When looking for the best abs exercises you can do at home, it’s easy to turn to the familiar rhythms of sit-ups and sit-ups. We’ve clenched our fists, counted our repetitions, and put our faith in the process, but unfortunately, you won’t see much results from these basic Phys Ed exercises.
In fact, these popular movements may cause more harm than good, especially to your back. If you’re into the gym (and if you love the gym, you should check out our site The best sneakers Buying Guide) or at home, there are better and safer exercises to perform.
Sit-ups tend to favor your hip muscles rather than engaging your target abdominal muscles, while crunches press your spine against the floor, which contributes to back pain, according to Journal of Orthopedic Sports Physical Therapy. Not all exercises are created equal when it comes to sculpting abs at home.
Targeting your torso isn’t just about your rectus abdominis, says Wendy Batts, NASM-qualified fitness instructor. The core of the body is represented not only by the abdominal muscles, but also by the muscles around the hips and lower back.
Wendy Bates, MS, is a Regional Principal Instructor for the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) and Adjunct Professor in the Exercise Science Programs at Western University of Pennsylvania. She is also a corporate consultant in the areas of fitness, performance and wellness.
“In order to strengthen your abs, improve their appearance, and improve form and function, you need to look beyond sit-ups and their variations by incorporating a variety of exercises and movements that challenge the movement and stability of the core from multiple positions, directions, and angles,” says Bates.
Pats has outlined four game-changing exercises for your abs and core muscles, each designed to reshape your at-home sit-ups routine.
Exercise number 1: The dead bug
- Lie on your back on the floor with your arms straight and directly over your chest, both hips and knees bent at 90 degrees in a tabletop position with your feet off the floor and your legs parallel to the floor.
- Without holding your breath, engage your abdominal muscles by flattening your lower back on the floor.
- Then, keeping the lower back flat and not allowing the ribs to extend, slowly and simultaneously straighten and lower your right leg toward the floor, while simultaneously reaching your left arm over your head as far as you can control. Move your leg and arm only as far as you can without your lower back extending off the floor.
- Pause, then return to the starting position and repeat on the other side.
- Do the required number of repetitions for both sides.
Do you want to intensify the burning belly? “As you progress, small resistance bands can be added around the feet and wrists or you can progress to moving the arms and legs simultaneously,” says Pats.
Exercise number 2: the standard plank
- Lie facedown on the floor and prop yourself up on your forearms and elbows. Make sure your elbows are aligned under your shoulders, and your hands are in fists to create more tension and activate muscles through your upper body. Your forearms should be parallel to each other.
- Without holding your breath, engage your abdominal muscles, grip/squeeze your buttocks, and squeeze your forearms and toes to lift your body off the floor. In addition to your abs and buttocks, contract your quad muscles to fully extend your knees.
- Don’t just make the moves; Squeeze each muscle as tightly as possible while maintaining a plank position and breathing through your diaphragm.
- Hold for as long as needed — usually starting with five to 10 seconds and then repeat for a total of 10 to 20 repetitions.
Exercise number 3: side plank
- Lie on your side with your feet and legs crossed and your forearm on the floor, elbow under shoulder.
- Without holding your breath, engage your abdominal muscles and squeeze your buttocks.
- Maintaining this tension, press into your forearms and feet to lift your body off the floor, while lifting your hips and legs off the floor so that your body forms a straight line from head to toe, resting on your forearms and feet.
- Hold for as long as needed — usually 5 to 10 seconds.
- Slowly return to the starting position and repeat for the required number of repetitions (5-10) before switching sides.
Some find the side plank harder to grip than the standard plank. Pats suggests lifting from the outside of the lower knee rather than the feet to make things easier.
Exercise number 4: Bird dog
- To perform bird dog, get on all fours with your palms directly under your shoulders and your knees below your hips.
- Without holding your breath, engage your abdominal muscles and tuck your chin in.
- Keeping the elbow extended, slowly raise one arm in front of you and the opposite leg behind you with toes pointing away from the body.
- Keeping the arm and leg straight, raise them to body height without arching the lower back. Squeeze your glutes to raise/raise your leg, not your lower back.
- Slowly return the arm and leg to the ground. Repeat, alternating sides for the desired number of repetitions.
Exercise number 5: windshield wipers
- Lie on your back (back/face up) with your arms straight at your sides and your palms facing up, forming a “T” shape with your body.
- Lift your feet off the floor and bend your hips and knees at a 90-degree angle in a tabletop position with your shins parallel to the floor.
- To ensure the movement occurs from the correct position, without holding your breath, engage your abdominal muscles by flattening your lower back on the floor.
- From this position, keeping your lower back flat and using your abdominal muscles to control the movement, slowly lower your legs and pelvis to the right as far as you can control – ideally to the point where you’re hovering just a few inches off the floor.
- When your knees are close to the floor, use your abdominal muscles to reverse the movement of your legs and pelvis, moving them back through the center and down to the left side of your body.
- Repeat this pattern, moving from side to side for the desired total number of repetitions.
This list of no-equipment exercises will target your abs and boost overall core strength, the safe way. Just remember, it’s not just about aesthetics; A flexible core enhances your posture, balance and daily movements. With each repetition, you’re not only building muscle, you’re building the foundation for a healthier, stronger version of yourself. Add them to your workout routine, whether you’re following your own schedule or a program from an app like Fitbit Premium or fitpod.