Any guy who lifts knows that exercises like the bench press, dip, and incline press are essential to building a big chest. Big biceps require curls, curls, and more curls. But what exercises get you closer to a solid six-pack?
There’s more to building great abs than just dieting and crunches—the best ab workouts for men focus on foundational exercises that help build a strong midsection. As with any other muscle, the abdominals have to be trained with various exercises that challenge you and build upon existing muscle.
If you’re unsure of which exercises to start with, you’ve come to the right place. We’re here to fill your training toolbox with our ten favorite ab exercises for men. Take three to four of these exercises and create your own routine or do them as a circuit of ten reps for a 100-rep, core-burning marathon.
Best Ab Workouts for Men
Hanging leg raise
Lying windshield wipers / Hanging windshield wipers
Weighted plate side bend
Medicine ball slam
Standing twist with medicine ball
Pike to superman
Seated knee tuck
1. Hanging Leg Raise
Looking to target the lower abs? Then you may want to try the hanging leg raise. As a bonus, this exercise promotes lower back strength by forcing you to keep a stable, upright position. The result can be stronger abs and a healthier back, which combine to form a solid core.
To perform this movement, hang from a pull-up bar or connect ab straps to the bar and place your upper arms inside the straps while holding on to the top of the straps with your hands. Keep your legs straight while they hang. Your feet shouldn’t be touching the floor.
Suck in your stomach and keep a slight bend in the knee. Lift your legs by contracting your abs. Continue to lift until your feet or knees are slightly above your hips. Hold this position briefly before slowly lowering your legs back down. Repeat and try to keep yourself from swinging too much while you do these. The focus here is on maintaining slow, even control throughout the movement.
Expert tip: If you have access to a captain’s chair, use it for this exercise to protect your back (a captain’s chair forces you into an upright position by keeping your back straight and stable). If you need extra weight to make it more challenging, go with ankle weights or a dumbbell between the feet.
2. Bird Dog
A little yoga never hurt anyone, right? This exercise may be uncomfortable at first, but as you improve, you’ll see your abs improving as well. You’ll also improve flexibility and overall athleticism by making this a regular part of your routine.
Start on your hands and knees. Your shoulders should be over your hands and hips over your knees. Once you feel stable, simultaneously lift your right arm and left leg. Stretch the toes out as you take your leg back and turn your hand so that your palm is closer to you. Once you’re completely stretched, pause for a count of three. Bring your extended limbs back to the starting position and repeat with the opposite arm and leg.
Expert tip: This exercise would be a great choice for a stretching session or as a finisher at the end of a hard workout. To up the burn, consider doing them after a run as well.
3. Lying/Hanging Windshield Wipers
The best ab workouts for men offer a range of difficulty, allowing you to challenge yourself once you feel able. That’s what you get with the windshield wiper exercise. Beginners can start by doing these on the floor. Advanced athletes can swing from the same pullup bar they did the leg raises with.
Lying version: Lie on the floor with your arms straight to the sides and legs straight. Lift your legs so they are perpendicular to your body. While keeping control, use your obliques to turn your hips from side to side. Keep your legs together and straight throughout the movement. Left, right, and back to the middle is one rep.
Hanging version: Hang from a pull-up bar. Keep legs together. Engage the back and shoulders by slightly pulling yourself up. Lift your legs towards the bar. Using your obliques, turn your legs and hips side to side until they are parallel with the floor. Left, right, and back to the middle is one rep.
Expert tip: If you try to use ankle weights for more resistance, make sure you master the correct form on the floor before you take it to the bar.
4. Weighted Plate Side Bend
On a time crunch today? If you’re looking to maximize your ab training, this exercise is for you. This version of the side bend will hit the obliques hard, and you can work on mastering your grip too. Try to perform this movement slowly for the best results.
Hold a weighted plate to your side while keeping your arm straight. Try not to use plates with grips on them unless that’s all you have to work with.
Stand straight and tall with your stomach braced. Using your obliques, bend to the side holding the weight as far as you can without losing your grip on the plate or without touching the plate to the floor. Stop just short if you’re using a large plate. Slowly lift yourself back up and bend slightly in the opposite direction to get a stretch on that side. Return to the starting position. That is one rep. Repeat for as many reps as you can until you reach your goal or lose grip of the plate, then switch hands.
Expert tip: If one weight plate doesn’t offer the proper challenge, squeeze two small plates together in your hand. Two 10-pound plates can also hit the forearms hard.
5. Medicine Ball Slam
Have you ever been so mad that you just wanted to slam something as hard as you can? With the medicine ball slam, you do just that while also toning your abs. Perform this exercise correctly, and your entire upper body will reap the benefits.
Stand up with your knees slightly bent and hold a medicine ball with both hands on the sides. Lift the ball over your head with your arms stretched. Rise on your toes and contract your abs to slam the ball down to the ground as hard as you can. Make sure you’re standing on a solid surface when you do this. We recommend using a medicine ball that bounces so that you can perform this exercise in a consistent motion. When the ball bounces, catch it and reset yourself to repeat another rep.