Forget sit-ups — five moves for sculpting and strengthening your abs

a photo of a woman with strong abdominal muscles
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Abs abs abs — most people at some point in their lives have wished for a chiseled set of them. Visually, abs are deemed as a very attractive feature; just watch any Hollywood movie if you need proof. But there is a whole lot more to abs than how they look. This is why we think the five exercises we are about to share can benefit anyone looking for some core blasting moves.

A stronger, more resilient core not only supports better posture but acts as the powerhouse for virtually every movement your body makes. When you consistently engage in the best ab exercises, you should notice an improvement in your balance and stability, improving your agility in the gym and in your daily activities.

But the perks don't stop there. Science has shown that core muscle exercises are a proven ticket to a reduced risk of lower back pain, a common issue for those who live a sedentary lifestyle or work a 9-5 office job.

Feeling inspired to fire up your abs? Check out this 5-exercise workout from the Sports Men Academy Instagram page and see how you do.

What is the workout?

Well, we’ll start with what you will probably be most excited to find out about this routine: it only takes five minutes. But...if you have time and want to push yourself more, you can absolutely turn this routine into some circuit training for your abs.

There are five different floor based moves, so to ensure you are supported during the workout it’s a good idea to place one of the best yoga mats between you and the floor. Then you will perform each move for 50 seconds followed by 10 seconds rest in between each exercise. 

Bear Plank Bird Dogs

Begin on your hands and knees in a tabletop position. Lift your knees a few inches off the ground, creating a hover-like position. Now that you are in the bear plank position, ensure that your back remains flat and your core is engaged. 

While maintaining the bear plank position, extend your right leg straight behind you. Focus on keeping your hips level and avoiding any rotation in your torso. Simultaneously, lift your left arm straight in front of you, reaching it parallel to the ground. Ensure your shoulders are stable, and your body forms a straight line from your extended hand to your extended foot. 

Hold the extended position for a brief moment. Bring your right knee and left elbow back to the starting bear plank position.

Now, extend your left leg and lift your right arm, following the same steps.

Pulse Ups

Lie on your back on a mat or a flat surface with your legs extended and your arms behind your head. 

Lift your legs off the ground, bringing them toward the ceiling. Your feet should be directly above your hips, forming a 90-degree angle with your torso. Ensure that your lower back remains in contact with the mat throughout the movement. 

Perform a small pulsing movement by lifting your hips slightly off the mat and then lowering them back down. Focus on using your lower abdominal muscles to lift your hips during the pulse. Avoid using momentum or swinging your legs.

Oblique Crunches (switch sides halfway)

Begin in a side plank position with your right elbow directly beneath your shoulder and your body forming a straight line from head to heels. Keep your left arm either resting on your hip or extended straight up toward the ceiling.

Lower your right hip toward the floor and then lift it back up. This movement engages the obliques on the right side. As you lift your hip, simultaneously bring your left knee toward your right elbow in a crunching motion. Aim to touch or get as close as possible without compromising your form. 

Slowly lower your hip back to the starting side plank position, extending your left leg. Switch to the left side plank position, with your left elbow directly beneath your shoulder. 

Now perform the hip lift and knee to elbow crunch on the left side.

Sprinters + V Up

Lie on your back with your legs fully extended. Lift your upper body off the ground, engaging your core. Simultaneously, lift your right knee toward your chest while reaching your left hand toward your right knee, creating a sprinter position. 

From the sprinter position, smoothly transition into a V-Up by extending your right leg while lowering your upper body toward the ground. Lift your left leg and reach your hands toward your toes, forming a V shape with your body. Hold the V position for a moment, feeling the contraction in your abdominal muscles. 

Reverse the movement by lowering your legs and upper body back to the sprinter position.

Plank + Extended Plank

Begin in a standard plank position with your hands directly beneath your shoulders and your body forming a straight line from head to heels. Engage your core, keeping your hips level and avoiding sagging or arching. 

From the plank position, transition into an extended plank by moving one hand at a time to a position where your hands are placed slightly forward, extending your arms. Your wrists should be directly below your shoulders in the extended position. Hold the extended plank position for a moment. 

Reverse the movement by transitioning back to the standard plank position, moving one hand at a time. Repeat the exercise by alternating between the plank and extended plank positions, leading with the opposite hand each time.

What are the benefits of doing an ab workout?

a photo of a woman's ab muscles

(Image credit: Getty Images)

As I mentioned before, keeping up with ab workouts in your weekly fitness regimen extends well beyond the desire for a chiseled stomach. Engaging in exercises like planks, crunches, and leg raises offers an array of benefits that extend to overall fitness and health. 

Firstly, strengthening the core muscles, including the rectus abdominis, obliques, and transverse abdominis, provides a foundation for improved posture and spinal support. Ab workouts also contribute significantly to enhanced stability and balance. A strong core acts as a stabilizer for the entire body, enhancing performance in various physical activities and reducing the risk of injuries, particularly in the lower back. Improved stability is not only crucial for athletes but also for anyone who exercises and anyone in their everyday activities.

It's important to note that achieving well-defined abs involves more than just a few exercises targeting that area of your body. While ab exercises contribute to muscle tone and definition, a combination of cardiovascular exercises and a balanced diet is essential for shedding excess body fat. Ab workouts serve as a complement to an overall fitness routine, helping to sculpt and strengthen the midsection.

Lastly, consistency is key when it comes to ab workouts. Regular engagement not only promotes muscle development but also contributes to increased endurance and stamina.

More from Tom's Guide

Jessica Downey
Fitness Writer

Jessica is an experienced fitness writer with a passion for running. Her love for keeping fit and fueling her body with healthy and enjoyable food quite naturally led her to write about all things fitness and health-related. If she isn’t out testing the latest fitness products such as the latest running shoe or yoga mat for reviewing then she can be found writing news and features on the best ways to build strength, active aging, female health, and anything in between. Before then she had a small stint writing in local news, has also written for Runners World UK (print and digital), and gained experience with global content marketing agency, Cedar Communications.

Born and raised in Scotland, Jessica is a massive fan of exercising and keeping active outdoors. When at home she can be found running by the sea, swimming in it, or up a mountain. This continued as she studied and trained to become a PPA-accredited magazine journalist in Wales. And since working and living in London, she splits her time between weight training in the gym, trying new fitness classes, and finding scenic running routes. Jessica enjoys documenting this on her fitness-inspired Instagram page @jessrunshere where she loves engaging with like-minded fitness junkies.

She is a big fan of healthy cooking and loves learning more about this area with expert nutritionists she has met over the years. Jessica is a big advocate for building healthy relationships with food rather than building restrictive attitudes towards it. When she isn’t eating or running she also enjoys practicing yoga in her free time as it helps her to unwind and benefits her performance in other sports.