Are you fed up of performing set after set of crunches, leg raises and sit-ups?
Do you want something more challenging but aren’t sure what you should be performing?
Then, here are the top 10 hardest abs exercises to really challenge your core to build a rock solid set of abs.
Despite its beginner level reputation, the plank is a movement that is often performed incorrectly.
People often let their back sink and take the load out of their abs. The most important thing to remember when it comes to performing a plank is to keep your abs tensed, so actively think about trying to take your ribs towards your hips.
If you’ve mastered the plank, a more advanced version of this movement is to add weight.
- Beginner: Bodyweight plank
- Advanced: Weighted Plank
Ab Roll out
Ab roll outs seriously challenge every aspect of your core.
They not only test your abs, but also your lower back, serratus anterior, your triceps and your lats.
Because of the nature of this exercise, ensuring your abs remain tensed is key to not winding up with a snapped up lower back.
Start this movement firstly on your knees, once you’re hitting 15-20 reps from your knees you should be looking to progress to a standing roll out.
- Beginner: Kneeling
- Advanced: Standing
Similar to ab roll outs this movement will hit not only your abs, but also your lower back, triceps and lats.
The aim is to start in a press up position and walk your hands out until your nose touches the floor.
Can’t muster that?
Start on your knees and walk your hands out as far as you can, with the aim of getting your nose to the floor.
- Beginner: Kneeling
- Advanced: Standing
4. Hanging Leg Raises
This is not only going to be a test of your ab strength, but also a test of your grip strength and will power to hang on to the bar.
Because you’ll be performing somewhere in the region of 10-15 leg raises whilst hanging from the pull up bar, you’ll be hanging for around 30 seconds.
Once you’ve mastered the knees up version, move over to the straight leg toes to bar variation, for the real test of core strength.
Beginner: Knees up to chest
Advanced: Toes up to pull up bar
L-Sit Up Pull Up
This exercise is an even more advanced version of hanging leg raises.
For this you’ll start in an L-sit position with your legs straight out in front of you, parallel to the floor, then perform a pull up (hands in which ever grip you prefer), keeping your legs parallel to the floor.
Can’t hold that for more than 1-2 reps?
Then perform the same exercise but with your knees bent.
Once you’re hitting a comfortable set of 10-15 reps, move on to the straight leg variation.
- Beginner: Knees Bent
- Advanced: Legs straight out
Grab a barbell.
Stick it in a corner somewhere in the gym.
Stand a couple of feet back, with your hands at the top of the barbell; begin to lower yourself slowly until the bar becomes vertical.
Make sure you have someone watching you do this, as the last thing you want is the bar to slip and you end up ruining your modelling career by smashing your nose up.
If you can muster 3 or 4 reps (up & down) with this movement, you may well be on your way to having a rock solid core.
- Beginner: Climb down half way
- Advanced: Climb down to the bottom
Barbell Sit Up
Lie flat on a bench with your feet hooked under the foot rests for support.
Rest the barbell on your chest with a shoulder width grip.
Then violently sit up whilst pressing the barbell towards to ceiling.
Then slowly lower the barbell back to your chest/shoulders and rinse and repeat.
Aim for 10 repetitions with an empty bar for 2-3 sets; once you’ve mastered that, then begin to incrementally add weight to the bar to further challenge your abs.
- Beginner: 10+ repetition with an empty bar
- Advanced: Begin to add weight to the barbell
Medicine Ball Hollow-Body Hold
This exercise is extremely tough.
You know it is, when it’s a staple exercise for gymnasts, who probably have the strongest core’s around.
For this exercise you need to hold your arms and legs 2-3 inches off of the floor.
Unlike the regular hollow body hold, this one requires you to hold a light medicine ball between your feet.
Can’t do it?
Scrap the medicine ball and regress to the hollow body hold. This will still get your abs torched within a matter of seconds.
- Beginner: Bodyweight Hollow body
- Advanced: Medicine ball hollow body
As the name implies, this is going to saw in to that mid-section and sculpt abs of steel.
You’re past a plank, they’re too easy.
Now for this you’re going to start in a plank position, feet on a towel or something that’ll slide easy.
Keeping your arms rigid, you’ll slide your feet backwards, maintaining that rock solid core at all times.
- Beginner: Only slide half way
- Advanced: Slide out until your arms are straight
The Human Flag
Possibly the ultimate test of human core strength, is the human flag.
Human flags in gyms are a rare sighting.
Only the people with the strongest core can do them.
If you’ve got the upper body strength and core strength to muster this exercise then here’s how you do it:
Find a vertical pole, grab it toward the bottom with your non-dominant hand using an underhand grip; and higher up with your dominant hand using an overhand grip. Lock your bottom elbow, leaning your body away from the pole. Press hard with your bottom arm, squeeze tightly with your top arm and lift your legs up with your knees bent.
Keep your core tight, extend one leg at a time and aim to hold for 5-10 seconds.
This is the master of core exercises, if you can master this one, you’ve definitely built a rock solid core!
There you have it!
The 10 toughest ab exercises.
These are tough movements, so they’re not something you should be doing every day, not like the crunches you used to do every gym session.
Author: James Wilks
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