If you’d pick a chiseled abdominal six-pack, rather than a six-pack of Heineken, then our 16 ab exercises in this article will help you sculpt the midsection of your dreams.

The muscles at the lower portion of the rib cage and the upper portion of your hips are the so-called “Abdominal muscles”.

Having a chiseled set of six pack abs is without a doubt one of the things that completes your physique.

Here are the primary factors that determine how your abs will look:

  • Body fat levels
  • Development of the abdominal muscles

Though having low body fat levels is important to have visible abs, you also need to make sure you’re working on those muscles.

On this page, you will find exercises that will help you target:

  • The six-pack
  • Your obliques (Side section)
  • The adonis belt (V-Shaped muscle leading to the groin)

Before we dive into the exercises however, let’s have a look at the anatomy & functions of the abdominal muscles.

ANATOMY

The abdominal area is made out of 4 main muscles:

#1 Rectus abdominis

Also known as the sixpack, the rectus abdominis is a superficial muscle that runs vertically on the anterior (front) portion of the torso.

It is made out of two parallel sheets of muscle fibers that are separated by connective tissue in the midline of the abdominal area.

The rectus abdominis originates from the upper part of the pubic bone and attaches at the lower portion of the rib cage (Ribs 5-7), as well as the sternum.

Its portions are separated by intersections, which can be seen externally, depending on the body fat levels.

Depending on genetic factors, we can observe 4, 6, 8 and in rare cases, a 10-pack. Most commonly, we see a six pack.

#2 Obliquus Externus Abdominis

The external oblique is located on the lateral/anterior parts of the abdomen.

It is a rather wide and thin muscle that is generally not visible in most humans, due to subcutaneous fat.

The muscle originates from the lower eight ribs and it is arranged in an oblique line that runs both laterally and anteriorly.

#3 Obliquus internus Abdominis

The internal oblique muscle is an abdominal muscle that is located right below the external oblique.

This muscle’s fibers are perpendicular to the external oblique and originate from the lower back and the anterior part of the upper hip bone, as well as the groin ligament.

The fibers run up and towards the centerline of the body to their insertions at the lower part of the 10th to 12th ribs.

#4 Transversus abdominis

The transverse abdominal muscle (TVA) is a layer of muscle tissue located at the front and side of the abdominal wall.

Unlike the commonly sought-after sixpack, the TVA is not superficial and is rather deep.

Now, though we all want a nice, chiseled sixpack, it is important to remember that the abdominal muscles have important FUNCTIONS.

FUNCTIONS OF THE ABS

Yes, having a visible six-pack is cool. But it is also important to remember that the abdominal muscles are one of the key components of the core.

These are the exact muscles that act as support for your torso and not only that, they hold all your internal organs in place by regulating the internal abdominal pressure.

The superficial muscles like the rectus abdominis look cool, but it is the deep muscles that keep your body balanced, take care of good posture and last but not least, protect your spine.

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THE ADONIS BELT

The Adonis belt is the famous and often sought-after V-Shaped muscle that runs diagonally at the lower portion of the torso.

Also known as the "Iliac Furrow", this name refers to the two superficial grooves of the human abdomen that go from the hip bone down to the pubis.

It is without a doubt the one body part that makes smart girls stupid.

Now let's get to the exercises that will help you develop the sixpack, obliques & the adonis belt.

16 AB EXERCISES FOR A CHISELED SIX-PACK

Air Sprints

Sets: 3
Reps: 10 seconds at first and work your way up
Rest time: 60 seconds between sets
Targets: V-Cut, Lower abs, Middle abs

This first exercise is not like the regular crunches you're used to doing.

The air sprints, done on a parallel bar allow for good activation of the rectus abdominis in its lower and middle portions, as well as the Adonis belt.

Not only that but the notion of supporting your torso with just your arms in a vertical position, allows for core stability work & static arm strength.

Execution:

  1. 1
    Get up on a parallel bar
  2. 2
    Bend elbows slightly out of lockout
  3. 3
    Keep torso straight and look forward
  4. 4
    Bring left knee up towards the chest
  5. 5
    As the left leg comes down, bring the right knee up towards the chest
  6. 6
    Repeat that motion pattern, as if you were running

Again, don't aim for a specific number of repetitions on each leg. Instead, aim for a duration, starting off from 10 seconds and working your way up from there.

Air Sprints #2

Sets: 2
Reps: 45 seconds time under tension
Rest times: 30 seconds between sets
Targets: V-Cut, Mid & lower abs, biceps

The first variation of the air sprints, done on a parallel bar, engages not only the abs & the rest of the core, but also the arms at the elbow and shoulder joints.

This second variation engages the biceps and the forearms, while the abs are working.  In a previous article, we mentioned that static bicep holds are one of the tools gymnasts utilize to get strong & big biceps.

If your arms and biceps have been behind in development, this might turn out to be the exercise that will bring them up to par.

Execution:

  1. 1
    Grab onto a pull-up bar at shoulder width and hang freely with engaged scapula
  2. 2
    Pull yourself up slightly, so that your arms are slightly before parallel to the ground
  3. 3
    Repeat the same sprinting motion from exercise #1 - Right knee up, while it's coming down, left knee up, repeat

Again, we're aiming for time under tension - Forget about reps. If you feel like 45 seconds is too long, start off from 15-20 seconds and work your way up.

Barbell Floor Wipers

Sets: 2
Reps: 15 reps on each side
Rest times: 60 seconds between sets
Targets: Sixpack, V-Cut & obliques

As we mentioned in the anatomy section of this article, the abs were not just made to look good - They are an integral part of the core and give us stability during movements where the arms support the weight of the body.

This is exactly why, for these first 3 exercises, we are utilizing that exact arm support to not only target the abdominal area, but also strengthen the shoulder & arm musculature.

Execution:

  1. 1
    Load a barbell with a light weight
  2. 2
    Sit down and grab the barbell at shoulder width
  3. 3
    Lift it up to chin level
  4. 4
    Lie back down on the mat
  5. 5
    Lift the bar over your torso and keep it in that static position
  6. 6
    Straighten the legs and lift them off of the ground
  7. 7
    Keep the ankles at plantarflexion (Fingers away from the shin, like you would when flexing your calves)
  8. 8
    Lift the legs up and slightly towards the left shoulder, contracting the abs & obliques
  9. 9
    Let the legs come down slowly, then repeat the same movement on the opposite side
Note: Avoid resting your legs at the bottom - Keep constant tension and count to two seconds on the way down.

Bicycle Crunch

Sets: 1
Reps: 1
Rest times: 1
Targets: Entire core, great for the upper, mid and lower abs

If there was one exercise to target all the abdominal muscles and also help with improving coordination between the limbs, it would be this one.

The bicycle crunch is an exercise which we highly recommend to anyone trying to condition & tone their core musculature.

Execution:

  1. 1
    Lie down on the ground
  2. 2
    Place your hands behind your head
  3. 3
    Lift your legs slightly off of the ground
  4. 4
    Get the shoulders off of the ground to tense the abs
  5. 5
    Crunch up and to the left side
  6. 6
    As you do so, bring the left knee up, touching the right elbow to your left knee
  7. 7
    Repeat the same motion on the opposite side and alternate between sides - Right elbow to left knee, left elbow to right knee

Bottoms Up

Sets: 3
Reps: 12
Rest times: 50 seconds
Targets: Middle and lower abs

For this next exercise we'll combine the idea of the "Candle" yoga pose & add some dynamics to it.

This exercise is great for coordination & also, targeting the lower and middle portions of the rectus abdominis.

Execution:

  1. 1
    Lie down on the ground
  2. 2
    Place your hands by your sides
  3. 3
    Lift your legs off of the ground and keep them straight
  4. 4
    Bend the knees, bringing them towards the center of the body
  5. 5
    When the knees are slightly past the hips, lift your butt off the ground and straighten the legs up
  6. 6
    Bring the knees back down to the chest while simultaneously bringing your butt down 
  7. 7
    Straighten the legs to the initial position and repeat the movement pattern

Butterfly Crunch

Sets: 2
Reps: 45 seconds time under tension
Rest times: 30 seconds between sets 
Targets: Rectus abdominis

The butterfly crunch is great for developing prominent details in the rectus abdominis, as well as the V-Cut in the lower section of the torso.

If you apply some tension on the palms as well, you'll get an isometric contraction of the chest, meaning that your whole midsection will be on fire.

Execution:

  1. 1
    Sit down and bring your legs in a butterfly position, where your heels are close to the butt and feet are touching
  2. 2
    Lie down flat on your back and lift your arms up and over your torso
  3. 3
    Touch your hands together and tense slightly
  4. 4
    Crunch up and let the hands go between your legs
  5. 5
    Contract the abs
  6. 6
    Go back down slowly and repeat the motion

Dip Ups

Sets: 2
Reps: 45 seconds time under tension
Rest times: 30 seconds between sets 
Targets: Lower & middle abs

Let's continue with these amazing stabilizing exercises.

This time, we're on the parallel bar yet again and we combine a dipping movement with a knee raise to ultimately engage the core thoroughly.

Execution:

  1. 1
    Get on a parallel bar and lift your legs forward very slightly
  2. 2
    Dip down until your upper arm is parallel to the ground
  3. 3
    Come up and at the last third of the dipping motion, raise your knees towards the chest
  4. 4
    Let the knees go back down and repeat the motion pattern - Dip down, push up, raise knees and contract the abs
Note: At one point, this might get too easy, so try and add a dumbbell between your legs for extra resistance.

Full Extension Plate Crunch

Sets: 2

Reps: 15 

Rest times: 30 seconds between sets 

Targets: Rectus abdominis

Whenever you think of training abs, odds are you think of one exercise - Crunches.

Well, though they are pretty effective, they get boring at one point & the results you get stall.

Time to diversify with weighted plate crunches.

Execution:

  1. 1
    Lie down on the ground and bring your heels closer to your butt, placing the feet at shoulder width
  2. 2
    Grab a weight disc by both sides and raise it over your head with your arms straight
  3. 3
    Crunch up, contracting the abs and keeping the plate over your head
  4. 4
    Go back down slowly, maintaining the tension on the abs
Note: Do not excessively bend when crunching and try to keep the arms straight and over your head.

Hanging Knee Raise

Sets: 3
Reps: 12
Rest times: 30 seconds between sets 
Targets: Lower abs

Trying to develop a prominent V shape of your torso? If so, this is your go-to exercise, along with the next one.

Knee/leg raises done from a hanging position will not only activate the abdominal muscles well, but will also tense and stretch the lats, especially on the front portion where the "wings" attach.

Execution:

  1. 1
    Hang on the pull-up bar with hands at shoulder width
  2. 2
    Keep torso straight and scapula engaged
  3. 3
    Bring legs up very slightly to tense the abs
  4. 4
    Raise the knees up, contracting the abs
  5. 5
    Go back down slowly, maintaining tension on the abs
Note: Again, you can add weight if this gets too easy at one point.

Hanging Leg Raise

Sets: 2
Reps: 12
Rest times: 50 seconds between sets 
Targets: Lower abs

If knee raises are too easy for you but you don't feel like adding weight, you can try the leg raises instead.

Execution:

  1. 1
    Hang on the pull-up bar freely with hands at shoulder width and scapula engaged
  2. 2
    Keep torso straight, legs slightly raised in the initial position to tense the abs
  3. 3
    Keeping the legs straight, raise them up until they are parallel to the ground
  4. 4
    Contract the abs up top then go down slowly to the initial position

Again, you can add extra weight if this gets easy at one point.

Reverse Crunch

Sets: 3
Reps: 15
Rest times: 60 seconds between sets 
Targets: Lower abs

You can consider this exercise to be a lot like the bottoms up which we showed to you early on.

The difference? A shortened range of motion & hence, more tension to the abs.

Execution:

  1. 1
    Lie down flat on the ground with your hands by your sides
  2. 2
    Raise your feet off of the ground slightly to tense the abs
  3. 3
    Bring the knees towards your chest & lift up the hips slightly to further contract the abs
  4. 4
    Go back slowly to the initial position

Rope Crunch

Sets: 2
Reps: 12
Rest times: 50 seconds between sets 
Targets: Lower abs & obliques

If you've seen the bodybuilding documentary "Pumping iron" you'd know that Arnold himself did this exercise regularly.

That is because you can very well complete one of the main functions of the abs - Flexing the spinal column.

Execution:

  1. 1
    Attach a rope to the upper pulley of the cable machine
  2. 2
    Grab the rope and kneel down
  3. 3
    Look down and keep the rope in front of your head
  4. 4
    Bend over and twist your torso slightly to the side, bringing the left elbow to the right leg
  5. 5
    Go back up slowly and repeat the same on the opposite side
  6. 6
    Alternate between sides and repeat the motion pattern - Left elbow to right leg, right elbow to left leg

Russian Twist

Sets: 2
Reps: 15-20 on each side
Rest times: 60 seconds between sets 
Targets: Lower abs & obliques

This exercise is straight out of the Russian military.

It was designed to ANNIHILATE the entire core.

Include it regularly and you'll see gains soon enough.

Execution:

  1. 1
    Sit down on the ground
  2. 2
    Grab a medicine ball and keep it in front of the lower portion of your chest
  3. 3
    Lift your legs 2 inches off of the ground and keep torso off of the ground - Both of these will tense your abs
  4. 4
    Bring the medicine ball over to the left side, contracting the abs and obliques
  5. 5
    Get the medicine ball over the torso and bring it over to the opposite side
  6. 6
    Repeat this motion pattern and alternate between sides

SA Decline Crunch

Sets: 2
Reps: 15-20 on each side
Rest times: 90 seconds between sets 
Targets: Lower abs & obliques

Let's do some one-sided, weighted exercises, shall we?

Execution:

  1. 1
    Lie down on a decline bench comfortably
  2. 2
    Grab a dumbbell or a kettlebell and lift it over your chest with your arm straight
  3. 3
    Crunch up, initiating the contraction with your abs
  4. 4
    Go back down slowly on the concentric portion
  5. 5
    Do 15-20 reps on that side, then switch the dumbbell to the opposite side and do another 15-20 reps

Side Pillar Holds

Sets: 2

Reps: 45 seconds time under tension on each side

Rest times: 90 seconds between sets 

Targets: Rectus abdominis and obliques

It is important to understand that besides flexing the spinal column, the abs & core can help us maintain static balance.

To stimulate the development of static strength and endurance, we can include exercises like this one into the routine.

Execution:

  1. 1
    Sit down on the ground
  2. 2
    Get to the side and place your forearm on the ground at a 90-degree angle
  3. 3
    Place your foot on its side against the ground as well
  4. 4
    Support the body on your forearm and your foot
  5. 5
    Place the opposite arm on the waist for balance
  6. 6
    Hold that static position for 45 seconds (Less if unable to do 45 seconds)
  7. 7
    Once done, repeat the same on the opposite side

Swiss Ball Weighted Crunch

Sets: 3
Reps: 15 repetitions
Rest times: 90 seconds between sets 
Targets: Rectus abdominis (Lower, middle and upper portions)

Time to further engage the balancing and stabilizing muscles of the core, by utilizing the Swiss ball & a weighted disc.

Execution:

  1. 1
    Place a Swiss ball on the ground
  2. 2
    Grab a disc and lie on the Swiss ball comfortably
  3. 3
    Keep the disc over your chest
  4. 4
    Lift your shoulders off of the ball by initiating the contraction with your abs
  5. 5
    Go back down slowly and repeat the movement pattern

Weighted Ab Cocoons

Sets: 2
Reps: 12 repetitions
Rest times: 75 seconds
between sets 
Targets: Rectus abdominis (Lower, middle and upper portions)

This next exercise is perfect for shaping up the "Wings" & the abs, helping you sculpt a fine, V-Shaped torso.

Execution:

  1. 1
    Grab a weighted bar and lie down on a flat bench
  2. 2
    Keep the bar over your head
  3. 3
    Lift your legs up off the ground to tense the abs
  4. 4
    Let the bar go back, keeping your arms straight
  5. 5
    Bring the bar towards the knees
  6. 6
    As you do that, bring the knees towards the chest & lift the shoulders off of the bench
  7. 7
    At the bottom, let the bar go down to the middle portion of your thighs, bending the elbows
  8. 8
    Repeat the movement pattern without letting the legs touch the ground

Weighted Cocoons #2

Sets: 2
Reps: 8-10 repetitions
Rest times: 30 seconds
between sets 
Targets: Rectus abdominis (Lower, middle and upper portions)

This last exercise is the same as the previous one with one exception: After the first set, we do a 30% reduction in weight and complete another 8-10 repetitions to finish the dropset.

After that, we rest for 30 seconds and complete a second dropset.

BOTTOM LINE

The abdominal area is made up of a variety of muscles that have different functions and looks.


Aesthetic-wise, these muscles are one of the most pleasing to look at and are without a doubt one of the things that complete your physique.


Nevertheless, though aesthetic, the development of the abdominal muscles is important because they are functionally important.


They are a huge part of the core, which stabilizes the body, protects the spine and keeps the internal organs safe and in place, by regulating internal abdominal pressure.


If you liked these exercises, make sure to check out our exercise section, where we give you exercises for each and every muscle group.