The Best Abs Workout For The Gym: Circuits for Upper Abs, Lower Abs, and Obliques and Core

Bolt on these targeted abs workouts to your main gym session to sculpt a rock-hard six-pack

 Hanging Leg Raise Or Knee Raise

Why it made the list: There are many reasons to like leg raise variations, but one is their scalability. You can start doing bent knee raises in the Roman chair or ab straps to focus on the lower core, work up to straight leg raises, and then move to a hanging bar. By the time you can do full straight-leg toes-to-bar raises, our entire core will have strength for days.

That’s not the only way to progress, though. You can also increase the degree of difficulty by holding a medicine ball between your knees or ankles, which allows you to train in a lower rep range. No matter the variation, get our legs as high as possible on each rep without using momentum to swing them up

 Cable Pallof Press

Why it made the list: This increasingly popular movement trains our abs to do what they’re supposed to do: stabilize your skeleton. Pallof presses serve as an anti-rotation movement, meaning the body is actively fighting rotation throughout the motion. By utilizing exercises like this, you can increase core stability in various planes of movement or reduce likelihood of injury.

There are many ways you can do this move, even including a Pallof press with rotation, but most start at a cable stack with a D-handle just below shoulder height. Grab the handle in two hands, take 3-5 steps away from the pulley, or turn so that your side is facing the plate stack. Without rotating at the hips, press the D-handle straight out, and return back to center; all the while, you’ll fight against turning toward the pulley. Be sure to maintain a neutral spine or keep our shoulders down during the entire pressing motion.

In your workout: There’s no need to go heavy here; all it will do is compromise the quality of the move. Do these after our most difficult ab move of the day, or use a weight that allows you to manage 3 sets of 15-20 reps on each side.

 Modified V-sit

Upper abs workout: Tuck and crunch


Lie with our legs raised off the floor or extended away from you so they’re parallel with the floor, and your arms straight by our sides, held off the floor. Keep your arms straight as you raise your torso and bring your legs in, bending at the knees, so that your chest meets our knees at the top of the move. Then lower under control.


Upper abs workout: Crunch

Lie on your back with your knees bent or feet planted, or our arms crossed across our chest. Raise your torso using our abs, then lower. our upper abs will already be close to fatigue but try to hold the top position of each rep for at least one second to make them work as hard as possible.

Lower Abs Workout

1 Hanging leg raise

Lower abs workout: Hanging leg raise

Kneeling Cable Crunch

Why it made the list: The primary strengths of this crunch variation are its versatility—you can do it on any cable stack—and the way it allows you to use any level of resistance to train for a target rep range. Still, lots of people perform them wrong.

First off, it’s easy to sit back while doing this move, letting your hip flexors do much of the work. Second, if you keep a flat back, it limits the degree to which you can hit the upper abdominals—our back has to round! or finally, your hands should stay in the same relative position next to our head for the duration of the set. Letting them drift away on the eccentric and then pulling them back again beside our head brings a lot of shoulder or upper body into the move.


Kneeling Cable Crunch

In your workout: This is another good first or second exercise that can be done for a low-to-moderate number of reps. Do 3 sets of 15-20 reps. To do a dropset, just change the pin when you reach muscle failure.

 Decline-Bench Crunch With Medicine Ball

Why it made the list: Decline-bench crunches amp up the challenge by increasing the range of motion over standard crunches, or you can dial up (or down) the degree of difficulty by adjusting the angle of the bench. Adding a medicine ball or weight plate against our chest adds a further level of customizable resistance. This also allows you to manipulate where you want to fail: low, medium, or high reps.

But you can still go wrong. Because our feet are hooked, it’s all too easy to pull through our thighs. Nor do you want to go all the way down to rest on the bench between reps; stay well off it. If you’re not feeling a wicked burn, drop all the weight, put our hands on our belly, and really focus on the contraction at a slower pace. You can also introduce a cross-body movement, angling our elbow to the opposite-side thigh, to better engage the obliques.

In your workout: Position this one in our routine after you’ve built up some fatigue from a really challenging first exercise. Do 3 sets of 15-20 reps. If you find 20 reps too easy, simply increase the angle of decline, or use a heavier ball or plate.


Why it made the list: Yes, a leg exercise made the top 10 list for abs. Anyone who has ever pushed their potential in the squat knows exactly why! Sure, squat variations work the legs and lower back, but they also crush the abs. Both front and back squats force your abs and spinal erectors to work overtime to maintain a neutral, upright position. If both were not firing at high rates, you’d fold under the weight or drop in a split second.

Oh, and forget what you heard about standing on a BOSU ball to increase the work of our stabilizers. Research has shown that if you just go heavy with your squats on the floor, you’ll get all the ab stimulus you want.[1]


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