Sneaky Ab Exercises
Just because you tend to associate these moves with other muscles, doesn’t mean your abs aren’t involved. As you work your legs and arms, you’ll also fire up your core with these 14 less traditional ab exercises. They create the full-body routine you need to get totally toned.
Yes, that booty back, knees bent, hips to the floor move you often associate with working your legs. It also engages your abs. To perform a squat properly, with your body upright, you need to keep your core tight. Inhale as you lower to the ground and exhale as you stand to help you do just that.
38. Lateral Raise Balance
Not only do you sculpt your shoulders here, but because of the balance challenge your lifted leg adds, you’ll also strengthen your core. Double duty work at its finest.
39. Kettlebell Swing
Sure, kettlebell swings make your backside work to the max. But you also need to keep your abs engaged as you lean down, then exhale to stand — all with a flat back. Your core should be burning.
Your back and arms may handle the brunt of the work in this move. But to execute it more efficiently, be sure to brace your belly, keeping your entire body tight.
41. Staggered-Stance Clean with Squat and Press
This creative three-for-one kettlebell move will certainly impress. Pop the heel of one foot to get your abs in gear — they’ll work to help you maintain your balance.
42. Donkey Kicks
To keep your back flat during this glute-strengthening move, you need to engage your abs and pull your belly button up toward your spine — try not to loose that neutral spine position through the entire exercise. Consider your abs sculpted and your butt lifted.
43. Squat to Crawl Out to Push-Up
We love a good combo move and this one brings the benefits threefold. It takes some serious core strength (plus power from your legs and arms) to move from a squat to a plank to a push-up and repeat. Consider this your go-to when you want max benefits in less time.
44. High Pull Lateral Lunge
The secret to a strong deadlift: bracing your core. Inhale on the downward motion and exhale when you come up. This keeps your abs tight, taking the pressure off your lower back. Your abs will also fire to maintain a neutral spine during the lunge and pull.
45. Tricep Shoot Through
Take a cue from gymnasts — a group that gives us some serious ab envy — by working with a pair of parallette bars. In order to pull your legs through the middle of the bars, you’ll need to use your abs (and arms).
46. Donkey Kick Push-Up
Embrace the burn in this full-body plyometric move that delivers cardio and strength. The reason it’s on this list of ab exercises? Core strength and stability keep you from flipping over in that donkey kick, while also helping you perform the perfect push-up.
47. Donkey Kick-Through
Here’s a cardio move that’ll strengthen your core in no time. Start with a donkey kick, then swivel on one foot and swoop your leg through to kick your foot to the side. Working in all planes of motion, you’ll swiftly sculpt your midsection while squashing major calories.
48. Reverse Lunge to Press
Do an overhead movement — especially with a heavy weight — and you’ll see why it works your abs. In order to keep your spine neutral as you lift, you must engage your midsection muscles. Your core also comes into play to keep your pelvis neutral in the lunge.
49. Punch Sequence
Pack a one-two punch to get your abs in fighting shape. As you use your hips and legs to put power behind your jabs, crosses and hooks, your core keeps you stable, allowing you to pivot and execute each motion with extra force.
50. Squat with Lunge Rotation
Throw a rotational movement into any routine and you’ll whittle your middle. With this combo move featuring a secret weapon — a towel — you keep your abs engaged through the squat and lunge. Feel your abs fire even more as your move the towel to the outside of your leg in the lunge.
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Originally published July 2017. Updated January 2018 and April 2022