Fitness Friday: Fun Ab Exercises

Welcome to another edition of Fitness Friday!

I’m not sure about you guys, but I reeeeally dislike doing ab work. I don’t have the personal motivation to stick it through a long plank. I don’t like taking a break during my heart-pumping workout to lay down on a mat. I justify skipping ab work all the time because I’m “bracing my core” during all my other exercises.

Truth is, yes, we work our core in almost every exercise we do. But that alone is not enough. Core strength is imperative to everyday movement. A weak core can lead to a slew of pains and injuries in your back. I’m the kind of trainer who will tell you crunches are lame, but that doesn’t mean we should skip out on the core work all together.

The following are a list of some of my favourite core exercises. They’re the few that motivate me enough to focus on my tummy. And when done properly, it hurts to laugh the next day. The true sign of a good ab workout ;)


Diagonal Woodchop


Start holding a medicine ball or dumbbell (5-15 lbs). Come down into a partial squat, bring the weight to one side like you’re picking something up. The straighten up and push the weight above your head on the other side. Really exaggerate the movements to get the full benefit of the exercise.


Sit Up on Ball


Sit on the edge of the ball with your feet planted on the ground. Let your spine fall over the ball, and pull yourself up using your abs. Try not to let the ball roll underneath you. As this gets easier, you can hold a plate or medicine ball at your chest or above the head.


Reverse Crunch


Lay on the floor with your arms to your sides. Bring your feet above your body, with a slight bend to the knee. Using your abs, lift your hips toward the sky. Try not to tense up your neck and shoulders and don’t use force to get your hips up. As this gets easier, you can try doing it on a decline bench.


Prone Jackknife



With your feet on top of a ball and hands under your shoulders, roll your feet in toward your chest. Try to keep your hips down and control with your abs.


Ball Pike



A step up from the prone jackknife. Start in the same position, but bring your hips up in the air and toes on the ball. This one is hardcore!


 Russian Twist


Take a seat with your feet on the floor and slight bend to the knee. Keeping your back straight, lean back bringing your torso to about 45 degrees. Hold your arms straight out in front of your chest (better with a weight like a dumbbell or ball) and twist your torso side to side. Try not to move your arms too much and keep the twist solely in your core. Make it harder by lifting your feet off the floor and/or sitting on the round part of a bosu ball.


Boat Pose



When I don’t feel like doing a plank, I do a boat pose to get my isometric core work in. Take on a similar position to the Russian twist, leaning back with a straight torso and slightly behind your sit bones. To begin, keep your knees at 90 degrees and shins parallel to the floor. Once you master that, bring your legs straight out like in the picture. Want to make it even harder? Get out that bosu ball!


Hanging Leg Raises


One of the hardest ones, but amazing once you master it! You can usually find horizontal bars on the cable machines at the gym. For a beginner, start by bending your knees toward your chest. Straighten your legs once you have that down, stopping once they’re parallel to the floor. Once you have that mastered, you can bring them all the way up like in the picture!


As always, there are tons more ab exercises to do. This is just a handy list of the ones I find to be:
1) effective
2) fun!

Just don’t watch any funny movies after ;)


Question of the Day: What’s your favourite ab exercise?

Posted on December 10, 2010, in Fitness Friday and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 17 Comments.

  1. LOVE this post! I did a “tough love” post once on abs and just building/creating the phsyique one wants, i.e. put down the twinkies, kids. But anyway, love all of these ab exercises!

    I like to to crunches on a stability ball while holding a 12 lb medicine ball over my head but crunch up on the diagonal so i am hitting side/oblique muscles, too.

    Great post, Susan!

  2. YEAH fitness Fridays!

    Ergh, I also dislike core work, but I know I should start doing more of it, since my abs actually get sore after I run :S

    My favourite ab exercises are pilates-inspired, like the hundred, scissors, bicycle crunches, and this this one-

  3. This is so helpful! Like you, I can NOT get excited for ab exercises. I’ll do like 10 crunches and quit. Oops. These look much more fun!


  4. Those are all some of my favorites. I actually got excited thinking about doing them again and getting some semblance of abs back.

  5. I have a hard time doing ab work too…these will come in handy! I really like the russian twist:)

  6. I kinda like ’em and these look awesome. I’d be psyched if I could get through all of them. Maybe that’s my next challenge.

  7. I HATE crunches, and I read they are awful for people with a history of osteoporosis (like moi). I love this yoga pose called vashistasana (side plank). Its really difficult and gives your arms and shoulders a great workout too. And your so right how we can engage our core in any exercise. I went surfing once and m abs were sore for the whole week!

    • Ooh ooh, you reminded me of another ab exercise that starts in side plank. But then you come forward to stick your hand under your torso then stretch all the way back up. I think it’s pilates, but I’ve done something similar in a power yoga class before.

  8. Thanks for the ab moves! I’m always trying to strenghten my core. People think it’s weird how often I do planks and sit ups. ;)

  9. Christina (aka Mom)

    Great post Sus – you included the pilates moves that are the most effective. I did pilates regularly for two years ( a while ago) and could see a six pack underneath the loose skin left after having 3 wonderful children ( it was the last child that really took a toll on my tummy). I absolutely hate ab workouts and only do them in a class – but I also love them – I just need people around me to spur me on.

    • Note to self – stop at two kids since I inherited my mother’s body :P We’ll do some ab workouts when I’m home to make up for what I did to your tummy!

  10. i love all of them! abs abs abs all day long. i can’t do all these, though. the ball pike? haha.. yeah.. maybe one day!


  11. Is the Hanging Leg Raise picture from Women’s Health? If so, I think I remember them admitting that the pictures were Photoshopped because even the model couldn’t do the entire move!

    • I know what picture you’re talking about!! It isn’t the same one, that one had the model’s legs moving side to side like a windshield wiper while they were up. As a side note, I saw a dud actually doing that at the gym a while back. Impressive.

  12. Thanks for some new ab exercises! I need to spice up my routine and trying new things.

    I love doing the Russian Twist. It really works and I feel the burn!

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