We all play favorites at the gym—some of us love squats while others live for lifting. Perhaps instead, you dream of abs day (who could blame you when it involves so much laying down). If this sounds like you, maybe you’re ready to up your game. Or maybe you’re a total masochist looking for the toughest moves out there. Either way, these won’t disappoint.
How to do it: Come onto all fours with your knees underneath your hips and your hands underneath your shoulders. Gently lift your right leg up, bending your knee and pointing your toe, until your thigh is parallel to the floor. Begin pulling the knee towards your chest, underneath the rib cage, using your core. Keeping the abs engaged, lift knee back to hip height. Repeat 10 times. Then begin pulling the knee toward the left elbow and back up to hip height. Repeat 10 times. Then begin pulling the knee toward the right elbow and back up to hip height. Repeat 10 times. Go slowly with each move and engage the abs the entire time and remember to breathe. Switch legs and repeat the series. Try this entire sequence on both sides twice for a total of 160 repetitions. If that seems like too much, and you want to start slow, try only one full round, says Kelsey Patel, yoga instructor and owner of Pure Barre Beverly Hills.
The benefits: If it sounds intense, that’s because it is. This series will target your entire core, but mainly hits the upper abs and those hard-to-reach side abs, says Patel.
How to do it: Come down to your back, legs long and toes pointed. Gently come up onto your elbows, keeping them close to your sides. Lengthen your spine and pull your shoulders away from your ears. Keeping your legs straight, lift your right leg up toward the sky and hover the left leg two to three inches off the ground. Once you are in this starting position, engage your core and lengthen your tailbone. Be sure to keep your shoulders relaxed. Slowly switch legs with your core strength, keeping the legs long and straight. Take three seconds to switch between legs. Try this 10 times on each side. Rest and repeat two to three times. If this is too much on your lower back, you can modify by keeping one foot on the floor and lifting one leg at a time or by bending the knees.
The benefits: This targets your lowest abs—a hard-to-reach part of your core, says Patel.
Hate crunches? Check out this standing flat-abs workout:
How to do it: Get into a forearm plank position, with your left forearm and right foot both resting on separate Bosu balls. Extend your right arm, and then extend your left leg. Hold the plank for as long as you can without breaking form. Repeat on the opposite side. If you are new to planks, start out with a standard forearm plank and aim to hold it for 30 seconds, says Caitlin Bailey, senior personal trainer at NYC-based PhilanthroFIT. If this becomes too easy, challenge yourself to hold the plank for longer before trying unstable variations.
The benefits: When it comes to challenging your core muscles nothing else compares to planks, says Bailey. This isometric exercise is perfect for narrowing the waist as the focus is on pulling the abdominals in as tight as you can and holding that contraction for as long as possible. There are infinite variations which make it easy to avoid getting bored with this exercise.
How to do it: Speaking of plank variations, this one’s a killer. Keep one hand on the ground, the other up in the air. Your feet should both be on the ground, staggered, and your body balanced. Make sure your abs are tight and you’re in balance. To make it a little more challenging, try dipping your hip down slowly just a few inches and come back up. Hold for 20 seconds each side.
The benefit: The side plank is a torso toner and upper body strengthener, but will really target those obliques, says Katie Austin, founder of Get Fit With Katie. If you’re up for it, small hip dips during this move will leave you beyond sore the next day.
How to do it: Lie on your back with your feet straight up in the air. Tightly engage your core, and lift your opposite hand to reach your opposite toe, as if you are climbing a rope in front of your toes. You can really challenge yourself with this exercise by holding light weights (three to five pounds) as you touch your toes, says Austin. Complete for 30 seconds.
The benefit: This move hits your lower, upper, and side abs. What more can a girl ask for?
How to do it: Lie on your back with your hands by your side. Straighten your legs, and in a steady movement, lift them up and down at opposite times. Complete for 30 seconds.
The benefit: Just because it looks easy, doesn’t mean it is. “This movement is very slight, but it burns!” says Austin. “This is one of my favorite intense moves for the lower abs.”
How to do it: Sitting on the floor with your back straight and knees bent toward your chest, extend your legs straight out. Then, use your abs muscles to bring those legs back up to your chest. If you need help with balancing, you may use your hands behind you for support. Complete for 30 seconds.
The benefit: You will feel this burn right in the middle of your core, says Austin. Targeting your core at its’ core—it doesn’t get much more intense than that.
How to do it: Start by laying on your back with your hands by your sides or under the small of your back. Bring your knees to your chest, driving your feet straight up, lifting your hips off the ground at the top of the movement. Bring your knees back to your chest and extend your legs parallel to the floor keeping your heels off the ground. When your legs are in the air, be sure that your feet don’t come too far past your head. To make the move more difficult, try keeping your legs straight on the return instead of bending them into your chest. Repeat this move for one minute.
The benefit: You’ll feel this one burning in your lower abs, says Christi Marraccini, a trainer at Tone House.
How to do it: Start by laying on your right hip with your right forearm on the floor and left arm above your head. Bring your left hand to meet both feet at the top ending in a V. Return to the starting position not letting your feet touch the floor. For an added challenge, hold a weighted object between your feet, says Marraccini. Complete for one minute and then complete on the other side.
The benefit: No surprise here, you’re laying on your side to sculpt those side abs.
How to do it: Place a towel under your toes and get into a plank on your hands. Using your core to pull your feet in, push your weight into your hands as if you are springing into a handstand. Your feet may only move six inches in. The key is to pull from your core, not your hips, says Sadie Kurzban, founder of ((305)) Fitness. Do these as slowly as possible to feel the full effect. Repeat three 30 second sets with 10 seconds of rest in between.
The benefits: You’ll be working those six-pack muscles with a special focus on your lower abs, says Kurzban.
Source: Hardest Abs Moves