Best Exercises for Abs (General)

Medically Reviewed by Ross Brakeville, DPT on February 20, 2023
4 min read

Your abdominal muscles (abs for short) are part of your core muscles that help to hold you up and keep you doing everyday activities. They stabilize your pelvis and your spine. They help to stabilize your body when you twist and bend forward or from side to side. You use core muscles, including abs, in almost everything you do. 

Strengthening your abs helps you build strength in other areas of your body, and helps you to maintain proper form when doing full-body movements like push-ups. Doing so will also help you to have better balance, good posture, and do all the hobbies you love while avoiding injury.

There are many different ab exercises that can help you get into shape. Here are the six best ab exercises to sculpt and tone while you workout at home.

1. Plank

Step 1: Place your hands on the floor, directly underneath your shoulders.

Step 2: Extend your legs behind you, about hip-width distance.

Step 3: Engage your core, including your butt, and tuck your tailbone.

Step 4: Hold for a set amount of time or as long as you can.

2. Crunch

Step 1: Lie on your back on the floor or on an exercise mat.

Step 2: Place your hands behind your head. Squeeze your shoulder blades together. 

Step 3: As you exhale, activate your abdominal muscles and tilt your chin slightly toward your chest. 

Step 4: Continue activating until your torso curls toward your thighs. Your shoulders should lift up but your tailbone and lower back should remain on the mat.

Step 5: As you inhale, lower back down slowly to the floor or mat. 

3. Leg Lift

Step 1: Lie on your back on the floor or an exercise mat with your legs extended out. Keep your back flat on the surface at all times.

Step 2: Lift your legs up toward your face, hinging at the hips. 

Step 3: Stop when they are at a 90-degree angle.

Step 4: Keeping your legs together, lower them slowly to the floor. Keep your back flat on the surface.

4. Modified Side Plank

Step 1: Lie on your right side on the floor or an exercise mat.

Step 2: Stack your legs directly on top of each other. 

Step 3: Support yourself with your right arm at a 90-degree angle, raising your torso. Your shoulder should be directly in line with your elbow.

Step 4: Keep your hips, and lower knee on the mat.

Step 5: Activate your abdominal muscles to lift your hips off the mat. 

Step 6: Keep your knees on the mat and your head in line with your spine.

Step 7: As you inhale, lower back down to the mat.

5. Bicycle Crunches

Step 1: Lie on your back with your legs bent 90 degrees and knees in line with your hips.

Step 2: Place your hands behind your head, bending your elbows, which should be pointed out to the sides. 

Step 3: Activate your abs to bring your shoulders up and off the floor.

Step 4: Bring your right elbow to your left knee and straighten your right leg. Try to keep your left leg in place. 

Step 5: Return to the basic crunch position.

Step 6: Bring your left elbow to your right knee and straighten your left leg. Try to keep your right leg in place.

Step 7: That is one repetition (rep). Continue alternating sides for as many reps as indicated by a doctor or personal trainer.

6. Supine Dead Bug

Step 1: Lie on your back. Bend your knees and place your feet on the floor 12 to 18 inches away from your butt.

Step 2: Contract your core muscles, including your Kegels and abs.

Step 3: Lift both arms and both legs off the floor with elbows in line with the shoulder. Your knees should be bent to 90 degrees with hips in line with knees.

Step 4: Maintain your core muscle activation while slowly lowering your right leg and left arm to the floor.

Step 5: Let them touch the floor but do not rest them down.

Step 6: Lift them back up with control.

Step 7: Repeat with your left leg and right arm.

Step 8: Continue alternating each side.

Before you begin a new workout routine, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor. Working out your core muscles shouldn’t be painful. It is likely you will feel a little sore afterward, but if you experience any sharp or long-lasting pain, talk to your doctor. 

Always do a short warm-up. One idea is to march in place while swinging your arms to activate the core.

Make sure you understand the proper form for any exercise you do. Look at example photos, read written instructions, and watch videos if available. 

Remember, your core is more than just your abs. Include your butt and back muscles in your workout plan for full core strength. See more popular core exercises for women.

Show Sources


Ace Fitness: “Crunch.”

Ace Fitness: “Side Plank - modified.”

Ace Fitness: “Supine Dead Bug.”

Harvard Health Publishing Harvard Medical School: “Core exercise workout: 12 tips for exercising safely and effectively.”

Harvard Health Publishing Harvard Medical School: “The real-world benefits of strengthening your core.”

Self: “31 of the Best Core Exercises You Can Do at Home.”

Shape: “Why Core Strength Is So Important (It Has Nothing to Do with Sculpting a Six-Pack).”

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