7 Abs Exercises to Tighten Stomach Muscles for a Strong Core | appencode.com

7 Abs Exercises to Tighten Stomach Muscles for a Strong Core

To be honest, standard abs exercises (such as sit-ups and crunches) are a little archaic and extremely mundane—not to mention, no amount of basic crunches will get you a super-strong core. To tighten stomach muscles and properly strengthen your core, you’ll need to go deeper with moves that get your body up and off the floor and challenge your core muscles in unique ways.

Learning to engage your core also stabilizes your spine and helps it stay upright (Read: you won’t slouch as much when sitting through another Zoom meeting). Consider these pro tips and try the best exercises for abs to help you build core strength and stability.

Benefits of Abs Exercises

There are tons of reasons why core strength is important, and they have nothing to do with aesthetics and everything to do with your ability to function in everyday life.

“Our core, which connects and supports our upper and lower body, is essential in how our body moves,” says Tina Tang, NSCF-certified personal trainer and founder of Iron Strong Fitness. “Our core muscles, when used properly, allow us to lift objects, turn, run, and move in all directions while protecting our spine. A strong (and engaged) core sustains all our movement throughout our lives.”

And if you work at a desk all day, a strong core is crucial for maintaining good posture and counteracting your sedentary hours.

“Poor posture can cause certain muscles to weaken while causing others to become overused, leading to muscle imbalances,” Franco Calabrese, PT, DPT, clinical director at React Physical Therapy, previously told Shape.

The Best Abs Exercises for a Full Core Workout, According to Trainers

7 Best Exercises for Abs to Tighten Stomach Muscles

If you want to build your abs, add these best exercises for abs to your routine. These exercises will not only tighten stomach muscles, but they’ll also help you improve your posture, prevent lower back injury, and improve your functional movement outside of exercising.

Just make sure you’re working your abs and not your neck. One way to do that is to pretend you have an orange tucked under your chin. Plus, it reduces the tension on your back during core moves.

7 Best Ab Exercises

  • Isometric Tabletop Press
  • Double Leg Circles
  • Sprinter Crunch
  • High Plank With Knee to Elbow
  • Side Plank Knee to Chest
  • Plank Reach
  • Standing Woodchop

How to add these best ab exercises to your workouts: Do each exercise for 30 seconds, resting for 30 seconds between moves, switching sides, and repeating the move as necessary. Add these core-strengthening exercises to your current fitness program or perform this circuit separately as your main core workout. Remember to warm up and cool down for a few minutes to allow your heart rate to come down.

1. Isometric Tabletop Press

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Why it works: You may not move during this abs exercise, but your core is still working to stabilize your body. Focus on keeping your lower back pressed into the ground for maximum engagement. Here’s how to do this exercise.

  1. Lie face up with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  2. Engage your core and draw your knees in toward your navel, forming a 90-degree angle so your shins are parallel with the floor.
  3. Place your palms slightly above your knees.
  4. Lift your shoulders slightly off of the ground and press your palms into your thighs, simultaneously resisting the pressure with your knees.
  5. Maintain equal balance between the two in order to keep the 90-degree angle of your knees.
  6. Hold for 30 seconds.

2. Double Leg Circles

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Why it works: During this abs exercise, your body will want to move around—especially your hips and back. Don’t let it! Instead, use your core to keep everything flat and steady on the mat. Here’s how to do double leg circles.

  1. Lie face up with your legs extended straight, arms extended out to your sides, and palms down.
  2. Engage your core and exhale to raise your legs toward the ceiling.
  3. Press your lower back into the floor while moving your legs toward the right.
  4. Extend your legs as far to the right as you can without lifting your upper body off of the floor.
  5. Continue tracing a circle with your legs, lowering them as close to the ground as you can while maintaining control. From there, move legs toward the left and back up to center to complete the circle.
  6. Rest your hips firmly on the floor throughout.
  7. Complete one set, then switch directions.

3. Sprinter Crunch

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Why it works: This abs exercise is a progression of the bicycle crunch. The challenge comes from lifting your entire torso off the ground. You’ll also get in a little oblique work as you twist slightly to reach each elbow toward the opposite knee. Here’s how to do the sprinter crunch.

  1. Lie face up with your legs straight.
  2. Engage your core, exhale, and lift your torso off the ground while bending your right knee and bringing it toward your left elbow, twisting slightly toward the midline of your body.
  3. Inhale and lower your left leg and your torso down simultaneously.
  4. Exhale and lift your torso off of the ground while bending your left knee and bringing it toward your right elbow, twisting slightly toward midline of your body.
  5. Continue alternating and repeat.

4. High Plank with Knee to Elbow

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Why it works: The high plank is an essential abs exercise because it engages all of your core muscles. It even challenges your glutes, hamstrings, and lower back muscles. And as a bonus, it builds shoulder stability, too. Touching each knee to your elbows challenges your stability as you balance on three points, and that twist adds in a little oblique work as well. Here’s how it’s done.

  1. Start in a table-top position on the floor with your hands stacked directly under your shoulders, knees bent and stacked directly under your hips, and feet hip-width apart.
  2. Lift both knees off of the floor and straighten your legs to come into a high plank position on your palms, squeezing your glutes together and engaging your core.
  3. Push actively away from the floor and maintain a straight line from head to heels.
  4. Lift your left foot and bring your left knee as close to your left elbow as possible.
  5. Hold for a breath, then return your left foot to the starting position.
  6. Maintain a flat back and neutral hips throughout.
  7. Switch to your right and progress like above.
  8. Continue alternating.

5. Side Plank Knee to Chest

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Why it works: On its own, the side plank challenges your balance. After all, you’re only using your forearm and the side of your foot as points of contact on the ground. Bringing your top knee toward your chest mimics a crunch (and targets your rectus abdominis) and makes it even tougher for your core muscles to stabilize. Here’s how to do the side plank knee to chest.

  1. Start in a side plank position on the left side, with your left forearm firmly placed on the floor and your hips raised off the floor.
  2. Extend your right arm up so your right wrist is in line with your right shoulder.
  3. Exhale and drive your right knee toward your chest with your toes flexed.
  4. Extend your right leg when it reaches 90 degrees to return to the starting position.
  5. Repeat.

6. Plank Reach

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Why it works: This low plank variation tightens stomach muscles by challenging your stability as you extend one arm while maintaining the low plank position. This abs exercise also challenges your mobility and range of motion in your shoulder joint. Here’s how to do the plank reach.

  1. Start in a low plank with your elbows directly under your shoulders, forearms resting parallel on the ground, and feet hip-width apart.
  2. Tuck your hips under, engage your glutes and hamstrings, and maintain a flat back.
  3. Engage your core and extend your left arm so that your left wrist is in line with your left shoulder (or as high as you can comfortably lift your left arm).
  4. Hold for a breath, then return your left arm to the low plank position.
  5. Extend your right arm so that your right wrist is in line with your right shoulder (or as high as you can comfortably lift your right arm).
  6. Hold for a breath, then return your right arm to the low plank position.
  7. Continue alternating.

7. Standing Woodchop

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Why it works: The woodchop is one of the most functional abs exercises around—meaning it translates to tons of movements in everyday life. Think lifting something off the ground to place it on a shelf, or shoveling dirt for your new garden. The woodchop also helps tighten stomach muscles by working your body in a transverse plane of motion, meaning it’s a rotational movement and will target your obliques. Here’s how it’s done.

  1. Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart.
  2. Clasp your hands together with a slight bend in your elbows.
  3. Reach your hands toward the outside of your right knee by making a powerful “slash” motion (as if chopping wood) and crunching your core down toward the right side of your body.
  4. Bend both knees and pivot your left heel off the ground while your right foot remains flat.
  5. Keep your hands clasped, raise your arms up and over your left shoulder while returning to a standing position.
  6. Repeat, focusing on strong, powerful movements throughout.
  7. Switch sides after one set.

Best Tips for Abs Exercises

Before you roll out your mat, it’s important to understand what types of abs exercises will help tighten stomach muscles.

“There are two categories of core exercises—anti-rotation and rotation,” explains Tang. “A Pallof press, plank, or side plank are anti-rotational core exercises where the exerciser works at staying still.”

Meanwhile, exercises such as wood chops or Russian twists are rotational, in which you’re moving but using your core muscles to stabilize and maintain alignment. Regardless of which abs exercises you’re doing, focus on core engagement, says Tang.

“For all core exercises, one would ‘brace’ their core, which has the same feeling as bracing oneself from being punched into the stomach,” she advises. “The rib cage and hip bones are coming together to tighten or condense the core muscles to stabilize the body.”

And you can forget about training “upper abs” or “lower abs”—it’s all the rectus abdominis. Where you feel it depends on the move’s anchor point. For example, leg lifts engage more of the lower section since your upper body is against the floor. (Here’s a full guide to your abs muscles, if you want an anatomic breakdown.)

“If you feel the upper abs working, it doesn’t mean the lower abs aren’t engaged,” says Alycea Ungaroowner of Real Pilates in New York City and author of The Pilates Promise.

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