The Best Stomach Exercises for Stronger Abs

These abdominal exercises are sure to strengthen your core and enhance your workout routine.

abs six-pack exercise woman health fitness
Photo: Jordan Beal / EyeEm/Getty Images

Pressed for time? This 20-minute workout will maximize your limited schedule and leave your abs on fire. To perform the exercises demonstrated in this video by Rebecca Kennedy, all you need is a mat, a little space, and some motivation (you can even do it in your own home).

01 of 26

Get More From Your Core

You'll get more from your Pilates, yoga, or core-focused moves—meaning a stronger abdomen—by following these tips:

  • Move from your waist. Whenever you twist, make sure the movement happens from your bottom rib up. Be sure to keep your hips still.
  • Tighten up. Throughout each move, you should feel a tightening—similar to zipping up a pair of tight jeans—from one hip bone to the other.
  • Exhale deeply. To help strengthen your abs and protect your lower back, be sure to exhale thoroughly with every breath.

RELATED: Why Crawling Is the Ultimate Total-Body Exercise

02 of 26

A New Kind of Crunch

  1. Sit so that your thighs and upper torso form a V shape, with your lower legs crossed and lifted.
  2. Hold a 5-pound medicine ball (or dumbbell) between both hands. Swivel left to the right and back, bringing the ball across your body while maintaining the V shape.
  3. Do three sets of 15 reps three to four times every week.
03 of 26

Bridge Opposite Arm-leg Reach

  1. Lie faceup with your left knee bent, your left foot flat on the floor, and your right leg extended toward the ceiling. Reach toward the ceiling with your left arm and keep your right arm down by your side.
  2. Without moving your hips or shoulders, open your raised leg to the right and your raised arm to the left. Now, concentrating on your abs, return your raised leg and arm to the center.
  3. Do 10–12 reps; then switch sides and repeat.
04 of 26

Low-belly Leg Reach

  1. Lie faceup with your knees bent to 90 degrees, your hands behind head, and your abs contracted. Keeping your knees stacked over your hips, lift your shoulders and crunch up; inhale and hold for 3–5 seconds.
  2. Exhale and extend your legs to 45 degrees; hold for 3–5 seconds while squeezing your lower belly. Do two sets of 10–15 reps.
05 of 26

Teaser

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent to 90-degree angles and your feet lifted. Tighten your abs as you inhale, and lift your arms up and back over your head.
  2. Exhale and swing your arms forward, straightening your legs so your body forms a V. If needed, put your hands on the floor for support.
  3. Roll down slowly, bending your knees and bringing your arms overhead. Do 15 reps.
06 of 26

Donkey Kickbacks

  1. Kneel on all fours, toes tucked under, keeping your back neutral. Draw your belly in toward your spine as you contract your abs and lift both knees about 2 inches off the ground.
  2. Keeping your abs engaged, bring your right knee to your nose. Then kick your right leg straight out behind you, squeezing your butt. Keep your lower abs contracted and your hips facing the ground to protect your back.
  3. Repeat eight times; switch legs and repeat.
07 of 26

Advanced Leg Crunches

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and a 3-pound dumbbell between your feet. Place your hands palms down beneath your sitting bones.
  2. Concentrating on your lower abs, use them to bring your knees in toward your chest while lifting your hips, head, and shoulders slightly. Return to the starting position; that's one rep.
  3. Do 15–30 reps three to four times a week.
08 of 26

Belly Blaster

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent in toward your chest. Hold a 3-pound dumbbell with both hands.
  2. Extend your left leg to 45 degrees, keeping your right knee bent. Lift your head and shoulders and move the dumbbell to the outside of your right knee, pressing into a crunch with a twist.
  3. Pull your left leg in to meet your right leg and reach the weight up toward the ceiling, keeping your shoulders and head elevated off the floor. Now repeat step two, but this time extend your right leg and keep your left knee bent. That's one rep.
  4. Do eight reps four times per week.
09 of 26

Oblique Driving-knee Crunch

  1. Lie on your back on a stability ball with your feet hip-distance apart on the floor and knees bent to 90 degrees. Place your right hand behind your head and your left fingertips on the floor for balance. Brace your core and lift your left foot off the floor. Extend your left leg, foot flexed.
  2. Crunch up, twisting your right shoulder and rib cage toward your left knee while simultaneously stretching your right leg straight (keep your foot on the floor). Return to starting position (left leg lifted and right leg bent); that's one rep.
  3. Do 15 reps, then switch sides and repeat.
10 of 26

Scale Pose

  1. Sit in a comfortable cross-legged position with your hands on a mat next to your hips. Tighten your pelvic floor (as if you have to pee and are holding it in), push into your hands, and lift your entire lower body off the mat.
  2. Hold for three breaths, then lower back down. This is a pretty challenging move, so if you can't lift your whole lower half, keep your feet on the floor and just lift your butt. Do three reps.
11 of 26

Boat Pose

  1. Sit with your feet on the floor, knees bent, and hands beneath your knees for support. Keeping your chest lifted and your shoulders back, engage your ab muscles and raise your lower legs until they are parallel to the floor (your knees should still be bent) and you are balancing on your sitting bones.
  2. If this feels comfortable, begin to straighten your legs (stop if you feel any discomfort in your back) and stretch your arms forward. Hold for five to 15 breaths, then release. Repeat up to five times.
12 of 26

Cross-leg Diagonal Crunch

  1. Lie on your back with your legs straight and your feet on the floor. Keeping your torso still, lift your hips and move them a bit to the right; lower and straighten your legs again.
  2. Bend your left knee and cross it over your right leg, placing your left foot on the floor near the outside of your right knee. Crunch up, then come back down.
  3. Do 50 reps, then switch sides and repeat.
13 of 26

Tone-it V Hold

  1. This uses fast-twitch muscle fibers (the ones that contract during high-intensity moves and help improve muscle tone).
  2. Sit with your knees bent and feet on floor. Clasp underside of thighs with both hands, hinge back, and lift feet until your lower legs are parallel to the floor; release your hands. Straighten your legs and reach for your toes; hold for eight breaths. Repeat three times.
14 of 26

Plank

  1. Kneel on a mat on all fours with your hands directly under your shoulders. Stretch your legs back one at a time to come into plank position (the "up" part of a push-up); engage your ab muscles. Your body should be long and straight; don't let your hips sag or lift your butt too high. Imagine there's a seat belt tightening around your waist, drawing your lower-ab muscles inward.
  2. Press your hands firmly into the mat, and press strongly back through your heels. Hold for one to two minutes (or as long as you can), then drop back to all fours. Do three reps.
15 of 26

Body-weight Squat

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width, your knees bent slightly, and your hands crossed over your chest. Squat down, pressing your weight into your feet. Make sure your feet are pointing straight ahead and your knees are over your toes; keep your bum tucked. Return to standing.
  2. Do five sets of five reps.
16 of 26

Swan Dive

  1. Lie on your stomach, stretch your arms overhead, point your toes, and lift your arms and legs about 6 inches off the ground. Hold for one count, imagining your legs being pulled out and back, away from your hips.
  2. Next, circle your arms out to the sides and behind you. Exhale and reach your arms toward your toes, palms facing in. Hold for one count, then bring your arms back to starting position and relax your entire body to ground. Repeat six to eight times.
17 of 26

Windshield Wiper

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent to 90-degree angles. Straighten your arms by your sides, and lengthen your fingertips. Press the backs of your shoulders against a mat, and slide them down away from your ears.
  2. Focusing on the deep waist muscles, inhale and slowly move your knees to the right, then exhale and return to starting position. Repeat on the left; that's one rep. Do five to eight reps.
18 of 26

Plank on the Ball

  1. Kneel in front of a stability ball, draping your abs and hips over the ball. Place your hands on the ground in front of you and walk them out until the ball rolls beneath your thighs (as shown above).
  2. Once your body is straight (with a slight arch in your back) and you're stable, hold for 30 seconds. Focus on lifting your belly button and squeezing your thighs.
19 of 26

Jumping Jack Reach

  1. While seated, hold the ball and jump your legs apart, then together, then apart again.
  2. Stand and reach your left hand to the right (use right hand to keep ball in place).
  3. Sit back down, jump your legs together, and repeat the sequence on the other side; that's one rep. Do four reps.
  4. Repeat sequence three more times.
20 of 26

Standing Side Crunch

  1. Stand holding a ball overhead, elbows bent and out to sides, and feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Lift your right knee to the side and pull your right elbow down to meet it. Return to the starting position and then repeat on other side. Repeat the sequence three more times.
21 of 26

Basic Pump

  1. Stand with one leg forward and the hoop around your waist, holding it against the small of your back. Bend knees slightly, then spin the hoop by giving it a big push around in one direction (make sure the hoop is level).
  2. Shift your weight between your forward and backward legs to move your hips forward and backward (as opposed to around), pushing and pulling to keep the hoop spinning.
22 of 26

Circles in the Sky

  1. Lie on your back with your hands behind your head.
  2. Contract abs, lifting your upper body slightly off the ground, and raise your right leg 5 inches while lifting your left leg straight up toward the sky.
  3. Keeping your core engaged and your hips stable, trace four softball-sized circles clockwise with your entire left leg; reverse, circling four times counterclockwise. Lower both your legs, switch sides, and repeat.
23 of 26

Side Incline With a Twist

  1. Lie on your right side with your forearm directly under your shoulder, hand perpendicular to your body, and legs stacked. Engage your abs and the right side of your waist, lifting your hips so your body forms a straight line from head to feet.
  2. Extend your left arm toward the sky, staying engaged through your core. Now scoop your left arm in front of your body and reach under the space between your chest and the ground, twisting only from the waist up.
  3. Come back up; repeat four times, then lower your body to the ground. Repeat on the opposite side.
24 of 26

Supine Twist

  1. Lie on your back with your legs stretched out straight. Inhale as you bend your right knee and bring it in toward your chest; hug it tightly with both hands.
  2. Exhale as you use your left hand to gently press your right knee over to the left side, allowing your torso to twist. Stretch your right arm out to the right at shoulder height.
25 of 26

The Hundred

  1. Lie on your back and lift your legs 45 degrees off of the floor.
  2. Squeeze your abs, lift your head and your shoulders off the ground and pump your arms 100 times.
26 of 26

Ab-cross Crawl

  1. Start on your back, bend your knees up with shins parallel to the floor and extend your arms to the ceiling.
  2. Straighten your left leg and extend your right arm back to about 6 inches off of the floor, and then come back to the original position.
  3. Then, repeat the exercise on the opposite side, keeping abs engaged.
Was this page helpful?
Related Articles