help stabilize your spine and also flattens your belly. After all, who wants a rounded six-pack?!

Erector spinae – this is the collective term for the muscles of your lower back. A strong lower back will hold you upright, automatically flattening your abdomen and making your six-pack look even more impressive.

Benefits of Stronger Abs

Six-pack abs have obvious aesthetic appeal. But, a lean, mean midsection has other benefits, including:

Less low back pain – strong abs will help support your spine and take the stress off passive structures like ligaments and intervertebral discs.

80% of adults will suffer back pain during their lifetimes, and stronger abs could help stop you from becoming one of the many people affected.

Better posture – good posture makes you look slimmer and younger and also takes unwanted pressure off your joints.

Long periods spent sitting can wreak havoc on your posture, but stronger abs can help reduce the damaging effects that could lead to back pain and an ugly slouch.

Sex-appeal – well-defined abs are a subconscious indicator of virility and health. Whether you want kids or not, it’s nice to know that your six-pack abs make you more attractive to potential sexual partners.

Improved health – to reveal your six-pack, you need to lower your body fat percentage. High levels of body fat are inextricably linked to things like heart disease and diabetes.

Losing the fat that obscures your abs could be good for your health and even extend your lifespan.

17 Abs Exercises for A Shredded Core

Build the midsection of your dreams with these 17 abs exercises. Between them, they work all the muscles that make up your six-pack, so make sure you do a variety of exercises to work your abs from all the necessary angles.

1. Stability ball crunches

Crunches are a classic abs exercise that targets your rectus abdominis. Using a stability ball increases your range of motion and makes what can otherwise be a very easy exercise much more demanding.

How to do it:

  1. Sit on your stability ball. Walk your feet toward and lean back until the ball is in the arch of your lower back. Put your hands on your temples, across your chest, or on your thighs.
  2. Exhale and lift your head, shoulders, and upper back off the ball. Try to form a C-shape with your spine.
  3. Lie back down, so your shoulders drop below the level of your hips to stretch your abs.
  4. Repeat for the required number of reps.

2. Hanging knee raises

Hanging knee raises work your rectus abdominus but, because they involve lifting your legs, they’re usually more challenging than exercises like crunches.

You can do hanging knee raises using an overhead pull-up bar or a special bench called a captain’s chair. Both options are equally effective.

How to do it

  1. Using a pull-up bar or a captain’s chair, hang with your legs straight and together.
  2. Bend your legs and pull your knees up to at least hip height. Try to push your pelvis forward to maximize the contraction in your abs.
  3. Lower your legs and repeat.
  4. Try not to swing your legs up. Use the strength of your abs instead.

3. Abs wheel rollouts

woman abs wheel rolloutsIf you’ve got strong abs, you’ll probably enjoy rollouts. This exercise is much harder than things like crunches or sit-ups.

Only attempt this exercise if you’ve got a strong core and you’re ready for a challenge.

How to do it:

  1. Kneel down and hold your abs wheel in both hands. Put it on the floor in front of your legs. Brace your abs.
  2. Inhale and push the roller away from you. Keeping your arms straight, lower your chest to the floor.
  3. Pull the abs wheel back and return to the kneeling position, exhaling as you do so.
  4. Make this exercise harder by using a weighted barbell or doing it from a standing position.

4. Planks

If abs rollouts are beyond you at the moment, planks will help build your core strength so that you can do them at a later date. However, if you can plank for 60-seconds or more, you’re probably ready for a new challenge.

How to do it:

  1. Kneel down and place your forearms on the floor, hands flat and pointing forward.
  2. Walk your legs back, so your body is straight.
  3. Hold this position, but not your breath, for as long as possible.
  4. Make planks easier by bending your legs and resting on your knees, or harder by tensing your abs as hard as possible or resting a weight across your hips.

5. Cable crunches

Cable crunches mean you can expose your muscles to more weight than bodyweight crunches. If you can do 20 or more regular or stability ball crunches, this is the exercise you should graduate to.

How to do it:

  1. Attach a rope handle to an overhead pully and take one end in each hand. Pull the handles down to your shoulders. Kneel down beneath the pully.
  2. Exhale and flex your spine, pulling your shoulders down toward your hips. Flex that spine!
  3. Return to the upright position and repeat.

6. Mountain climbers

man doing Mountain climbers absMountain climbers are a sort of moving plank. Not only do they work your rectus abdominis, but they also train your obliques.

Do them slowly to keep lots of tension on the target muscles.

How to do it:

  1. Adopt the push-up position with your legs, body, and arms straight. Brace your abs.
  2. Bend one leg and pull your knee up and into your chest. Pause for 1-2 seconds.
  3. Extend your legs, swap sides, and repeat.
  4. Continue alternating sides for the required number of reps.

7. Kick-throughs

If you’ve mastered mountain climbers, this should be your next progression. Kick-throughs also work your rectus abdominis and obliques, but the range of motion is greater, making them significantly more demanding.

How to do it:

  1. Adopt the push-up position with your legs, body, and arms straight. Brace your abs.
  2. Lift your left leg and swing it under your body, pivoting and turning your torso as you do so. Your weight should now be supported on your right leg and right hand only.
  3. Touch your foot with your opposite hand.
  4. Return to the push-up position and then repeat on the other side.
  5. Alternate sides for the duration of your set.

8. Reverse crunches

While there is no such things as lower abs, this exercise involves lifting your legs and hips instead of your shoulders. You’ll probably feel this move more in the area below your belly button. If you can’t do hanging knee raises, this is a viable alternative.

How to do it:

  1. Lie on your back with your legs and hips bent to 90-degrees. Place your hands on the floor next to your hips, palms turned up to the ceiling.
  2. Without using your arms, lift your hips and lower back off the floor.
  3. Lower your butt back to the floor and repeat.

9. Side bends

Side bends target your obliques. A lot of people do this exercise with a weight in each hand, which is a mistake.

Using two weights acts as a counterbalance, negating the benefits of the exercise. Use one weight only for best results.

How to do it:

  1. Hold a dumbbell or kettlebell in your left hand. Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent.
  2. Without twisting your hips or shoulders, lean to the left and lower the weight down your leg to the outside of your knee.
  3. Stand back up straight and repeat.
  4. Do the same number of reps on each side.

10. Side planks

side planks absNo weights? No problem! You can train your obliques with side planks.

However, if you can do this exercise for 60-seconds or more, you need to move onto something more challenging.

How to do it:

  1. Lie on your side with your legs and body straight. Lean on your lowermost elbow and forearm.
  2. Raise your hips, so your head, hips, and legs form a straight line. Hold for as long as possible and then switch sides.
  3. Make this exercise harder by lifting your uppermost leg.

11. Single-arm farmer’s carry

Holding and carrying a heavy object in one hand works your abs and obliques. If you find floor abs exercises boring or just want to work your abs on the move, this is the exercise for you.

As an added benefit, single-arm farmer’s walks will also strengthen your grip.

How to do it:

  1. Hold a heavy dumbbell or kettlebell in one hand. Keep your torso upright and brace your abs.
  2. Walk around your training area until your grip or core begin to fail. Put the weight down, switch sides, and repeat.
  3. You can also hold the weight overhead – an exercise called waiter’s walk.

12. Cable woodchops

Cable woodchops work your obliques. As the name suggests, they look a little like you are swinging an ax and cutting logs.

This exercise also teaches you to use your arms, legs, and core at the same time, making it a very functional exercise.

How to do it:

  1. Attach a D-shaped handle to a high pully. Hold the handle in both hands and, with your arms straight, stand sideways on. Your feet should be shoulder-width or wider apart for balance.
  2. Without bending your arms, rotate your upper body through 180 degrees, bringing your arms across and down diagonally so your hands finish up level with your hips.
  3. Unwind and return to the starting position and then repeat.
  4. Do the same number of reps on both sides.

13. Pallof presses

This exercise is an anti-rotation exercise; you’re going to use your core to keep your torso still while lifting weights with your upper body. This is very much how your core works in nature and is an excellent way to tone and strengthen your entire midsection.

How to do it:

  1. Attach a D-shaped handle to an adjustable pully machine set to around chest height.
  2. Hold the handle in both hands in front of your chest and stand sideways on.
  3. With your feet about shoulder-width apart for balance, brace your abs and extended your arms, pushing the handle out to arms’ length.
  4. Bend your arms and repeat.
  5. Do the same number of reps on each side.

14. V-sits

woman doing V-sits absV-sits are a basic but demanding abs exercise that involves lifting your arms and legs simultaneously.

This is a good move for home exercisers as you don’t need any extra equipment to do it.

How to do it:

  1. Lie on your back with your legs straight and your arms on the floor above your head.
  2. Lift your legs and upper body at the same time, reaching up toward your toes as you do so. Mid-rep, you should be balancing on your butt with your body in a V-shape.
  3. Lie back down and repeat.
  4. Make this exercise easier by lifting just one leg at a time or bending your legs to do a W-sit instead.

15. Flutter kicks

Flutter kicks are a favorite of special forces soldiers. They work your rectus abdominus and teach you how to keep your core braced as you move your legs. Requiring no equipment, this is a great move for home workouts.

How to do it:

  1. Lie on your back with your legs straight. Place your hands palms down under your butt. Lift your legs, head, and shoulders a few inches off the floor using your abs.
  2. Keeping your abs tight, kick your legs up and down like you’re swimming. Four kicks equal one rep.
  3. Keep going until your abs begin to fail, and you feel your lower back coming off the floor.

16. Renegade rows

While renegade rows are often viewed as a lat exercise, they’re actually a very demanding abs exercise too. All you need for this six-pack builder is a pair of dumbbells or kettlebells.

How to do it:

  1. With a weight in each hand, get down and into the push-up position. Your arms and legs should be straight. Brace your abs.
  2. Bend one arm and pull the weight up and into your side.
  3. Lower the weight and do your next rep on the other side.
  4. Continue alternating arms for the duration of your set.

17. Vacuums

vacuums absVacuums are an old-school abs exercise that teaches you how to use your TVA correctly and could also make your waist smaller.

You can do this exercise almost anywhere and anytime, even while you’re driving your car or sitting at your desk at work.

How to do it:

  1. Seated or standing in good posture, exhale fully.
  2. Next, pull your stomach in and try to touch your spine with your belly button.
  3. Keep your abdomen pulled in for 5-10 seconds and breathe normally.
  4. Relax your abs, exhale, and repeat.
  5. Increase the length of each hold as you get stronger.

Bottom Line

Six-pack abs are a common workout goal, but a lot of people never reach it. That’s because they fail to address their diet and exercise needs.

All the abs workouts in the world won’t give you a six-pack if you don’t eat right. Similarly, a great diet won’t help if you aren’t paying your dues in the gym. Building a six-pack requires a holistic approach – 50% exercise and 50% nutrition.

While getting a six-pack isn’t easy, if you are prepared to work long enough and hard enough, it’s within most exerciser’s grasp.

Almost any low-calorie diet will help you shed the fat currently covering your abs, while the right exercises will tone and strengthen your abs, so they’re visible sooner. That means you need to challenge your abs; endless sets of easy exercises like crunches and sit-ups won’t cut it.

If you can do more than 20 reps of an abs exercise, it’s probably too easy to produce meaningful results. Look for ways to make your abs workout harder, either by adding weight or choosing more challenging exercises.

So, stick with the plan, choose a sustainable diet, and train hard. It won’t happen overnight but, in time, you too can have a six-pack you can be proud of. Visit the Weightloss Fitness & Health homepage for more expert reviews & advice.