Forget Russian twists — try these 3 ab exercises to build a chiseled core

Woman standing against grey backdrop in activewear looking down at her stomach
(Image credit: Shutterstock images)

It's time to park the Russian twists for now, because these three ab exercises develop a stronger core and more defined midsection without them. 

But before we begin, remember that getting visible abs forms one part of core training, and there are plenty of other reasons to strengthen these muscles; a strong core improves posture, helps you lift heavier weights and supports your torso and spine during movement. Weak core muscles could increase your chances of injury in the gym or during home workouts.

Check out the three certified core muscle torchers below and add them to the best ab workouts out there. Warning: these ab exercises come with a side of uncomfortable.

3 of the best ab exercises at home

Whether you enjoy CrossFit workouts, yoga or running the best ab exercises target and strengthen the muscles responsible for helping you lift heavier, move faster and get fitter.

But building ab definition also relies on how active you are and other factors like stress management, diet and lifestyle. And that’s before you consider the role genetics play. 

That aside, you can still develop midsection muscle and strength and improve your chances of muscle definition using a mix of ab moves and multi-muscle compound exercises like squats and deadlifts. 

These three ab exercises can form part of an existing routine or combine into a three-move ab workout. You’ll need an ab roller and a barbell. You might want to add some willpower too. 

1. Ab wheel rollouts

Vector of woman performing an ab wheel rollout against white background

(Image credit: Shutterstock images)

Core muscles are the powerhouse center of your body, and the ab wheel rollout targets many of them, including the rectus abdominis, erector spinae (spine stabilizers), transverse abdominis (a deep ‘belt’ of muscles that wrap around your trunk), lats, chest, shoulders and arms.

The thin wheel challenges your core balance and control, and it’s pretty tricky to lock down, yet a very effective ab exercise for building strength if you can. Find out what happened when our writer did 50 ab wheel rollouts every day for a week

How:

  • Start on your knees (or standing) and grip the handles of the ab wheel
  • Engage your core, then shift your weight forwards so that your shoulders stack over the wheel
  • With control, roll the wheel forwards as far as you can, keeping your shoulders engaged and hips lifted
  • Avoid sagging your hips and chest
  • Pause, then drive the wheel back to your starting position.

2. Landmine rotations

As the name suggests, landmine rotations use rotation to hit similar muscle groups as Russian twists. You’ll fire up the rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, internal and external oblique muscles (muscles that run down your waist), shoulders and upper back. 

How:

  • Connect the end of your barbell to a landmine attachment
  • Kneel and hold the opposite end of your barbell with both hands
  • Engage your core and lengthen your spine. Raise the barbell above your head with arms straight and elbows softly bent
  • From the overhead position, lower the barbell down to one hip, twisting your torso while keeping your hips forward facing
  • Drive the barbell overhead to your opposite hip creating an arc shape
  • Move side to side, controlling the movement with your core.

3. Windshield wipers

a man doing the windshield wiper exercise

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

This ab exercise creates core tension using resistance to rotation. If you suffer from back pain, check with a qualified medical professional before trying this move. 

Windshield wipers target the rectus abdominis and oblique muscles, activating the hip flexors, erector spinae (lower back muscles) and glutes. Holding the barbell overhead engages the upper body, torching your arms and shoulders. 

How:

  • Lie on your back, hold a barbell over your chest and extend your arms
  • Engage your core, then lift and extend both legs above you
  • With a soft knee bend, rotate your hips so that your legs lower to one side without touching the floor
  • Pause, then drive your legs back to the center and over to the other side, mimicking the motion of car windshield wipers
  • Press your lower back into the floor without overarching your spine. Move with control and keep the barbell over your chest.

You could also substitute a set of the best adjustable dumbbells if you don’t have a barbell to hand.

3-move, 15-minute ab routine to try

If you plan to make this into an ab routine, combine each exercise into a circuit. Perform the first exercise for 45 seconds, rest for 15 seconds, then move to the next move. Perform 5 rounds. 

At Tom’s Guide, one of our favorite ways to tackle ab workouts is using an EMOM — every minute on the minute — approach. To do this, pick reps between 8-15 and complete the first exercise for reps within the minute. At the next minute, start the next move, and so on, aiming for 5 rounds.

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Sam Hopes
Senior Staff Writer - Fitness

Sam Hopes is a level III fitness trainer, level II reiki practitioner, and senior fitness writer at Future PLC, the publisher of Tom's Guide. She is also about to undertake her Yoga For Athletes training course. Having trained to work with mind and body, Sam is a big advocate of using mindfulness techniques in sport and fitness, and their impact on performance. She’s also passionate about the fundamentals of training and building sustainable training methods.  When she's not writing up her experiences with the latest fitness tech and workouts, you’ll find her writing about nutrition, sleep, recovery, and wellness.