Ab routines are a dime a dozen. We’d venture to say there may be more 6-pack ab workouts on the internet than “best chest workouts” or “superset arm workouts.”
However, while there may be thousands (if not millions) of ab workouts available, they are all more or less the same -- crunches, sit-ups, and planks by and large.
That’s where this article is different.
None of these top ab exercises will have you laying on the ground or ab mat, which makes standing ab exercises an ideal replacement for individuals who suffer lower back discomfort from having to lie on the ground to train their abs and obliques.
With that said, get ready to give your abs a different challenge with the best standing ab exercises to sculpt your core.
Standing Ab Exercises to Build Core Strength
Standing Cross-Body Crunch
The standing cross-body crunch is a great exercise to target the abdominals and obliques. It also builds hip strength, balance, and coordination as you’ll be standing on one leg during each repetition.
To perform the standing cross-body crunch:
- Standing up straight, bring your hands behind your head so that your elbows are pointed to the sides.
- Twisting your body, bring your right elbow down and across your body. At the same time, raise your left knee up and across to meet the right elbow.
- Return to the starting position.
- Repeat on the other side and continue alternating back and forth for the prescribed reps.
Standing Side Crunch
Also known as the standing oblique crunch, the standing side crunch primarily emphasizes the muscles on the side of your midsection -- the obliques.
Like the standing cross-body crunch, the standing side crunch will also improve balance, stability, and coordination.
To perform the standing side crunch:
- Assume a standing position with feet shoulder-width apart, and place your hands behind your ear. This is your starting position.
- Engage your core and bring your right elbow to your right thigh by bending at your waist and performing a side crunch.
- While crunching, keep arms and shoulders in the same place throughout so you're forced to use your obliques and hip flexors to perform the move.
- Return to the starting position
- You can either alternate from right to left or perform all reps on one side and then perform all the reps on the other side.
The cross-body chop (aka woodchop) is a phenomenal functional core exercise that forces the abs and obliques to work overtime as you twist and lift. This exercise mimics many of the movements you'll perform in everyday life, helping you build strength and resiliency that translates to home or office life and the gym.
If you're an athlete involved in a sport that has to do a lot of rotation work (e.g., golf, baseball, softball, martial arts, etc.), the cross-body chop should be included in your weekly training routine.
To perform the cross-body chop:
- Grab a light dumbbell, kettlebell, or medicine ball (usually between 5-10 pounds) with both hands and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Keeping your back straight, squat until your thighs are parallel to the floor, and move the weight to the outside of your right thigh.
- Rotate your torso to the left and stand up as you lift the weight up and across your body with straight arms.
- Rise onto your toes as you twist and lift the weight. Note: You should be using your core muscles to control the movement.
- Return to the starting position, reversing the twist and bringing the weight down.
- Control is the name of the game here (as it is with all ab/core exercises). DO NOT RUSH the movement; you'll rob yourself of those precious "ab gains," increasing your risk of injury.
High-knee running is a great way to train your abs and get bodyweight cardio. It can be performed as part of an ab training circuit or woven into circuit training or other interval training protocols.
Best of all, high-knee running requires no equipment and very little space (you could essentially perform it in a hotel bathroom if the circumstances warranted you to do so…)
To perform high-knee running:
- Stand up straight with feet hip-to-shoulder-width apart
- Run in place as fast as you can while maintaining good form
- Drive through the balls of your feet and try to bring your knees as high as possible. Your goal is to create (and maintain) a 90-degree angle from your thighs to your feet.
- Use your arms to generate more speed and power while keeping your hands relaxed and shoulders down.
The windmill is a staple exercise of kettlebell training. One that builds stability, balance, and mobility.
The kettlebell windmill is challenging, but you're going to love the rewards that this top ab exercise has to offer!
To perform the kettlebell windmill:
- Standing upright, grab a light-to-medium-weight kettlebell in your left hand and lift it overhead. Turn your right foot out slightly.
- Keeping your left leg locked, push your butt back into your left hip and hinge until your right fingertips touch the floor
- As you lower, ensure that you maintain eye contact with the weight overhead while keeping your left arm locked.
- Reverse the movement to the starting position and repeat for reps.
- Rest, switch sides, and perform the same number of reps.
How to Build Core Strength & Get 6-Pack Abs
Building core strength is no different from gaining strength in any other body part.
You need to perform the proper exercises with good form and use the principles of progressive overload (“training harder than last time”). Over time, these principles will lead to improvements in strength.
Far too often, individuals get stuck in the trap of performing the same bodyweight ab exercises for high reps. And while high reps can have their place in an ab training program, they should be the only thing you do to overload your abs. SteelFit offers a number of workout tools and essentials to increase the challenge of your ab workouts, including mini-loop bands, ankle cuffs, and waist trimmer belts.
As for getting six-pack abs, exercise is only one part (albeit a very important part) of the equation. You also have to structure your nutrition goals accordingly. For the vast majority, that means reducing our calorie intake ("dieting") to lose body fat. The simple reason is that ab workouts don't burn all that many calories, and if you're trying to get a lean, toned midsection, then you need to reduce body fat, particularly around your midsection.
Generally speaking, a deficit between 10-15% below maintenance calories (total daily energy expenditure -- TDEE) is sufficient to kick start fat loss.
For added weight loss support, you can also look into fat burners and fat-burning creams, such as Steel Slim or Abs of Steel, that supply natural ingredients to support the body's inherent fat-burning mechanisms.
Remember that hard training and a proper diet are the foundation of losing weight and getting toned. Supplements can help but cannot replace dedication and a strong work ethic.
Ab workouts are a dime a dozen on the internet. The vast majority are nothing more than a collection of retreads from 30 years ago involving excessive (i.e., unnecessary) amounts of crunches, sit-ups, and dumbbell side bend.
Use the tips and exercises here to build a better ab workout and get the results you want from your efforts in the gym!