The Ultimate Guide to Ab Training

man with no shirt on flexing abs
Having a ripped midsection is one of the top fitness goals people strive for year after year. Although many do it for the sake of appearance, having a developed core serves an important purpose as it provides stability and balance for all movement. Strong abdominal muscles can make the difference between lifting a little or lifting a lot. As it is the center for movement, your core muscles play a part in all exercises, including proper posture and amount of volume. There is no question on how to achieve that sculpted six-pack. It takes hard work, the right training program, and a strict diet. This article will focus on the training aspect of this three-step measure. The hard work, intensity, and dedication are up to you.

Abdominal Breakdown

Before you begin building your core, you need to be familiar with the muscles that you’ll be working on sculpting into perfection.

Internal and external obliques

  • Side muscles of the core, in a diagonal direction
  • Rotates the torso
  • Stabilizes the abdomen

Rectus abdominus

  • Known as the “six-pack”
  • Flexes the spine
  • Pulls ribcage and pelvis together

Transverse abdominus

  • Deep muscle, which lies beneath the rectus abdominus
  • Stabilizes the trunk

Top Ab Exercises for Results

There are many great exercises out there to sculpt your core; there are also a lot of bad exercises. Let’s review some of the safest and most effective exercises that you can perform to ensure you are on your way to a sculpted six-pack.

Upper Abs:

1. Crunches

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground
  • Place your arms crossed in front of you or your hands behind your head
  • Keeping a straight neck, lift your upper body up towards your knees
  • Exhale as you go up
  • Lower back should stay on the ground
  • Squeeze the abdominal muscles then slowly release
  • Keep the tension on your core and repeat.

2. Sit-ups

  • Use the same starting position as the crunch
  • Bring your entire upper body to your knees, including your lower back
  • Keep the tension on your core and repeat
Make It a Challenge Crunches and sit-ups offer quite a bit of variety. If you are looking to change up your basic crunch or sit-up, try one of the following:
  • Perform them on a Swiss ball, otherwise known as a stability-ball
  • Hold a small weight plate on your chest
  • Utilize the rope attachment on a low pulley cable machine
  • Use the decline bench (with or without weight)

Lower Abs

3. Leg raises

  • Lie face up on the ground
  • Place your hands slightly out to your sides with the palms down on the floor
  • Bring your feet together
  • Lift your legs with a slight bend in the knees until your body forms an “L”
  • Slowly lower to the starting position
  • Do not let your heels touch the floor
  • Keep the tension in your core and repeat
Make It a Challenge You may quickly find that a new challenge is needed with leg raises. If this is the case, try the following upgrades:
  • Perform leg raises on a decline bench
  • Hold on to the pull-up bar or monkey bars and perform hanging leg raises or knee raises
    • While holding on to the bar, your feet should be dangling above the ground
    • Tighten your core
    • Slowly bring your feet or knees upward
    • Again, your body should make an “L”
    • Slowly lower to the starting position
    • Keep the tension in your core and repeat


4. Side Crunches

  • Lay on your side with knees bent
  • Place your hands behind your head
  • Bring your upper body up and forward so that you’re crunching your side
  • Your hip will remain in contact with the floor
  • Squeeze your oblique at the top of the movement
  • Slowly return to the starting position
  • Keep the tension in your core and repeat
Make It a Challenge
  • Perform on a Roman chair
    • While suspended, perform the side crunch as listed above

5. Bicycles

  • Lie on your back with your hands behind your head
  • Raise your feet slightly off of the ground
  • Alternate bringing your elbows to your knees in a twisting fashion
  • Twist your torso so that your left elbow reaches your right knee and then repeat on the other side
  • Continue alternating
  • Keep the tension in your core during the entire movement
Make It a Challenge
  • Isolate one side of the body
    • Bring your elbow to knee on just one side at a time then switch over to the other side.

6. Russian twists

  • Place yourself on a Roman chair or a decline sit-up bench
  • Your upper body will be sitting up suspended
  • Clasp your hands together and extend your arms out in front of you
  • Twist only your upper torso to one side
  • Repeat on the other side
  • Keep the tension in your core and repeat
Make It a Challenge
  • Hold a weight plate or medicine ball

7. Windshield wipers

  • Lie on your back with your arms out to your sides
  • Bring your feet together and raise your legs straight up
  • Keeping your legs at 90 degrees to your upper body (or keeping that “L” shape), twist them to the side until they almost touch the floor
  • Repeat on the other side
  • Keep the tension in your core and repeat
Make It a Challenge
  • Place a small weight such as a medicine ball between your feet

Full Core

8. Plank

  • Get into a standard push-up position
  • Hold yourself up by your elbows, not your hands
  • Tighten your core, making sure to draw it in to activate
  • Hold this position for 20 to 30 seconds
Make It a Challenge
  • Have a lifting buddy place a weight plate on your upper back to add resistance
  • Increase the amount of time you hold the plank

9. Side plank

  • Lie straight on your side
  • Lean on your elbow
  • Your feet should be stacked
  • Place your other arm straight down your other side
  • Hold the position for 20 to 30 seconds
  • Repeat on the other side
Make It a Challenge
  • Switch from a side plank to a normal plank over to another side plank

10. Dragon flag

  • Lie on a flat bench
  • Grasp the sides of the bench by your head
  • Lift your body up with only your upper back contacting the bench
  • Keeping lifting until your body comes close to forming a straight line upwards
  • Slowly return to the starting position
  • Keep the tension in your core and repeat
Make It a Challenge
  • Perform on a decline bench

Sample Routines

You know your abdominal muscles inside and out, you have the best exercises in the industry to help you achieve core glory, now it’s time for you to walk away with the perfect training program. Judge your ability honestly and follow one of these routines. Keep in mind that if you start at the beginning program, you’ll soon advance.

Beginner abdominal routine

  • Planks: 2 x 10-15 seconds each
  • Crunches: 2 sets of 10-15 repetitions
  • Leg Raises: 2 x 10
  • Side Crunches: 2 x 10

Intermediate abdominal routine

  • Stability Ball Crunches: 2 x 15
  • Hanging Leg Raises: 2 x 15
  • Roman Chair Crunch: 2 x 15
  • Weighted Plank: 2 x 15 seconds each

Advanced abdominal routine

  • Plank: 3 x 30 seconds each position
  • Decline Bench Leg Raises: 3 x 20
  • Bicycles: 3 x 20 each side
  • Decline Crunches w/ Low Pulley: 3 x 20
  • Windshield Wipers: 3 x 10 each side

Professional abdominal routine

  • Superset:
    • Decline Sit-ups: 3 x 25
    • Weighted Planks: 3 x 30 seconds
  • Superset:
    • Decline Crunches: 3 x 25
    • Leg Raises: 3 x 25
  • Superset:
    • Russian Twists: 3 x 10 each side
    • Dragon Flag: 3 x 5
  • Superset:
    • Windshield Wipers: 3 x 10 each side
    • Floor Crunches: 3 x 25


It’s important to look good, but it’s more important to evenly develop the muscles of our bodies to ensure proper posture and equal body composition. This will help you avoid muscle imbalances and injury. A well-sculpted core is a sign of strength as it is responsible for all movement. You can achieve that chiseled midsection through familiarizing yourself with the muscles of your core, working hard with the right training program, and eating a proper diet of lean proteins, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats. A six-pack is about more than just looks; it’s about proper health.

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