Health

10 best ab exercises for the ultimate at-home core workout, according to personal trainers

Summary List PlacementBuilding your abs does more than just help you look toned. In fact, a strong core can improve posture, stability, and balance as well as reduce sports-related injuries and low back pain. "A strong core can also make everyday activities easier such as going up the stairs or sitting at your desk for an extended period of time," says Nora Minno, RD CDN, a certified personal trainer at the Daily Burn. The good news is you don't even need a gym membership to strengthen your core as most exercises that target your abs can be done at home. Here are...

ab workout exercise fitness six pack core

Summary List Placement

Building your abs does more than just help you look toned. In fact, a strong core can improve posture, stability, and balance as well as reduce sports-related injuries and low back pain.

“A strong core can also make everyday activities easier such as going up the stairs or sitting at your desk for an extended period of time,” says Nora Minno, RD CDN, a certified personal trainer at the Daily Burn.

The good news is you don’t even need a gym membership to strengthen your core as most exercises that target your abs can be done at home.

Here are Minno’s favorite at-home ab workouts with step-by-step instructions on how to do them. Try doing three rounds of this workout series, two to three times a week to strengthen your entire core.

1. Heel tap

heel tap

How to do it: 

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent at a 90-degree angle with feet off the ground.
  2. Keeping your knees bent, extend one foot to touch the floor then return to the starting position.
  3. Repeat on each leg 10 times for a total of 20 reps.

Muscles targeted: Lower abs

2. Leg lower

leg lower

How to do it: 

  1. Start with your legs at a 90-degree angle directly overhead.
  2. Slowly lower your legs four to five inches so they are still hovering in the air and hold this position for 5-10 seconds.
  3. Return to the 90-degree angle and repeat the exercise for 10 reps.  

Muscle targeted: Lower abs

3. Russian twist 

russian twists

How to do it: 

  1. Sit up straight with your knees bent and feet in front of you. 
  2. Lift your feet about a foot off the ground and engage your core. 
  3. Twist your entire upper body to one side, keeping your legs in front of you.
  4. Repeat on the other side. Do 10 reps on each side. 

Muscle targeted: Obliques

4. Side plank with dips

side plank dips

How to do it: 

  1. Place one elbow directly under your body and press yourself up into a side plank position.
  2. Lower your hip so that you are hovering just below the ground, then use your core to return to the starting position.
  3. Repeat the exercise on the same side for 10 reps, then switch sides.

Muscle targeted: Obliques

5. Standing knee to hands 

Standing knee to hands

How to do it: 

  1. Stand up straight with your arms overhead.
  2. Lower your arms and bring your knee to meet your hands.
  3. Repeat on the same side for 10 reps, then switch legs. 

Muscle targeted: Lower abs 

6. Standing oblique crunch

oblique crunch

How to do it: 

  1. Stand up straight with your feet wide apart and lower into a wide-leg squat. 
  2. Place your hands behind your head and lower your upper body towards one knee and then the other.
  3. Repeat for a total of 20 reps, 10 on each side. 

Muscle targeted: Obliques 

7. Tuck-crunch-extend 

tuck crunch

How to do it: 

  1. Lie on your back with your hands behind your head and your knees curled into your chest.
  2. Extend your legs so that they are hovering about a foot above the ground and hold the position for a few seconds.
  3. Return to the starting position and repeat the exercise 10 times.

Muscle targeted: Upper and lower abs

8. Half sit up 

half sit up

How to do it: 

  1. Sit up straight with your knees bent and your feet placed on the ground directly in front of you. 
  2. Slowly lower your upper body four to five inches away from your feet and hold the position for five to 10 seconds.
  3. Return to the starting position and repeat the exercise 10 times. 

Muscle targeted: Upper abs

9. Beast with shoulder tap

beast mode

How to do it: 

  1. Get on all fours then hover your knees and shins slightly above the ground.
  2. Keeping your knees and shins off the ground, tap your right hand to your left shoulder and then place it back on the ground. 
  3. Repeat shoulder tap on the other side. 
  4. Do a total of 20 reps, 10 on each side, keeping your knees and shins off the ground the entire time.

Muscle targeted: Total core

10. Bird dog with retraction

Untitled bird dog

How to do it: 

  1. Place your hands and knees firmly on the ground.
  2. Lift your right arm directly in front of your body. 
  3. Lift your left leg so that your hip is parallel to the mat. 
  4. Once you are steady, bend your lifted arm to a 90-degree angle then return to the original position.
  5. Repeat this motion 10 times on each side.

Muscle targeted: Total core

Insider’s takeaway 

Strengthening your ab muscles can improve your posture, balance, and help you avoid sports-related injuries. To build your ab muscles, perform three sets of ab-focused exercises two to three times a week. 

However, it’s important to do ab workouts in complement with other strength-building exercises. Having a strong core means building lean muscle tissue throughout your entire trunk, which is the area below your shoulders to the tops of your legs. This means incorporating back-strengthening exercises as well. 

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