Just about anyone who has stepped foot in a gym or sought to improve their body composition has done so intending to get a lean, toned, and sculpted midsection. It's glorified in movies, print, and social media and serves as one of the key indicators of a fit physique.
Getting abs is mostly about getting your nutrition squared away (there's a reason the saying "abs are made in the kitchen" exists, after all). It's entirely possible to lose weight without ever stepping foot in the gym or doing one bout of cardio. This is because weight loss is ultimately about calories in versus calories out.
However, exercise helps increase daily energy expenditure (calories out) and helps build/tone muscles. That’s why the most efficient way to lose body fat and reshape your physique is using a combination of diet and exercise.
Exercise (cardio + resistance training) allows you to diet at a higher level of calorie intake (while remaining in a calorie deficit), all the while helping tone, tighten, and build your muscles -- including your abs!
And, that brings us to the focus of today’s article -- the best workout for abs for all levels of gym-goers!
Learn how to strengthen your abs with this array of beginner, intermediate and advanced exercises.
Ab Exercises Benefits
Better Athletic Performance
Your abs and core are involved to some extent or another in virtually every gym exercise and athletic endeavor. Furthermore, much of your power (particularly during twisting movements) is generated from the hips and core. This means that stronger abs will help you perform better, especially in explosive movements.
Posture is one of those things you don't think about, and many of us take it for granted. However, with more jobs placing individuals in front of computers for hours on end (in addition to the considerable amount of time people spend hunched over their phones during the day) can lead to a Quasimodo-esque look (hunched shoulders, kyphosis, and "nerd" neck).
Aside from aesthetics, this horrendous posture does a number on your spine, low back, hips, and glutes.
Strengthening the abs and core helps forge an abdominal iron wall, opens up the hip flexors, and strengthens the lower back, enabling you to maintain a better posture.
Reduces Low Back Pain
Building off the previous point, terrible posture (induced by bad daily habits) puts excessive strain on the lower back, leading to aches, pains, and overall lower quality of life.
Improving mobility and building strength in the hips, thighs, glutes, and back not only prevents back pain but can also relieve aches and pains.
Beginner Abs Exercises
When you're just starting with ab training, the tendency is to jump into an ab workout "program" that has you spending 20-30 minutes doing hundreds of reps of crunches, sit-ups, v-ups, and more.
Your midsection will be hammered into submission, and for the next three days, every laugh or cough will feel like your insides are being ripped apart.
This is because your ab and core muscles aren't used to this amount of training volume.
That's good news, though, as you can see great results with less volume than someone more experienced with resistance training.
If you're already hitting the gym consistently (e.g., full-body workouts three times per week), we'd suggest simply tacking on 1-2 ab exercises at the end of your routines.
Ideal beginner abs exercises include:
- Mountain climbers
- Stability Ball crunches
Intermediate Abs Exercises
Just as you progress in weight and reps with your other muscle groups, the more experience/stronger you become, so do your ab exercises.
By that, we mean that if you can already do hundreds of reps of bodyweight crunches and hold a standard plank for over a minute, it's time to up the ante and increase the challenge to your midsection so you can continue to build strength and get results.
Some of our favorite intermediate ab exercises include:
- Side plank twist
- Hollow body rocking
- TRX (or stability ball) knees-to-elbows
- Pallof press
- Decline crunch
Advanced Abs Exercises
For the grizzled gym-goer who's been training for a considerable amount of time and still looking to challenge their core as effectively as possible, it's time to step things up seriously.
By this point in your training career, simply doing three sets of crunches won't get the job done. You crave an intense ab-focused program to help you chisel, tone, and tighten every muscle of your midsection.
Well, you’re in luck!
Here is one of our favorite advanced abs workouts.
Perform the following circuit after your resistance-training workout 2-3 times per week or on a separate day entirely (depending on your schedule).
Repeat the circuit two times for a total of 3 rounds, resting 2-3 minutes in between each circuit. Unless otherwise specified, all exercises are performed for as many quality reps as possible (stopping 1-2 reps shy of failure).
- Hanging leg raises
- Ab wheel roll-out
- Side jackknife (do the same number of reps on each side)
- Gymnast ab tuck
- Side plank (hold each side for the same amount of time)
What About Supplements?
As we said at the outset of this article, losing body fat, getting lean, and revealing that your nutrition heavily impacts toned, tight midsection. Without a proper eating plan in place, you can do all the crunches, sit-ups, planks, and ab wheel roll-outs you want to, but you won't get the lean-looking stomach you're looking for.
The same can be said for supplements. You can take all sorts of pre-workouts, muscle builders, or weight loss support supplements you want, but they won't have nearly the benefit they potentially could if your eating habits are deplorable.
However, if your diet and training are on point, using the right supplements may help accelerate your results, making the process easier, more enjoyable, and more impactful.
SteelFit® offers a variety of options to help individuals support their weight loss and body transformation goals, including stimulant and stimulant-free options.
Abs of Steel® is our flagship fat-burning cream that features the patented slimming ingredient, CoAxel™, a combination of L-Carnitine, Caffeine, and Coenzyme A, that helps eliminate fat fast. Applying the cream directly to the skin allows for more efficient absorption of the active ingredients, supporting targeted spot reduction.
Steel Core® is our stimulant-free, physician-formulated visceral fat metabolizer that aids fat metabolism, increases thermogenesis, boosts energy expenditure, and supports weight loss.
Steel Sweat® is our delicious-tasting thermogenic pre-workout supplement that helps increase aerobic exercise ("cardio") performance, leading to greater calorie burning, supporting fat loss. Steel Sweat® is ideal for fasted cardio, and it can also serve as a lower stimulant pre-workout for resistance training sessions, HIIT, or functional training workouts.