Building and maintaining a strong abdominal core is an essential part of your overall health. The abdominal muscles, located around the middle of your body, are involved in almost everything you do, whether going for a run or sitting in your car.
The rectus abdominis is the main abdominal muscle, responsible for the fabled “six pack.” Nearby and on either side are the obliques, activated whenever you rotate your spine. The erector spinae, in the back, are used whenever you bend over or straighten.
Exercises to Help Beginners Work Their Abs
While there are many different ab exercises, not all of them are suitable for beginners. The exercises below were chosen because they can be done anywhere, at virtually any time, without any equipment. They’re all easy to follow, but rigorous, so by all means, move at your own pace.
Often called scissor kicks, this is a simple but powerful exercise that strengthens your abdominal, hip, and lower back muscles.
Step 1: Lie down flat on your back, tucking your hands palms down along the side of your body.
Step 2: Now elevate your legs above the ground, kicking the right leg over the left as though you’re swimming.
Step 3: Continue kicking alternate legs until you reach the desired number of repetitions (reps; number of times you do the exercise in a set period of time).
Try this exercise for 60 seconds at a time.
Make this classic beginner’s exercise a fundamental part of your abdominal workout.
Step 1: Lie down on a mat or carpet with your face up and your legs bent. Your feet should be on the ground.
Step 2: Either place your hands across your chest or behind the back of your head. Be careful not to push on your head if you do the latter.
Step 3: Now tighten your core and raise your torso to an upright, seated position, then lay back down. This is one repetition.
Repeat this exercise 15 to 20 times and add more reps as you get stronger.
This is a similar exercise to sit-ups except, when done correctly, your body will form the characteristic “V” shape.
Step 1: Lie down flat with your legs completely extended, not bent, and arms stretched out toward the ceiling.
Step 2: Tighten your core, begin raising your legs, and, without bending your elbows, raise your straightened arms to meet your feet above you.
Step 3: Touch your toes, shin, or thigh as you’re able. Then lower and relax. This is one repetition.
Repeat this exercise 10 to 15 times.
This exercise can be done anywhere with a soft surface. It strengthens your abdominal and back muscles.
Step 1: Lie facedown on the ground, raising yourself up on your toes and forearms. Your elbows should be directly beneath your shoulders.
Step 2: Now tighten your core, aligning your neck and spine. Focus on breathing normally.
Step 3: Hold this position for at least 30 seconds and release. Try to increase to at least 60 seconds over time.
Although this exercise is harder than it looks, it’s low impact. You can practice it several times a day as comfort allows.
This is another workout that can be performed most anywhere. The steps are easy to follow, but it has a powerful effect on the entire abdominal area.
Step 1: Lie down on your back, raising your palms to your ears like listening to a distant noise. Bend your knees.
Step 2: Now raise your right knee toward your chest. Simultaneously twist and lift your left elbow so that it approaches, and maybe touches, your right knee.
Step 3: Return to the original position and do the same for the left knee and right arm.
You can repeat this five to 10 times, increasing reps as you grow stronger.
Many beginners experience soreness — sometimes a lot of soreness — when they first start an abdominal program. This is completely normal and nothing to worry about. Try a little ice on the affected area and don’t exercise multiple days in a row.
On the other hand, if you experience sharp pains during these exercises, stop right away. If you have long-lasting pain that won’t go away, talk with your doctor before you continue.