9 Exercises for Abs of Steel

Article | TEAM SMAI


You’ve heard it before: a strong core is an essential part of training. By preventing injury by supporting technique and reducing muscle imbalances that lead to pain and inflammation, strong abdominal muscles are key to longevity! 

To help you with your mission of building abs of steel, we've compiled a list of core exercises to add to your training regime.


1. Ab Mat Sit-Up

Performing the humble sit-up with an Ab Mat allows a safer and more comfortable posture while permitting your abdominals to move through their full range of motion. 

  • Sit on the floor with the soles of the feet together and legs butterflied out to the side.
  • Place an ab mat on the ground behind you, lining it up to support your lower back (lumbar spine).
  • Sit back, so the ab mat fills the void of your lower back. 
  • While lowering to the ground, raise your arms over your head and touch the floor behind you. 
  • Using the arms while contracting your abs, sit up and touch your feet in front, bringing your torso to a 90-degree angle to your hips. 


2. Plank to Pike

Improve your plank by using ab slide discs to add a pike in. Plank exercises with ab slide discs are excellent for working the deep internal core muscle that wraps around your spine and sides, the transverse abdominis. This muscle is critical for maintaining a stable trunk through many exercises and everyday movements.

  • Place a set of ab slide discs under your toes and begin in a high plank with hands shoulder-width apart, shoulders above your wrists.
  • Engaging your core, press your toes into the floor, sliding both feet toward your hands and pushing your butt toward the ceiling. Trying to keep your legs as straight as possible, you may have to bend your knees slightly if your hamstrings are too tight. 
  • Pause, then slowly return to starting position - that's 1 rep! 


3. Ring Knee Tucks 

Knee tucks with an added twist are a great way to simultaneously challenge the core and shoulders. While knee tucks with a twist can be performed without equipment, improve your stability by placing feet in rings attached to a rig or pull-up bar.

  • Start by placing feet into rings that are lowered close to the ground. 
  • Move into a high plank position (feet still in rings), placing your palms directly below your shoulders.
  • Drive your knees towards your chest.
  • Pause, return to starting position.


4. Mountain Climber 

A classic ab movement, the mountain climber, is a great way to fire up those abs, hamstrings, and glutes! Step up your intensity by performing them on some paralettes

  • Holding parallettes in the plank position, move one leg towards your chest and then the other, and repeat as fast as you can. 
  • Make sure to keep your body in a straight line while contracting your abdominals. 


5. Flat Bench Leg Raise 

Not only do flat bench leg raises work your lower abs, but they also improve the flexibility and strength of your hip flexors and lower back. Almost everyone can incorporate leg raises into their exercise routine because they utilise basic movement patterns. If you don't have a bench, you can perform this on an exercise mat while holding a stable object behind your head, like a rig leg or squat rack. 

  • On a bench, lie flat on your back and extend your legs out in front of you. 
  • Hold the bench on the sides at ear level, making sure your grip is firm. 
  • With slightly bent knees, slowly raise your legs to 90 degrees. 
  • Hold the contraction for a second, then begin to lower your legs to the starting position. 
  • Repeat as many times as you can without strain. 


6. Mason Twist

Want to work your obliques and your centre abdominal muscles? The Mason twist is for you! You can use either a medicine ball or a kettlebell as your weight. 

  • Sit on the floor with your knees bent and place your feet flat on the ground holding a kettlebell with bent elbows in front of you. 
  • Lean back so that your body is at a 45-degree angle, feeling your abdominal muscles tighten while keeping a straight back. 
  • Lift your feet until your lower legs are above the ground.
  • Balancing on your glutes, bend your elbows while holding the kettlebell in front of your chest.
  • Moving only your upper body and keeping your abs engaged the entire time, twist your torso to one side and touch the kettlebell to the floor while still holding it.
  • Repeat on the other side. 


7. Standing Oblique Crunch

Great for isolating and targeting those oblique muscles, standing oblique crunches are performed with either a dumbbell, tri-grip plate, or kettlebell

  • Holding a weight in one hand and standing shoulder-width apart, place your other hand behind your ear. 
  • Lower the weight down your leg, drawing your ribs towards the hip - bend at the waist and avoid swaying the hips as you dip.
  • Contract the obliques on the other side to straighten back up to the starting position. Perform multiple reps on one side before switching to the other side. 


8. Ab Wheel Rollout

For those who love a challenge, the ab wheel rollout is the movement for you! Requiring shoulder stability and engagement of multiple core muscles at once, this exercise is advanced and effective. 

  • Knees hip-width apart in a kneeling position, grip the ab wheel with both hands, positioning your shoulders over your hands. 
  • Put your pelvis in neutral and tense your abs to brace your core.
  • Slowly tilt ur upper body forward as you roll the wheel out as far as possible while maintaining a straight back parallel to the floor (think a moving plank)
  • Pause for a moment in the extended position, and then slowly roll the wheel back in. 


9. Hanging Knee Raises 

While this specifically targets the lower abs, but you’ll be feeling it in your forearms and legs.

  • Begin with holding onto and hanging from a pull-up bar, keeping your body straight and using an overhand grip.
  • Engage your core as you raise your knees toward your chest.
  • When thighs are parallel to the floor, stop. 
  • Slowly lower your legs to the floor and return to the starting position.