Most of the questions I get are about abs and belly fat.
Everybody wants six pack abs or a flat stomach. You can tell by just how many ab gadgets and ab machines are in the market.
The interesting thing is you don’t need any machine or equipment to train the abs.
As someone who has done both weight and bodyweight training, I assure you, there is no form of training that comes close to bodyweight exercises when building abdominal muscles……. and I’m sure most gym rats will agree with me on this one.
Although bodyweight ab exercises are very effective, ab exercises alone can’t give you a six pack. Your diet and body fat percentage play a bigger role. Doing a thousand crunches won’t change anything if your body fat percentage is high. You’ll only end up with a six pack covered by fat.
I see a lot of untrue information about six pack abs everyday. So before I share the exercises – here is what really matters when it comes to losing belly fat and getting ripped abs.
Note that this applies to both men and women. What works, works…… regardless of gender.
The key to six pack abs
Diet is more important– I know you’ve heard abs are made in the kitchen, but I had to say it again. Most folks think they can get abs by doing a lot of ab training and eat what they want. The number of calories and what you eat matters a lot.
Body fat percentage- The visibility of your abs will depend on your body fat percentage. For women, abs start being visible at 16%-19% body fat and for men 11%-12% body fat. So focus on reducing the body fat percentage first.
Ab exercises alone don’t work– You can’t spot reduce. Ab exercises alone won’t get rid of belly fat. Unless you have the right body fat percentage – your focus should be on compound movements. Do exercises which work the bigger muscle groups. Check list of bodyweight leg and back exercises. Start serious ab training when body fat reduces.
Bonus: All ab exercises are not equal. Ab exercises which involve lifting of legs are more effective than those which lift the upper body. It is harder to lift legs using ab muscles than it is to lift upper body.
There are many ab exercises out there and most are time wasters. I will only share the exercises that work. Let’s get started.
Bodyweight Beginner Ab Exercises
You should be able to do these exercises even if you’ve never trained before. Make sure to include them in your beginner workout.
A great core stabilizer……but most people don’t perform this exercise properly. Keep your core tight throughout to avoid sinking the hips. Do that by squeezing the glutes and tightening the thighs.
Then hold that position for up to 3 minutes. You can make the exercise harder by placing your feet on a chair or doing the plank on one arm and one leg.
This is a little harder than the front plank because you are supporting the body with one arm.
Only one foot should be on the floor. Keep the glutes and abdominals tight to prevent the hips from sinking.
The side plank primarily trains the oblique muscles.
Bicycles work the lower abdominal muscles and the obliques.
This movement requires strength and coordination. Control motion and execute the exercise slowly.
Don’t lift the whole upper body, just lift up one shoulder until the elbow touches the knee.
Focus on lifting the upper body and limit the flexion of the lower back. On eccentric motion, lower the body slowly.
The crunch mainly targets the upper abdominal muscles.
Crunches are great but at some point you’ll have ditch them. You will get far better results doing 10 reps of advanced ab exercises than doing 100 crunches.
This one targets the lower abdominal muscles.
The knees should be bent throughout to prevent the use of hip flexors and to activate the abdominals more.
The side crunch targets the oblique muscles….. Doesn’t involve a lot of movement, just lift your trunk up about 35 degrees then lower it slowly.
Intermediate Bodyweight Ab Exercises
If your body fat percentage is within the ranges I gave earlier. You should start seeing results with these exercises in 2 to 3 weeks. Use elbow straps if you can’t hang for long.
Hanging Knee Raises
I believe hanging ab exercises are the best. I get the most ab activation from them. And they also target lower abdominal muscles which are not easy to build.
To get the most out of every hanging exercise, don’t arch your back. Instead hunch the back when doing the movement, this engages the abdominal muscles more and reduces the use of hip flexors.
Keep the knees bent and lift them until they almost touch the chest, then lower them to starting position slowly.
Lying leg thrusts
Lie flat on your back and lift your legs up until the legs are on a 90 degree angle off the floor. Place your hands on beside the body then use them to lift your lower back off the floor.
There isn’t much movement in this exercise but it burns.
The lying leg thrusts mainly targets the lower abdominal muscles.
Hanging oblique raises
Once you can easily do the side crunches, start doing this.
Control your motion and execute the exercise slowly.
This exercise primarily works the obliques and also works the abdominal muscles.
Lying Leg Raises (with straight legs)
I don’t like this exercise because it puts too much pressure on the lumbar spine.But it is effective when done right.
When doing this exercise, make sure your back is touching the floor throughout. Most people arch their backs when doing this exercise….this is bad because it stresses the lumbar spine and you’ll use hip flexors more instead of engaging the abdominals.
To make the exercise easier – place hands under the butt.
Feet-elevated Side Plank
This is an advanced variation of the side plank. Just place your feet on a chair or a box and hold the side plank position.
This one really stabilizes the core and activates the oblique muscles. The only mistake you want to avoid here is sinking your hips.
This involves lift both the upper and the lower body. V-ups require balance, control and strength.
Lift the legs and the upper body at the same time, and stretch out your arms until you touch the shins. The slowly lower the body to the starting position.
Advanced Bodyweight Ab Exercises
These are the hardest and most effective ab and core exercises.
The L Sit works several muscle groups and that’s why I included it in the arm exercises article.
You can do it on the floor or place your hands on two high surfaces of the same height.
By the time you can hold the L Sit for more than 30 seconds, your abdominal muscles will be very strong and ripped.
Hanging Leg Raises
This is my favorite ab exercise. And it’s for a good reason. Ten full range of motion reps of the hanging leg raises will activate the abs a lot…… and you’ll definitely feel the burn.
Just remember not to arch your back, instead curve it to engage the abs more. Also control the motion and lower the legs slowly. Keep your legs straight throughout.
This exercise requires a strong core to execute. And not just strong abdominal muscles but a strong lower back as well.
Make sure whatever you are using to support your body is strong enough to hold it. Lift the body until only the shoulders touch the floor.
Hold that position for as long as you can.
Lying Windshield Wiper
This is not an easy one…. only attempt it after you have built enough abdominal strength.
Lie flat on your back then spread hands to the side and lift your legs to a 90 degree angle. Keep the legs straight, an easier version would be doing it with the knees bent.
Just make sure your feet don’t touch the floor as you twist the hips.
Hanging Windshield Wiper
Doing the windshield wiper while hanging will make the exercise harder and also work other muscles like the arms.
These are the only exercises you need to get ripped abs. Don’t waste your time and money on all the gadgets out there.
Ab muscles are not hard to build. The only question is – will they be visible when you build them.
To lower body fat percentage and get rid of belly fat do compound movements and train the big muscle groups…..spot reduction is not possible.
And instead of having specific days for training abs, just do 2-3 ab exercises after each workout.
Do you regularly train abs and are you seeing the results from the exercises you are doing? Leave a comment below.[related_posts_by_tax posts_per_page="4"]
May 13, 2015 at 1:46 pm
Thanks Brian! This article if full of great info. I have been making the mistake of doing ab exercises only. I’m glad I found this, it will definitely go onto my bookmarks.