Exercises for abs – how to improve your core

There are two main types of exercises for abs.  The most common type is where you work the abs dynamically, as in crunches for example. In the second type, the focus is on using the deep abdominal muscles to hold the pelvis steady.  If you want good ab tone, then you should do a mixture of both.

Pelvic stability exercises for abs

Pelvic stabilising exercises

Exercises which focus on holding the pelvis stable work the muscles that give you flat abs.  Examples are stability ball and balance board exercises, most Pilates exercises, plank holds and barre workouts. These muscles are often quite weak, even in people who exercise a lot.  If they are weak, then training needs to start with the basics of finding “neutral” pelvis.  Trying to do advanced core strengthening exercises isn’t a good idea for beginners, because it could cause low back injury.  See Core Exercises for Beginners to find out more about this.

Dynamic exercises for abs

30 day challenge for 6 pack

This sort of ab exercise is used more in fitness programs.  Examples are crunches and all their variations, side bends, upper body rotations and Russian twists. This type of exercise isn’t likely to give you flat abs, however there are several reasons why dynamic exercises are more popular:

  • They are more straightforward, simple exercises.  Doing pelvic stability exercises for abs effectively requires an understanding of pelvic alignment.  It also requires focus and concentration.
  • People tend to like to train muscles that show.  Dynamic abs exercises work the “6-pack” muscles.
  • They are generally more energetic than stabilising exercises, so it feels like they’re “doing something”, whereas training the deepest muscle layer can feel less like a proper workout.

Which exercises should you choose?

If you want good ab tone, then you need to do a variety of abs exercises:

  • Crunch type exercises which to the top layer (the “6-pack”)
  • Side bending and twisting exercises to work the middle 2 layers (the obliques)
  • Pelvic stabilising exercises to work the deepest layer (the transverse muscle)

 

Exercises for abs round up

Here’s a list of workouts to get you started.  All of them have full instructions and printable exercise charts.

Core exercises beginners guide
Core Exercises for Beginners is an introduction to working the muscles that stabilise the pelvis and pull the abs in flat.

 

30 day challenge for 6 pack
A 30 day challenge that focuses on the 6-pack muscles.  It’s a very simple workout, since it only uses 2 exercises. The number of reps increases each day to gradually build the muscles up.


Pilates for beginners - how to do a perfect roll up
This is a step by step guide to developing the strength and flexibility to do the Pilates roll up exercise. The roll up works the 6 pack muscles, but also works the core stabilisers, as they control movement through the spine.

 

Abs exercises to work all the abdominal muscles
There are exercises for all the different abs layers in this circuit, so it will give you a good all-round abs workout.

 

Elbow plank pyramid routine
This plank workout mainly works the core stabilisers, but the side plank also works the oblique muscles

 

Mat Pilates 4 exercises
A mini introduction to Pilates, with exercises that are suitable for beginners.  Between them, the 4 exercises work all the ab muscles.

 

Or for a complete guide to beginners ab training, see this item in my Etsy shop:

Exercises for abs beginners guide

This set of booklets covers all aspects of ab training. It includes dynamic and stabilising exercises for abs, as well as spinal flexibility exercises. (Loosening up the spine helps with achieving good pelvic alignment.) The set comes with workout charts for easy reference and a progress log so that you can keep track of all your workouts.

 

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Exercises for abs | how to work all the layers of the ab muscles to get good ab tone. With a round up of 7 abs workouts, including Pilates | The Fit Look