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Stronger Abs! 12 Exercises Help You Develop Firm Core Muscles

How firm is your core? Would you like your waistline to be even leaner? Symmetrically developed abdominal muscles can look attractive on both women and men. However, there are greater benefits to having stronger abs than just appearance. Here are 12 exercise ideas to help condition your core. To get the clearest understanding of these core movements, see the video provided and the printable list of exercises (lower within this article).

The Central Core of Your Body Is Its Powerhouse

Many people radically underestimate the importance of core strength.

In essence, your spine is you. When your spine is out, you are out.

Back pain is the worst, and the easiest way to prevent it is to strengthen the muscles of your body’s core.

Your core muscles are those muscles that comprise the entire circumference of your mid and lower torso:

  • Front: rectus abdominus and tendinous inscriptions.
  • Side: external obliques and serratus anterior.
  • Back: erector spinae, thoracolumbar fascia, and the upper gluteus medius.

Your core is like a foundational corset that protects and encases your vital organs and spine. Visualize it as your very own bulletproof shield.

core muscles front side back

Eat Your Way to Chiseled Abs

The best way to be able to see all of your ab muscles is to eat properly. An anti-inflammatory diet reduces fat cells, bloat, and puffiness under the skin.

In addition to an anti-inflammatory diet, your midsection will benefit when you track your calories and your “macros” – the ratio of fats, carbs, and proteins.

However, if you really want to see your abs when you look in the mirror, you’ll need to exercise your core muscles consistently.

Well-conditioned ab muscles will plump up a bit, which helps the skin stretch taut over the muscles.

Interestingly, even though the muscles might increase a bit in size, the overall effect is trimming – as the abdominal muscles will appear longer and flatter when they are both powerful and flexible.

stronger abs exercise ideas

An Abdominal Workout You Can Do Anywhere for a Stronger, Leaner Core

These 12 exercises will start developing and defining your abdominal muscles. These movements are well-suited for both women and men.

  • Each circuit is done three times.
  • There are four exercises in each of the three circuits.
  • Do each exercise within the circuit consecutively without rest, then take a 2-minute rest before repeating the circuit.
  • After you complete your third time through a particular circuit, you move on to the next circuit in the series.

First Core Circuit:

  1. Ab Wheel
  2. 1-Minute Ball Plank
  3. Pelvic Scoops with Ball
  4. Oblique Toe-Touches on Ball

Ab Wheel

  • The ab wheel is an extremely effective exercise – the abdominals are forced into play to stabilize the weight of the body and control the speed of movement.
  • On all fours, with knees directly underneath your hips, roll the wheel with your hands to a full planking position.
  • Protect your lower back by keeping your ribs compressed and your navel pulled tightly toward your spine.
  • Beginners don’t have to go out so far; more advanced athletes can go out all the way until the chest almost touches the ground.
  • 10 repetitions, done slowly.
  • Resist the temptation to hold your breath.
  • Many people make the mistake of bringing the ab wheel all the way back to their knees on the return trip. But once you get the ab wheel back underneath your shoulders, the abs stop working. So when you’re coming back, once your hands are directly underneath your shoulders – stop there – go back out again.

1-Minute Ball Plank

ball plank core muscles
  • Planking is very important for conditioning the abdominal muscles. While the abdominals are designed to help us with flexion (such as when we do crunches or sit-ups), their primary purpose is to help stabilize the body, especially during precarious or imbalanced positions. Planks accomplish this beautifully.
  • Elbows braced on a stability ball.
  • One full minute with perfect form; that means keeping your pelvis centered – no sway back.
  • Remember, even though you’re holding the position, you’re not holding your breath.

Core Training: Pelvic Scoops with Ball

pelvic scoops with stability ball
  • 10 reps.
  • Imagine that your pelvis is a shovel, and you’re scooping sand with it at the beach. It’s a subtle forward-and-up movement.
  • Try to flatten your lower abdominals as you lift the pelvis – those are the abs below your navel.
  • Exhale during the pelvic lift.
  • Your lower abs will want to pop out like a punching bag. Do the opposite. Keep them flat and tight toward the ground.
  • You don’t have to lift your pelvis six inches in the air! This is about depth and quality of contraction. It’s not about how high you can get your hips.
  • Keep the ball between your feet the entire time. This locks in the inner thighs and engages the core.

Oblique Toe-Touches on Ball

oblique toe-touches stability ball
  • This is one of my favorite abdominal exercises. It may not look strenuous from the outside, but you’ll feel all core muscles being activated while doing it.
  • Be careful not to let your tailbone drop down too low around the ball – keep a slight tuck to your pelvis to protect your lower back.
  • Opposite arm reaches up to touch the toe of your straight leg.
  • You’ll be tempted to use the momentum of swinging your arms and legs; instead, initiate the movement from your center.
  • 10 reps each side (20 total).

Second Core Circuit:

  1. Leg Raises
  2. 1-Minute Jumping Rope
  3. Overhead Oblique Side Bends with Bar
  4. Elbow Side Plank with Leg Lift

Core Training: Leg Raises

  • In this exercise, your arms support the weight of your body but don’t hyperextend your elbows (keep a slight bend to them).
  • Put a little torque in your grip as if trying to turn your hands outward.
abdominal leg raises stronger core
  • Use the contraction of your abdominal muscles to bring your straight legs to waist level.
  • Your hip flexors will also work, but try to initiate mostly from your abs.
  • 10 reps.
ab work jumping rope

1-Minute Jumping Rope

  • One of the biggest mistakes people make while jumping rope is not centering their pelvis. Do not arch or sway your back.
  • Jumping rope is a great ab workout if you do it correctly. Just trying to keep your ribs compressed, your pelvis centered, and your navel pulled in tightly while jumping takes a lot of effort.
  • Keep your grip light and your feet relaxed.
  • Don’t jump on tip-toes only; allow your heels to get close to the ground (even if they don’t touch).
    overheads oblique side bends with bar

Overhead Oblique Side Bends with Bar

  • Make your body as tall as possible, then lean from side to side, holding a weighted bar.
  • Imagine your heels planting firmly into the ground.
Dane Findley doing core workout.
  • If you want long, flat, tight ab muscles, then you need to make them long, flat, and tight while you’re training them.
  • Too often, I see people training their abs with a short spine. Make your spine long!
  • Resist the temptation to let your ribs pop forward.
  • 10 reps each side (20 total).
  • For beginners, no weighted bar is necessary.
elbow side plank leg lift core strength

Elbow Side Plank with Leg Lift

  • Support the weight of your body – on your side – with a bent elbow.
  • Make your body as long as you can.
  • Top arm reaches up to the sky.
  • Lift your top leg up and down slowly.
  • This exercise teaches you that your core is your body’s powerhouse.
  • 10 times each side (20 total).
  • You’ll feel your obliques fatiguing!

Third Core Circuit:

  1. Standing Oblique Twists with Bar
  2. Skip Jumps
  3. Ball-Bar Twists
  4. Back Extensions
Standing Oblique Twists with Bar

Core Training: Standing Oblique Twists with Bar

  • This exercise is all about keeping your hips stationary – facing forward – while you twist.
  • Initiate the movement from the waist, not the arms.
man using ab wheel

Get Stronger Abs

Properly conditioned core muscles not only look terrific but they also help to protect your spine and vital organs. Avoid future back pain by developing stronger abs!


  • Stability Ball, Mat, Ab Roller, Jump Rope, and Barbell or Body Bar.



  • Ab Wheel
  • 1-Minute Ball Plank
  • Pelvic Scoops with Ball
  • Oblique Toe-Touches on Ball
  • Leg Raises
  • 1-Minute Jumping Rope
  • Overhead Oblique Side Bends with Bar
  • Elbow Side Plank with Leg Lift
  • Standing Oblique Twists with Bar
  • Skip Jumps
  • Ball-Bar Twists
  • Back Extensions


Divide the 12 exercises into 3 circuits – so there are four exercises in each of the three circuits:

  • Each circuit is done three times.
  • Do each exercise within the circuit consecutively without rest, then take a 2-minute rest before repeating the circuit again.
  • After you complete your third time through a particular circuit, you move on to the next circuit in the series.

Do not hold your breath during an exercise. Stop if you feel sharp pains in your joints, or if your feel dizziness or nausea. Ask your doctor before beginning any new exercise program or diet.

Abdominal muscles are more than cosmetic. A strong core is like a corset that protects and encases your vital organs and spine. It's extremely important.

  • Make your torso as tall as possible, like you want the top of your head to touch the clouds.
  • 10 reps each side (20 total).
skip jumps for abs

Skip Jumps

  • These are exaggerated skips. So during the down part of the movement, your legs are bent, so you’re closer to the ground, but during the up part, you lift a knee and jump high.
  • Keep your abs long, tight, and flat the entire time you’re skip-jumping.
  • 40 reps total.
ball bar twists obliques abs core

Core Training: Ball-Bar Twists

  • Lay back on a big ball, keeping your glutes active and your pelvis scooping a bit toward the sky.
  • Holding a weighted bar, slowly twist your torso from side to side.
  • The movement doesn’t have to be dramatic. No momentum; initiate from the core.
  • 10 each side (20 total).
back extensions firmer core

Back Extensions

  • 10 reps.
  • You want to “mate” your pelvis into the ball to protect your back.
  • Keep your feet parallel, or rotate your legs slightly in – but don’t let your feet turn out like a duck; that will compress your lower back too much.
  • Go slowly and listen carefully to your body – your spine will tell you what it can handle on any particular day if you listen.

Executed properly with good form, the above core exercises can help to give you strong, flat, and chiseled abdominal muscles and improve your overall physical conditioning.

The entire workout can be done in under 45 minutes.

As always, ask your medical doctor before beginning any new exercise regimen.

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