Trying to tone your midsection? Here are our favorite ab blasting exercises (the ones we love to hate) that totally get the job done! Added bonus…there’s not a crunch in the bunch. Remember to pull in your belly button while performing these moves to ensure you are working the deepest ab muscle (aka the transverse) and get ready to feel the burn.

Planks, Planks, And More Planks

We love a good plank exercise. This move forces you to engage multiple muscles at one time, including all your core muscles, which not only whittles your waist, but it also helps strengthen the muscles surrounding your spine to help prevent back injury. And there’s so many fun versions of the plank to try…who can pick just one?

Prone Plank

To do this move:

  • Get into a full push-up position, arms straight, palms on the floor beneath your shoulders.
  • Hold here for 30 seconds, with your abs contracted and your arms and legs extended and your head aligned with your spine.
  • As you get stronger, hold the position longer, up to 1-2 minutes at a stretch.
  • To go even deeper – try a switching to a one-arm plank, or walking plank.

Forearm or Elbow Plank

To do this move:

  • Start on the floor resting on your forearms and knees.
  • Step your feet out, coming into a plank position (on your forearms).
  • Contract your abs, don’t let your booty stick up or fall down, you should form a straight line from head to toe.
  • Hold here for 30 seconds.  Build up to one minute as you get stronger.

Side Plank

To do this move:

  • Lie on your left side, rest your left forearm on the floor for support.
  • Raise your hips up so your body forms a straight line, squeeze your glutes and abs.
  • Your weight will be on your left forearm and the edge of your left foot.
  • Hold for 30 seconds, then lower to the ground and do on your right side.
  • As you get stronger, build up to holding for one minute on each side.


The Hundred

To do this classic pilates move:

  • Start lying on your back with your legs in tabletop position (hips and knees at right angles). Engage your deep abs to round your lower spine into the floor. Make sure you are not “pooching” your abs, which means you are just working the top layer of abs.
  • Exhale and lift your upper back off the floor, until the bottom tips of your shoulder blades skim the floor. Straighten your legs to a 45-degree angle (but make sure your low back is staying connected to the floor).
  • Vigorously pump your arms 6 inches up and down, reaching with your fingertips.
  • Inhale for five arm pumps, and exhale for five pumps. That completes one set or cycle. Repeat the cycle nine more times for a total of 100 pumps.
  • Keep your upper body stable while your arms pump.
  • Try to keep your lower back pressed in toward the floor and keep your lower abs pulled in toward your spine.
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Abdominal Chair Hold

This move may look a little silly, but it’s tough.  Make sure the chair is very stable and not on a slippery surface when you begin.

To do this move:

  • Sit tall on the edge of a sturdy chair and place your hands on the edge with your fingers pointing toward your knees.
  • Tighten your abs and bring your toes 2 to 4 inches off the floor. Lift your butt off the chair.
  • Hold this position for as long as you can, aim for 5 to 10 seconds.
  • Lower yourself down and repeat.
  • Continue this exercise for 1 minute.


Hanging Ab Curls

This exercise works all the abs but targets the lower abs and the deepest ab muscle, the transverse abs. The abdominal muscles are working more as stabilizers against your powerful hip flexors in this move.

To do this move:

  • Using a pull-up bar, get a good grip with your palms facing out or toward each other.
  • Start with your legs hanging straight down, and on an exhale, pull your abs toward your spine and bend your knees, lifting them toward your chest.
  • Without swinging, slowly lower your knees, returning to a straight-leg position.
  • Repeat for a total of 10 to 12 reps.


Shoulder-Knee Taps

While planks are an amazing exercise, they are static holds, and you want to be sure you have some dynamic movement (like this one) in your ab routine as well. It helps keep the muscles engaged because you’re moving around.  This exercise works the abs, obliques, lower back, and arms all at once.  How efficient is that?

  • Start in a pushup position with hands on floor, abs tight, glutes engaged.
  • Lift your right hand and tap your left shoulder, then return it to the floor.
  • Immediately lift your left hand and tap your right shoulder, then return to floor.
  • Now quickly bend your right knee and bring it to your left elbow, then return to start.
  • Immediately bend your left knee and bring to left elbow, then return to start.
  • That’s one complete rep. Continue to do this sequence without rest for one minute.

Combining these exercises with regular cardio and a healthy diet will help whittle your middle and keep your abs flat (even when it’s not bikini season).

What’s your go-to ab exercise? Have you tried any of these? Share your thoughts in our Health Community.