Strengthening the abdominal muscles is one of the most sought after goals in the gym, and it’s not uncommon to strive for toned, visible abs through your workout regimen. However, some ab exercises are more effective than others in building up the abdominal wall and revealing the lithe core that has become so popular.
While it’s important to remember that no singular workout is going to give you abs and you cannot target a specific area to lose weight in, instead focusing on full body weight loss to see results, these ab exercises will help to tone the muscles so when you lose the layer of fat on top via cardio or a calorie deficit, they will shine through. We spoke with Tonal Coach Kendall Wood to get her take on the most effective ab exercises to reach your goals—this is what she suggested.
Planking is a staple core move, and for good reason—it works. Forcing you to engage your ab muscles in order to hold your body in place, this is perhaps one of the most effective ways to build up visible abs with no equipment. “For the fundamental plank, settle into a prone position, facing the ground, with your palms pressed into the floor and toes tucked. Stack your shoulders over your wrists, and keep your hips in line with your shoulders,” explains Wood. “Hold the position for 30-60 seconds.” This particular move works the entirety of your core, as well as engaging the shoulders and lower back for a well-rounded exercise.
A great core stabilization move, the pallof press works by engaging your core to resist rotation, thus strengthening the muscles. “A pallof press can be done in standing, kneeling or half-kneeling positions. With the handle of a cable at your chest, hug it tight to the sternum and squeeze your core as if you’re bracing for impact. Initiate the movement by pressing the handle away from you, keeping it centered at your midline, and avoid rotating the torso against the resistance,” says Wood. “Repeat for 8-12 reps on each side. The pallof press and other anti-rotation movements work the deep transverse abs, chest, shoulders, and glutes.”
Another core movement which requires no equipment to complete, the isometric hold is similar to a plank in the muscles of the abdomen it recruits. “Try the hollow body hold, where you’ll settle into a supine position, facing the sky, with your arms extended overhead and legs extended in front of you. Slowly elevate the shoulders and feet from the floor, and you’ll feel the abdomen contract,” explains Wood. “With the glutes as your axis, lightly round the spine while keeping the arms and legs unmoved. Hold the position for 30-60 seconds.” These types of moves are great for engaging the entirety of the core, increasing fat burn for a better workout for building your muscles.
If you have access to a gym, the pullover crunch is a solid move to include in your workout plan for building your core strength for visible abs. “A compound core move like the pullover crunch is a great way to improve strength in the core with assistance from other muscle groups. Multi-joint movements also increase caloric burn both during and after exercise,” says Wood. This move is also great for improving the mind to muscle connection of your entire body. “Lying in supine position, facing the sky, extend your arms overhead and legs in front of you. With the cable handles in your hands, initiate the movement by driving your palms forward toward the floor, bringing your arms to your sides and driving your knees to your chest. Repeat the movement for 10-15 repetitions.”