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Last Updated on December 16, 2020

5 Killer Stomach Workouts for Impressive Abs and Core

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5 Killer Stomach Workouts for Impressive Abs and Core

Having a well-chiseled six pack is the ultimate fitness goal for many people, and it’s okay if you want great abs as well. Stomach workouts are great for building core muscles, but they’re also great for improving posture, supporting your spine and back, and offering a wider range of motion.

The problem is that many people never succeed in carving out the core of their dreams! For some people, the problem lies in their approach to working out, while others have got their nutrition wrong. Either way, there’s a remedy, and you can commence your journey to an impressive six pack starting today!

In this article, we’ll go over the non-sexy reasons for having a strong core. I’ll also be sharing some proven stomach workouts and core exercises that’ll help you carve out an impressive ab.

Why You Need Rock-Solid Abs

Believe it or not, there’s actually more to having a strong core than just good looks. Core muscles are required for just about everything we do on a daily basis, from sitting, to walking, running and throwing things around.

Before we go any further, though, you should probably know that there’s more to the core than just the abdominal muscles (abs). It also includes hip and pelvic muscles, as well as mid and lower back muscles. All these muscles work together to support movement and maintain stability.

Here are some benefits of having a strong core:

1. Helps Your Posture

When you engage in core-strengthening stomach exercises, the thorough working of the torso helps to maintain a balanced posture. The posture balance, in turn, helps to reduce the risk of vertebrae degeneration and disc herniation.

2. Reduces Back Pain

Having a strong core also helps to alleviate back pain by providing adequate support for the spine. Research has also revealed that having strong core muscles reduces the risk of back injury during workouts[1].

3. Improves Athletic Performance

You’re going to have a hard time finding a sport that doesn’t rely heavily on core muscles for effective performance. From running, to rowing, baseball, football, and tennis, every sport you could possibly think of engages the core in one way or another.

So, if you’re planning to become an athlete, then strengthening your core is absolutely indispensable.

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4. Makes Life Easier on the Job

Life will become a whole lot easier for you on the job if you can manage to strengthen your core. The reason is simple—just about every activity you engage in at work engages your core, from standing to lifting, twisting and even sitting.

Therefore, if you’d like to be a bit more comfortable and energetic at work, then strengthening your abs and back muscles would be a great place to start.

Now let’s get to those stomach workouts that will help strengthen the all-important core.

5 Amazing Stomach Workouts

Before diving into the specific workouts that will finally send your abs out of hiding, there are a couple of anatomical jargon you need to be familiar with. These are just fancy names for the muscles that make up the abs, and they are:[2]

  • Rectus abdominis (front abs, commonly known as six-packs)
  • Internal and external obliques (side abs, found around the waist).

Got it? Great! Keep those in mind because I’ll be mentioning them a lot in the coming paragraphs.

Now, let’s move on to the actual workouts.

1. Crunches

Regardless of the negative media crunches may have received over the years, one thing is for certain—they work…when done correctly!

Crunches are great for eliciting muscle activity in the rectus abdominis, and this helps greatly in strengthening those muscles.

How to Do Perfect Crunches
  • Lie on your back, bend your knees, and place your feet closely together and flat on the floor. You may want to hold on to something with your toes to make it easier.
  • Place your hands behind your head (without interlocking them) or across your chest.
  • Keep your elbows open to the sides.
  • Gently tighten and pull in your abs.
  • Curl forward, lifting your head and shoulder blades off the floor towards your knee.
  • Hold it for a moment and lower back down slowly.

Several variations of the traditional crunch have been developed to focus on other core muscles ignored by regular crunches. One of these is the bicycle crunch or bicycle kicks. The bicycle crunch impacts the external obliques (on the side of the waist), in addition to the rectus abdominis, and this helps to work the torso.

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How to Do Bicycle Crunches
  • Start in the same position as a traditional crunch.
  • Lift your right knee off the floor, toward the left side of your chest, and simultaneously lift your left elbow to meet your right knee.
  • Repeat this process for the left knee and right elbow, and keep up this cycle until your abs are thoroughly worked.
  • Be sure to completely lift your shoulder blades off the floor to keep the action concentrated on your core.

Check out this video on how to do the bicycle crunch:

2. Planks

There’s a good reason why the plank has gained so much attention in the fitness industry—it works. Not only does it crush the rectus abdominis, but it also greatly impacts the external obliques and transverse abdominis, making it one of the best stomach workouts.

In simple terms, it rocks your abs in a way regular crunches don’t and also doesn’t give you back pain, no matter how long you hold out doing it.

Planks aren’t just a great workout for abs, though. It also does a great job strengthening the arms, shoulders, and glutes.

Just like the crunch, there are several variations of the plank, each adapted to focus on specific muscle groups that may have been ignored by others. Here, I’ll be discussing just two of them: the front plank and the side plank.

How to Do a Front Plank

The front plank is the basic plank position, and it targets your rectus abdominis. Here’s how to do it:

  • Start in the pushup position with your arms placed shoulder-width apart, and place your feet shoulder-width apart or together.
  • Rest your weight on your forearms, with your palms facing the ground, and maintain a 90-degree angle between your shoulders and forearm.
  • Raise your hips slightly, and form a straight line from your head to your feet.
  • Hold the position for as long as you can before your form collapses.
  • Rest for a few minutes and repeat.
  • If this isn’t challenging enough, raise an arm and a leg to increase the difficulty level.

How to Do a Side Plank

Apart from strengthening the front abs, the side plank also works the external obliques and transverse abdominis, helping you to carve out that dreamy physique in your midsection.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Lie on your right side, supporting your body by placing your right forearm on the floor.
  • Place your left leg on the right leg while maintaining this position.
  • Lift your hip off the ground, maintaining a straight line from your shoulder to your feet.
  • Lift your left arm into the air to maintain balance.
  • Hold this position for as long as you can (one or two minutes is fine).
  • Rest for a few minutes and repeat for the other side.
  • To increase the difficulty level, you can raise the top leg.

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3. Russian Twists

The Russian twist is an amazing workout for just about every muscle in your core as you twist from side to side. The obliques are the more obvious beneficiaries, though, as the side-to-side motion really impacts the torso and helps to carve out an impressive side.

And just like the other stomach workouts listed so far, no serious gym equipment is required. All you need is some floor space and the will to keep going!

How to Do Russian Twists
  • Sit on the ground, and bend your knees to create a 90-degree angle between your upper and lower legs.
  • You may place your feet under something immovable or lift them slightly off the floor.
  • Tilt your back towards the ground at an approximate angle of 45-degrees with the ground.
  • Hold your arms straight before you and twist as far as possible to one side before doing the same thing on the other side.
  • To kick things up a notch, hold a mildly heavy object in your hands as you twist from side to side.
  • Aim for 10-12 reps on each side, rest, and repeat the process 3-5 times.

4. Hanging Leg Raise or Knee Raise

This is another exercise that will rev up your core and leave your abs strengthened for days. The most beautiful thing about this workout is its scalability. You can start off with bent knee raises, and then you can move on to straight leg raises, and ultimately to toe-to-bar raises.

How to Do the Hanging Leg Raise or Knee Raise
  • Grab the pull-up bar, ensuring that your arms are straight and your feet are totally off the ground.
  • Keep your legs straight and firmly together.
  • Tighten your abs, and use your core to extend your legs forward until they form an angle of 90-degrees with your midsection.
  • Hold this position for a few seconds and slowly return to the starting position.
  • For the knee raise, bend your knees before raising them to a 90-degree angle with your midsection.
  • For either movement, make sure you get your legs up using only your core. Avoid swinging them up with momentum.
  • To make things a bit more challenging, try placing a medicine ball between your ankles or knees.
  • Aim for 3-5 sets in the 10-15 rep range, and you midsection should be burning for days to come.

5. Ab-Wheel Rollouts

Alright, this one of the stomach workouts that may require a trip to the gym, but trust me, it’ll be worth every minute of your time.

If there’s one thing those infomercials got right, it’s the fact that ab wheels produce better muscle activation than crunches and leg raises[3].

As you roll out on the wheel, your trunk fires up in order to maintain spine neutrality and prevent collapsing[4]. In other words, it does a great job of crushing your abs and carving out those much-desired six packs.

How to Do Ab-Wheel Rollouts
  • Get into a tabletop position, and place some pads under your knees for protection.
  • Place your hands on the ab wheel, and take a deep breath.
  • Push your belly backward to prevent it from sagging as you roll out.
  • Roll out the wheel as far as you comfortably can, and keep your core tight.
  • Hold the position for a few seconds, and roll back in, fully engaging your abs as you do so.
  • To kick things up a notch, strap on a backpack containing some weight as you roll in and out.
  • Aim for 2-5 sets in the 10-15 rep range, and you’ll definitely feel it in your abs for days to come.

Bonus Tip: Your Other Muscle Groups

Before you dash off, don’t ignore other muscle groups!

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Here’s a little fact you need to wrap your head around—doing only ab exercises won’t give you six pack! Here’s why:

Your abs are invisible because they’re covered by a layer of abdominal fat.

Excessive body fat results from a calorie surplus, which means you take in more calories than you burn. And the abdomen is just one of the several fat-storage spots in the body.

Lowering your total body fat should be the first course of action, and that requires a full body workout.

Contrary to what some marketers would have you believe, you can’t directly target abdominal fat for elimination; there’s simply no scientific evidence behind this hocus pocus.[5]

Although research has revealed that training a particular muscle group does increase lipolysis (conversion of fat into energy) and blood flow in that area, the effect is usually too negligible to matter.

So, training a particular muscle group doesn’t make them cannibalize the fat covering them, although it does help those muscles to consume more energy as they get bigger.

You may do hundreds of crunches and leg raises, but you still won’t see those abs if you don’t reduce the percentage of your total body fat 15% or more[6]. Fat loss is a full-body process, and that means you need to stick to a calorie deficit and train all muscle groups to achieve it.

The Bottom Line

There are no magic tricks to carving out an impressive core with stomach workouts! If you want great abs, you need to do three things—eat right, train right, and burn fat!

Here’s the thing, thoughyou can do it!

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Start today, take it one day at a time, and a few months from now you’ll look in the mirror and love what you see. Stop sitting around; get out there and get it done!

More Great Stomach Workouts

Featured photo credit: Anastase Maragos via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Richard Adefioye

Richard has a unique passion for healthy living and productivity.

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Last Updated on October 4, 2021

5 Best Exercises for Weight Loss at Home

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5 Best Exercises for Weight Loss at Home

With the lines of work and home becoming increasingly blurry, it’s no wonder why we struggle to find the time to prioritize our health. Particularly with weight loss, it’s often difficult to manage the ever-present constraints around work, children, time to exercise, and the feeling of exhaustion at the end of the day.

Taking the effects of stress and the rise of remote work and work-from-home situations, we need to be far more tactical in our weight loss pursuits. Quite often, these exercises for weight loss at home aren’t even fitness-related.

Firstly, let’s look at a standard day in the life of a busy professional or parent to really understand the battlefield in which we need to operate.

We all have 24 hours in a day to work with. Knowing how we spend that 24 hours is crucial when learning where time will be best spent for our weight loss journey. Setting unrealistic expectations can be a quick way to end up back at square one.

  • Sleep: 8 hours (parents, if you’re lucky)
  • Work: 8 hours (sometimes more)
  • Children: 2 to 4 hours (includes pickups, drop-offs, and play)
  • Meal Preparation: 1 hour (at a minimum)
  • Household Activities: 1 to 2 hours (because someone’s got to do it, right?)
  • Total: 20 to 22 hours

Taking into account that switching between tasks takes time and cognitive space, we can start to understand why people just want to sit and scroll through social media at the end of a day. We also haven’t factored in the work commute if you have to report to the office.

Just realized you now have minimal time to yourself? This might start to explain why you struggle to gain momentum in your weight loss journey. Let’s work out how to take back the initiative:

  • Automate – Are there any tasks you can automate? If you’re fortunate enough to be gainfully employed, maybe it’s time to hire a cleaner or have ready-made meals delivered to your door. It doesn’t have to happen every night, but removing the decision of “what’s for dinner?” can be a great way to reduce stress and free up brain space and time.
  • Optimize – If you’re time-poor with kids, it’s time to optimize your activities. Turn screen time into playtime outdoors, and get them to join in on your activities. If your children are old enough, it might be time to start offering pocket money for chores and meal preparation. This strategy helped me stay fit as a single parent. By getting out and active with my son, I doubled my return on investment by staying fit and enhancing my relationship.
  • Eliminate – We’re only human. Sometimes, we simply have too much on our plate due to our high expectations. Take a look through your daily tasks and work out what can be removed.

Now, go through this exercise yourself. What potential spare time do you have to work with? If the answer is none, you might want to keep reading.

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Exercise Selection: It’s Not All About the Burn

No equipment? No problem.

So, we’re finally tracking the elements that matter. It’s time to start leveraging exercise to accelerate our weight loss journey. Alongside focusing on individual exercises that help with weight loss at home or caloric expenditure, we’re going to focus on another method to help keep you consistent and accountable for the long term: interest.

Interest has been linked as one of the key motivating factors to maintain consistency towards a goal. By choosing a form of exercise that your body and mind can enjoy, your chances of weight loss success are far greater.

Here’re the 5 best exercises for weight loss at home:

1. Low-Intensity Interval Training (LIIT)

Maybe the body isn’t what it used to be, and intense forms of training simply just aren’t safe anymore. Also considering the body’s response to stress, it might be in our very best interest to choose low-intensity activities that we can repeat daily.

Mobility and movement flows have risen in popularity in recent years. This form of exercise focuses on restoring range of motion (ROM), improving stability, and returning people to activity. Some exercise options include:

  • Quadruped Rocks
  • Frog Stretch
  • Hip Prying
  • Scapula Push-ups
  • Hindu push-ups

Below is a 10minute warm-up flow that shows you how to put all of this together:

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2. Yoga

Yoga is another perfect example of LIIT methodology that can be advanced as your ability improves. Focusing on mobility, stability, and range of movement using only your body weight, it’s a perfect entry-level activity for those that may have lost their way on their weight loss journey.

3. Calisthenics

Strength training at home can be difficult when you lack equipment or experience. An obvious path to building strength at home is calisthenics. Starting with just the following basic bodyweight movements:

You can begin your journey with no equipment and build to quite an advanced level. Here are five movements you can look to master over time are:

Depending on your ability, choose movements that allow you to progress safely over time. There is also gymnastics-based training you can move towards if your body is ready for a more demanding form of training.

4. Aerobic Exercise

Another underrepresented form of exercise, aerobic exercise is often overlooked for its sexier counterparts like strength and HIIT. With the prevalence of obesity nearly tripling between 1975 and 2016 and the major cause in adults being cardiovascular disease, it makes sense to focus on activities that improve cardiovascular or heart health.

Another benefit is that it can be as simple as getting your steps in, going for a swim, or going for an easy ride or run. Phil Maffetone pioneered the Maximum Aerobic Function (MAF) Method that almost anyone can adopt regardless of fitness level and experience.[1]

Here’s a 30-minute session of aerobic exercises you can try:

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5. High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

High-intensity interval training is a great way to elevate the heart rate and get the endorphins flowing. It can also be super time-effective, giving you a great bang for your buck. Try sequencing some of the movements and exercises above together with minimal rest to keep your heart rate elevated. Be sure to select movements that suit your current level of fitness and ability.

Here’s a HIIT workout that takes little time and is suited for any level:

Chipper 60

Complete all reps of every exercise for time. Exercises can be done in any order and repetitions to complete the workout.

If you can’t do jump squats, regress to normal squats, and don’t be afraid to change the leg raises to a 60-second plank if you need to. Finish up with some light stretching or foam rolling.

What Also Matters: Sleep, Stress, and Stimulants

Sleep, stress, and stimulants, also known as the hamster wheel of death. Tracking these elements gives us the power to finally stop relying on our ever-depleted stores of discipline and motivation to get the job done. It will also highlight the self-destructive habits that sabotage your weight loss journey.

Simply put, stress affects stimulants, sleep affects stress, and the vicious cycle continues.

Sleep

Are you getting enough sleep? It’s well documented that sleep is an important factor in weight loss and recovery.

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“Restricted sleep and poor sleep quality may lead to metabolic disorders, weight gain, and an increased risk of obesity and other chronic health conditions.”[2]

Start this journey by tracking how much sleep you’re getting. Certain wearables can also track the amount of movement and time you spend awake or in lighter sleep cycles. Getting enough time in REM or deep sleep is critical for weight loss.

Stress

We don’t need to be fancy. A simple daily measurement out of ten indicates how much stress we think we are under. Using this number, we can observe the effects that sleep, stimulants, and exercise have on our stress levels, allowing us to deploy the right strategy for our weight loss goals.

Stimulants

Stimulants can be classified as anything we put in our mouths. Tracking calories, alcohol, and caffeine is a great way to observe, predict, and avoid trends or at-risk periods of overeating and destructive behaviors. Tracking this is aligned with how well we sleep, and our stress response gives us enough information to start forming better weight loss habits.

Work to identify the trigger, observe the response, and then look to adjust.

Final Thoughts

Whether you’re fighting fit or returning to activity, the best exercises for weight loss at home are the ones that you can do day in day out that you enjoy. Think of exercise for weight loss as we do for compound interest. Consistently and regularly making deposits may not show immediately, but with time, they give you the momentum you need to reach your goals.

Featured photo credit: Olivia Bauso via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] PhilMaffetone: Maximum Aerobic Function
[2] SleepFoundation.org: Why is sleep so important to weight loss?

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