You wants abs?
The best ab workouts build your musculature and simultaneously shred your fat so your abdominal muscles become visible.
Yea, you do. So your obvious question is:
How do you get them?
What are the best ab workouts?
We’ll answer that and go one step further in this article.
You’ll discover the 23 best ab workouts you didn’t know were good for your abs.
This is not an exhaustive list of great ab exercises. But rather, these exercises do double duty. They stimulate abdominal muscle growth and are great for overall fitness and building strength.
The bottom line
Make these exercises the foundation of your routine.
You’ll not only get the best ab workouts incorporated into your regimen but you’ll be doing some of the best exercises for overall fitness and muscle building.
Start with the basic moves
#1 Body Weight Squat
Why do it?
- It’s a functional move. You need to be able to squat down and stand back up.
- It is a complex movement involving a long kinetic chain. That means a lot of muscles are involved and it burns a lot of energy.
- All the muscles of your core are engaged to stabilize your upper body when squatting. A?lot of good stuff happens when you squat.
- You’re always ready for a body weight squat. It is a perfectly portable exercise.
How to do it?
- Assume a comfortable stance with your feet just about shoulder width apart. You can rotate your feet slightly outwards if you like.
- Drop your butt down so your elbows end up inside your knees.
- Make sure your knees stay in line over your feet. There is no stress on your knees when you squat in a mechanically sound position.
- Hold for a second at the bottom and push back up to your standing position.
Smooth and steady, do your reps.
#2 Goblet Squat
Why consider it?
- It is the easiest loaded squat (adding weight) you can do. And it is very effective.
- Holding the weight on your chest moves your center of gravity (COG) out in front of you increasing the core stabilization difficulty.
How to do it?
- Hold a dumbbell or a kettlebell in the heel of your hands and against your chest.
- Squat just like the body weight version.
- Feel your elbows inside your knees at the bottom.
- Keep your chest high
#3 Overhead Press
- Pressing overhead requires the lock down of your midsection to keep your spine straight as you move the weight.
- And your COG constantly changes as the weight moves up and down. So this makes your core stabilization a dynamic move rather than just a static hold.
- Pressing is also a functional move that applies in everyday life.
How do you do it?
Read here how to build muscle after 50 with pushing movements like the overhead press.
#4 Single Handed Overhead Press
How is this different than the standard Overhead Press?
- Single-handed work addresses symmetry issues. If one side is stronger than the other, single handed presses will help rectify it.
- The asymmetrical load (holding the weight on one side of your body) stresses your midsection in a unique way as you battle to keep your spine straight.
How do you do it?
- Use a kettlebell or a dumbbell.
- The key is to hold your spine in an upright position as you push the weight up and down.
- Don’t overcompensate for the asymmetrical load. The weight wants to pull you one way. Don’t over-bend in the other direction. Stand up straight.
#5 Dead Lift
Why you must dead lift
- Similar to the squat, the dead lift is a functional, complex movement with a long kinetic chain. Numerous benefits result from “picking it up and putting it down” and a strong, injury resistant core is one of them.
- If you’re thinking “Man, I’ve got a bad back, I can’t dead lift“, you’ve got it ass-backwards. Once you can dead lift consistently again, your bad back will be long gone.
How do you do it?
See how building muscle at 50 with the Dead Lift can solve a lot of your problems.
Add the planking moves
#6 Push Ups
Why do them?
- Push ups are a beautiful exercise. Chest, shoulders, triceps and a full plank abdominal move, all in one.
- The perfect, portable exercise. You can do them anywhere.
- Great for habit building. If you are trying to establish exercise as a new routine, just do push ups in the beginning. Drop down and do 5 or 10 when you think about it. Push ups are the perfect move to get you started. You can do them anywhere and it is easy to progress.
How to do a push up?
You know the basic drill but read here about proper form and progressing from easier to more difficult push up variation.
#7 Renegade Row
A great exercise you don’t see often. The renegade row combines all the benefits of a push up with the asymmetrical loading created from the 3 point plank position.
What’s a renegade row?
- Hold a pair of light dumbbells in your hands and assume the push up position. Support your weight on the dumbbell handles.
- Do a push up. Down and up.
- Now pull or row one of the dumbbells up to the side of your chest. Support your weight in the three-point stance (two feet on the ground and one hand).
- Keep your body straight. Fight the tendency to rotate when your hand comes off the ground.
- Return your hand to the ground and row the other side. Up and down. That is one rep.
Check out the renegade row here.
#8 Inverted Row
Inverted rowing is just reverse planking with the additional benefit of the upper body pulling move.
Why do it?
Build your back, biceps, forearms and abs all at once.
How to perform the inverted row
- You need a horizontal bar or suspension trainer to support your weight.
- Adjust the angle of your body to modify the load. The more horizontal your body is, the more difficult the exercise.
- Pull yourself up using your lats to initiate the move.
- Squeeze all the way to the top position and hold for a second. Keep your back straight in the inverse plank position.
- Return to the starting position slowly. A great exercise.
Read more about building muscle mass after 50 with pulling exercises like the inverted row here.
Get a suspension trainer. It makes your home gym far more versatile.
Crawling is like a moving plank. Very effective for your abs and overall strength development. And crawling stimulates brain activity.
So it is very good for the over 50 crowd who want to keep their brains in top condition.
Great for a healthy mind and body.
How to crawl
- The key thing to remember is keeping your back flat. Keep your hips down.
- This makes it more difficult as your knees are flexed and a lot of the stress is moved into your legs. You will have ?a tendency to get your butt up in the air when you are tired. Concentrate on a low, flat back for best results.
- Crawl in a quadrilateral pattern. Left Hand, Right Foot, Right Hand, Left Foot. ?Left, right, right, left.
See crawling here.
Throw in some twisting moves
#10 T Push Up
Another great push up variation. Get all the benefits of a push up with the added twisting, side plank maneuver.
A good old school move. Build your lumberjack body with some sledgehammer work.
#12 Floor Sweeper
This is a very effective?ab exercise.
- Try to keep your upper back pressed flat into the ground. Don’t let your shoulders rotate up off the ground.
- Just lift your legs from one side to the other in a smooth, steady motion.
- Your knees will be slightly flexed. Touch the side of your foot to the ground and then reverse the motion to the other side.
These will shred you. Check out the Floor Sweeper here.
Don’t forget your explosive work
#13 Kettle Bell Swing
A lot of folks are swinging kettle bells these days but their form can leave a lot to be desired. Here are the basics to a proper swing:
- First, don’t swing to the overhead position or the so-called American style swing. Stick with the Russian style or sometimes called the Hardstyle where the bell swings up to just about eye level.
- Second, this is an explosive move, driven entirely by an aggressive hip snap or thrust.
- Your arms stay straight and are merely connectors between the bell and your body. Don’t lift with your shoulders.
- The swing is most like a dead lift, not a squat move. You should see maximum hip flexion (hips back) and minimal knee bend.
- Maintain a neutral spine (flat back) and keep your head in a neutral position also. Don’t look up towards the ceiling.
- The swing is a quick, powerful movement, not a lazy, slow swing.
See good kettle bell swing form here.
#14 Power Clean
The power clean is advanced exercise. It requires a lot of practice to perform correctly. ?So start very light to ensure you can maintain your form under load. But it is a great, full body exercise that burns a lot of energy and builds a very strong core.
- The lift is initiated with your legs and hips driving the weight off the floor.
- The bar moves vertically (straight up). Keep ?your chest high and arms straight.
- As the bar moves past your knees, you continue the acceleration with a hip snap and shoulder shrug.
- Keep the bar in close to your body as your upper back and shoulders continue it’s motion with a high pull.
- Then drop under the bar and catch it on your chest.
- Rotate the bar quickly and get your elbows out in front of you. You may have difficulty with this last part of the lift. Wrist and shoulder mobility are needed to comfortably catch the bar in an ergonomically good position.
A great exercise but take it slow adding weight. See the power clean here.
One of my favorites.
If you’re ever short for time and want to get a great workout, the Thruster is your answer.
I like to do it with kettlebells because the racked position is a bit more comfortable but you can do it with a barbell or dumbbells as well.
- Rack the bells and set your feet at just about shoulder width.
- Drop into the front squat position keeping your chest high.
- Complete the squat by standing back up and then drive the weights overhead at the top.
- Drop the bells back into the racked position and you’re ready for next rep.
Pretty simple but your abs will be working hard the entire time. You need to brace your abs for the squat move and then again for the overhead press. Put the thruster at the top of your Favorites list.
Close your eyes and think of an Olympic sprinter. Male or female. What do you see? Power. Muscles. Rippling abs. If you’re a runner, trade some long runs for a sprint day. Warning: Don’t blow a hamstring. Go really slow to start. Don’t blast off the line. Accelerate into your sprint slowly. You really just have to “sprint” slightly faster than your jogging pace to get the benefit. Another Trick:
Sprint up hill. It makes it less likely you’ll pull a muscle. But you might encounter the Creator on an uphill sprint.
Here is a great sprint workout
Mark off 3 distances using a cone, ball or rock; 15 yards, 30 yards and 60 yards. You’ll do a ladder called Every Minute On The Minute and you’ll do:
- Four 15 yard sprints in minute 1
- Two 30 yard sprints in minute 2
- One 60 Yard sprint in minute 3
That’s one set. So you start the clock and have the first minute to do four, 15 yard sprints. Let’s say you’re done after 50 seconds. So you rest 10 seconds and then start the 30 yard sprints. Then at the beginning of minute 3, you run the 60 yard sprint. You rest until minute 4 starts where you begin again with the four 15 yard sprints. So if you do five sets of ladders, it will take you 15 minutes. Very effective.
A variation on sprinting. The changing of direction and starting and stopping add a unique demand to this type of sprinting. And touching your hand to the ground at every turn-around works your mid-section even more. Check out shuttle runs
#18 Car Push
This really works well. Find a relatively level parking lot or side street with minimal traffic. Recruit a driver. My sons love to take part in this.
And just push the damn thing.
I might do 5 to 8 sets of pushes, each one from 40 to 60 strides (approximately). This workout can be done in 15 to 20 minutes easily. It’s a leg burner but also affects just about everything else. I am noticeably fatigued about 4 or 5 hours later. Much more than any other workout I do. And I sleep really well on car push day. I recommend you try it.
Carries. Perhaps the best ab workouts you’re not doing
Walking around carrying weights is very good for you.
- You build your grip strength.
- You have to stand up straight. it is great for your posture.
- You build upper back and shoulder strength.
- It’s great for your legs and hips, especially if you’re walking over uneven terrain.
- Terrific for balance improvement.
- It is a practical move. How many times do you need to pick something up and move it?
- And yes it really works your core muscles.
Why aren’t you doing this again?
#19 Farmer’s Walk
- Walk with a weight in each hand.
- Try lighter weights and go for a longer distance when you just start out.
- Work up to heavier weights for shorter bursts.
- And finally, heavy weights for long distance. This one really burns.
#20 Racked Walk
- This works better with kettle bells because they can be held in the racked position (on your chest) easier.
- The higher COG makes it harder than the Farmer’s Walk. And the COG is out in front of your body a bit so it really strains your core.
- Just rack em and walk.
- You can also do a single sided racked walk and benefit from the asymmetrical load.
#21 Suit Case Walk
- Use a single weight for the suitcase walk.
- This is great for correcting any strength imbalances you may have.
- The key to asymmetrically loaded exercises is to stand up straight.
- Don’t let the weight pull you over. This is mistake #1.
- But don’t overcompensate by bending away from the weight either (mistake #2). Both of these mistakes puts unwanted strain on your spine and core muscles.
- Concentrate on standing up straight. Think about your chin, belly button and zipper all being in a line. This is your CBZ line. Keep it straight.
#22 Waiter’s Walk
- Hold the weight overhead as if you are a waiter with a heavy tray moving through a crowd.
- This one is tough. It really requires good shoulder mobility.
- Move the weight towards your mid line (overhead) to stabilize it better. Watch your CBZ line.
And a specialized belly flatten-er
There is a deep layer of your abdominal muscles call the transverse abdominis?or TVA. ?It is sometime referred to as the corset muscle for it’s ability to flatten your lower stomach.
The TVA aids in breathing but is also kind of like a girdle or weight belt, helping to stabilize your pelvis and low back while also protecting your organs.
There is is specific exercise called the Vacuum that directly exercises the TVA.
Common ways to perform the Vacuum are lying on your back or in a kneeling position.
See this video for an explanation of the vacuum exercise.
It’s also possible to do the vacuum seated in a chair or standing.
Here’s how I’ll sometimes do the vacuum in a standing position.
- While in the shower (kill two birds with one stone) bend forward and place your hands on your knees.
- Put your head under the water and relax.
- Now suck in your navel and hold as shown in the video. Do a couple reps.
Admittedly, I seldom do this because I don’t think of it. But I may try to make it a habit.