Strengthen Your Abs: 5 Great Abs Exercises


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There are so many abs exercises to choose from, that it can seem impossible to figure out the right exercises to strengthen your abs. In my opinion, the best way to strengthen your abs is to choose harder and harder exercises to complete, not just complete more and more sets and reps.

I’ve used this progression of abs exercises too many times to count with many people very successfully. It works like a charm and before you know it, you’ll be doing some really advanced abs exercises and have a very strong midsection. In addition to the video instruction, find below more detailed explanations of each exercise with photos for you:

Strengthen Abs Exercises: Knee Crunches

Strengthen Abs Exercises

Knee crunches are a beginner exercise that target primarily the upper abs, with some stimulation of the lower abs. I like this exercise because it takes all pressure off the lower back, so you can focus on strengthening your abs. The only downside is that some people feel some strain in their neck as they do this exercise. If that’s the case, just do normal crunches with your feet on the floor, hands behind your head.

Strengthen Abs Exercises: Easy Bicycles

Strengthen Abs Exercises 1

This brings in your lower abs into play more than the Knee Crunches because you have to control one leg with your abs muscles, while the other leg is on the floor. This is a great segue to more challenging abs exercises.

Strengthen Abs Exercises: Bicycles

Strengthen Abs Exercises 2

This is a classic abs exercises that engages your upper and lower abs, along with your obliques (side of you abs complex) because you are twisting. I suggest keeping your legs off the ground only a few inches to emphasize your lower abs. The higher you kick out your legs, the easier the exercise becomes and the more it works your upper abs. I like touching my elbow to my knee to emphasize the contraction, which also makes the exercise harder.

Strengthen Abs Exercises: Reverse Crunches

Strengthen Abs Exercises 3

This exercise is a lot more challenging because you have to keep BOTH your legs up by using your abs muscles. If you have lower back problems, I would be careful with this exercise and only complete it if you feel no pain in your lower back. The lower abs are hit hard with this exercise and at the top of the movement, your upper abs squeeze intensely as well. As you can see in the picture, I’m bringing my knees into my chest and contracting my abs. One last thing, try to keep your heels fairly close to your butt at the top position, don’t allow your heels to swing to high.

Strengthen Abs Exercises: V-Ups

Strengthen Abs Exercises 4

This is one of my favorites because I love the contraction at the top and I can also focus on the lower abs burn. Like with the reverse crunches, be careful with this exercise and only complete it if you feel no pain in your lower back. Some people complete V-Ups by lifting their backs off the ground, but try to keep your back on the floor and just lift your shoulders slightly off the ground, as you can see photo above. Focus on the contraction and don’t use momentum, always slow and controlled. To make it more challenging, you can put a dumbbell between your feet. I use a 10-15lbs dumbell when doing this exercise, but again, be careful with your lower back.

Let me know if you have any questions about any of these exercises by leaving a comment!

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19 Comments on “Strengthen Your Abs: 5 Great Abs Exercises

  1. Brad
    July 6, 2010 #

    Excellent videos with good explanation on BuiltLean.com. I’m impressed with how you put together content. Would love to learn your photo and video tips as I am slowly figuring out the “online fitness game”. Great job!

    @BradHawkinson

  2. larry
    July 6, 2010 #

    That’s a nice simple, effective group that even I can use to work my abs.
    Thanks!

  3. Hank
    July 6, 2010 #

    Love the video. Would appreciate also seeing additional ab exercises.

  4. rj
    July 7, 2010 #

    IMpressive marc!

  5. rj
    July 8, 2010 #

    so question for you marc…i’ve always tried to reach my feet when doing v-ups. is that bad form? it’s taken some back strength to get to that point, but now that i’m here i’m wondering if my way is a good idea given your example.

    1. Marc Perry
      July 9, 2010 #

      Hey RJ, that’s a good question and something I should have mentioned in the article. When most people do V-ups, also called Jackknives, they swing their backs of the ground like in this photo:

      JackKnife

      I believe that when you use momentum and lift your back off the ground, the contraction isn’t nearly as intense. I don’t think it’s wrong to take your back off the ground, or it’s bad form, I would argue the abs stimulation is not as intense. So the exercise I’m doing is essentially a more advanced variation of the traditional V-up, or jackknife.

      Hope that answers your question!

  6. Mary
    July 9, 2010 #

    Loved the video and the printed version as well. Nice workout for abs. Thanks.

  7. rj
    July 10, 2010 #

    thanks marc. also, when you say “progression,” do you mean progression in one abs session or progression as in increasing strength over time?

    1. Marc Perry
      July 10, 2010 #

      I mean that over time you choose harder and harder exercises. So for one month you do reverse crunches, then the next you can try V-ups. I’ve got some more really, really hard abs stuff that might even be tough enough for you!

  8. rj
    July 11, 2010 #

    yes i’m dying for new stuff! a session is in order. i’m not feeling the soreness from recent workouts the way i want to.

  9. Kay
    June 19, 2012 #

    Thank you for the article Marc. You talk a lot about progression being the KEY variable to really seeing great results.

    Let’s say I’m an advanced athlete and would like to apply progression to my V-Up routine….would I basically just try to do more reps in each new session?

    1. June 21, 2012 #

      @Kay – there are a few ways to add progression with V-ups, one is to add more reps, decrease the rest between sets, add other exercises in addition to the V-up and to them in a circuit with little rest (what I do), and finally add weight in between your legs, which is generally not recommended unless you have a VERY strong core because it can cause problems. For a couple more V-ups articles, check these out – Oblique V-ups and V-ups.

      1. Kay
        June 22, 2012 #

        Thanks Marc. I’ll definitely start to increase the reps in my routine as well as decrease rest time time.

        I’ll aim to take my ab routines from say 8 min. straight to 10 min. to 12 min…etc. That way I will try to KEEP THE BURN ALIVE the whole time! :)

  10. July 12, 2012 #

    Fantastic article! It was really interesting. I’ll be checking back here again soon! Keep up the good work!

    1. July 12, 2012 #

      @Chantelle – Thanks. Much appreciated!

  11. Henaz
    August 13, 2012 #

    how often must i do this in order to get a visible 6 pack?

    1. August 16, 2012 #

      @Henaz – I often you do these exercises may have no impact on your ability to get a six pack. Please check out our free Get Lean Guide. Focus on losing fat without losing muscle to get rid of the fat over the abs you have.

  12. Carolann
    September 14, 2012 #

    Thnx Marc helps a ton!! :)

    1. September 15, 2012 #

      Carolann – Awesome. Happy to hear that!

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