This At-Home Ab Workout Will Carve Your Core

Working out the abdominal muscles creates a tight and toned look, improves posture and can enhance sporting performance.

Obtaining the famous ‘six-pack’ is not just for the dedicated gym enthusiast. In fact, most of the gym exercises can be easily replicated at home. Exercises such as crunches and planks are perfect and seriously effective for the home fitness enthusiast.

This article provides a complete ab workout which will build and tone muscle, without you having to leave the house. In addition, it offers a brief overview of the abdominal muscles and some quick workout tips.

The Abdominal Muscles

The abs include four main muscles:

  • Rectus Abdominis

What most people consider the ‘true’ abs. This is split by three horizontal and one vertical tendons, giving the ‘six-pack’ appearance.

  • Transversus Abdominis

Found underneath the rectus abdominis, it assists with deep breathing and supports the upper body.

  • Internal and External Obliques

Both the muscles allow the body to bend and twist, located to the sides of the rectus abdominis.

A good ab workout, such as the one included in this article, targets all of these muscles. Just exercising the rectus abdominis may give you a six-pack, but would appear out of proportion if not supported by the other important abdominals.

How to Complete Abdominal Workouts?

The workout below is designed to be completed in one session—to target purely the abdominal muscles. 

However, if you want an all-round workout, I would recommend combining just one of the exercises listed below together with one exercise from the other workouts (chest, shoulders, legs etc.) available on this site. My personal choice from this workout would be the plank, which pushes the core hard and works all the abdominal muscles.

Always complete some stretching exercises before starting, and wait at least one hour after eating. 

Just a little word of advice. If you are looking for clear and defined muscles, such as the six-pack, remember it is not just about working out. While these resistance exercises can help to burn calories and hence lose weight, it is no substitute for a healthy diet. 

Trust me, it’s possible to build highly developed abdominal muscles that are completely invisible, being hidden under a layer of fat.

Watch the food intake, complete the workout, and you will have a body to be proud of.

At Home Ab Workout

Try to complete the below workout in one session. Including rest periods, it should take around one hour. To give the abdominals a real push, complete twice a week, with a break of two days in between.

The Plank

Over the last few years, the plank has become the ‘go-to’ exercise for working the abs. The reason being it can be done anywhere and getting into the plank position is simple. However, holding the plank for a length of time is tough, which is what we are looking for in a powerful exercise.

  1. Start by kneeling on the floor. If you have a workout mat, use it, as it will make this exercise more comfortable.
  2. Bend forwards and support your chest area off the floor on the forearms. Ensure that your elbows are directly beneath your shoulders. Your arms should be locked at 90 degrees as shown in the image.
  3. Individually, pull each leg back behind you so they are fully extended. Support the lower part of your body on bent toes.
  4. The only points of contact between your body and the ground should now be your toes and forearms.
  5. Ensure your back and legs are in one straight line when looked at from the side.
  6. This is the starting position.
  7. Hold for one minute.
  8. Rest for three minutes. Then repeat.

If you cannot stay in this position for one minute, hold it for as long as possible. When you reattempt this exercise on another day, try to increase by 10 seconds per session.

Always keep your eyes focused on the ground, don’t look forwards. It can feel like a punishing exercise, but it works the gluteus muscles, rectus and transversus abdominis and obliques.

If you want a target to work for, the world record for completing the plank is eight hours. 

The Standard Crunch

While crunches do work to some extent all the abdominal muscles, they most heavily concentrate on the important six-pack muscle, the rectus abdominis. Crunches have taken over from the traditional sit-up, as they reduce the risk of injury to the back.

Nevertheless, if you do have existing back issues, check with your health practitioner first that it is safe for you to complete them. 

  1. Lie flat on your back on the floor. Use an exercise mat or towel if possible, to increase comfort.
  2. Place arms flat by your sides. Keeping your back on the floor, raise up your knees, and place feet flat on the ground.
  3. Feet and knees should be in line with your hips. Try to position your feet so that they are around 18 inches from your buttocks.
  4. Place both hands behind your head, interlocking the fingers. This will help with stability and prevent any stress being placed on the neck.
  5. Elbows should be pointing out to the sides, not forwards.
  6. This is the starting position.
  7. Breathe in.
  8. Exhale and slowly lift your upper body upwards with your abs, pulling yourself towards your knees. Feet and buttocks should not move. Remember, this is not a sit-up. You are not trying to touch your knees. Instead, your shoulders should just be lifted off the floor by around 6-8 inches.
  9. Hold the position for one second.
  10. Breathe in as you slowly lower yourself back to the starting position again, controlling the movement with your abdominal muscles. Don’t let gravity do the work for you and just drop.
  11. When you reach the starting position again, stop for a count of one second. That is one repetition.
  12. Complete 12 repetitions of this exercise. Rest for three minutes, then complete two more sets of 12, with a break in-between each set.

During this exercise I would recommend looking at the ceiling, not forwards. This encourages you to not overstretch the neck muscles.

Reverse Crunch

I always suggest that the standard crunch is followed by the reverse. 

Having just completed the standard, you will now work the rectus abdominis in the opposite direction. This allows the muscles to stretch, giving you great upper body flexibility and strength. In addition, it also works the gluteus muscles.

  1. Lay flat on your back on the ground. Your arms should be lengthways along your sides with the palms facing downwards.
  2. Lift your legs off the floor, ensuring they remain tightly pressed together at all times in this exercise. Your thighs should be at right angles to the ground and your calves parallel to it. If looked at from the side, you would be in a typical ‘step’ shape.
  3. This is the starting position.
  4. Breathe out. Lift hips off the floor, pulling the knees upwards and above your face. You are aiming to have your knees about 36 inches above your head as shown in the image.
  5. At all times, create support by keeping arms and palms flat against the ground.
  6. Hold this position for three seconds.
  7. Slowly lower back to the starting position again while breathing in.
  8. That completes one repetition.
  9. Try to finish three sets of 12 repetitions with a three minute break between each one.

Slow and steady is the key to this exercise. The more time and control you have, the harder the workload on the abdominals.

Leg Raise

I have to say this is one of my all-time favorite exercises. 

Firstly, it works the iliopsoas (hip flexors) which can be difficult to target. Secondly, apart from crunches, I cannot think of a bodyweight exercise that pushes the rectus abdominis so hard. 

And finally, this exercise requires stability, as the legs are fighting hard against gravity. The only way this can happen is by working the internal and external obliques. 

  1. Lie down on the floor, back to the ground, looking at the ceiling. Ensure your arms are against your sides, palms down.
  2. Fully extend legs, keeping them pressed together. Throughout this exercise, ensure they do not move apart.
  3. Use your arms for stability by pushing down into the floor.
  4. This is the starting position.
  5. Breathe out while slowly raising your legs. Keep them as straight as you can until they create a right angle with your upper body. If you cannot get them all the way to this position, raise them as high as possible. Overtime, flexibility will improve.
  6. As a guide, this movement from starting position to right angles should take a minimum of five seconds. Do not rush it.
  7. Breathe in while lowering the legs to the starting position. Ensure you feel your abs controlling the movement, do not allow them to ‘fall’. Again, this should take a minimum of five seconds.
  8. That completes one repetition.
  9. Try for three sets of 12 repetitions with a three minute rest between sets.

If you find this much too difficult, you can make it easier by bending the legs slightly.

Hollow Body Hold

This exercise is the first one that gymnasts learn. When looking for a real core builder, it is one of the best.

  1. Lay on your back. Keep arms along your sides, palms down.
  2. Legs should be straight and together.
  3. This is the starting position.
  4. While breathing out, lift your legs, arms, head and shoulders from the ground.
  5. Feet should be about 18 inches off the floor with pointed toes. Arms should be straight, locked and pointing at the feet.
  6. The only points of contact with the floor should be lower back and buttocks.
  7. Hold for one minute if possible.
  8. Slowly lower shoulders, head, arms and legs back to the floor to the starting position.
  9. This completes one set.
  10. Try for two more sets with a break of three minutes in between.

As you progress, try to keep the arms and legs in lower positions, to a minimum of six inches. This increases the difficulty and gives the abdominals a harder workout.

Criss Cross Oblique Crunch

As the name suggests, this exercise works the internal and external obliques and improves flexibility.

  1. Lie flat on your back.
  2. Place your hands behind your head, interlock fingers and keep elbows pointing outwards throughout this exercise.
  3. Raise your legs. Your thighs should form a right angle to the ground, and your calves parallel to the floor. Legs should be slightly apart.
  4. Raise shoulders and head from the ground.
  5. This is the starting position.
  6. Twist your upper body to your left hand side, so that your right elbow is pointing down between your legs. At the same time extend you right leg until it is nearly straight and pull up your left knee up towards your head.
  7. Return to the starting position and do the same on the opposite side.
  8. That completes one repetition.
  9. Complete 12 repetitions. Rest for three minutes. Complete two more sets with another three minute break in between.

This exercise does involve a little bit of coordination, but with practice it will soon come. Take it slowly, breathe in when going to one side, and out moving to the other.

Concluding the Workout

After completing the above workout, rest. Do not immediately jump up from the floor. First move to a sitting position and take some deep breaths. Then move onto the knees and take a few more. Finally, stand up and relax. 

This should alleviate any dizziness issues. If you feel fine, complete some gentle cool down stretches. Do the workout again after a couple of days rest.

Final Thoughts

The abdominal muscles are essential for stability, upper body strength, breathing and can take stress off the back. In addition, a tight and toned core looks impressive, especially if any beach holidays are on the horizon.

Take it steady at first, especially if you are new to exercise. If the above repetitions are too many, reduce them and gradually build up over following sessions. It will be natural after 24–48 hours to feel ‘tight’ around the abdominal area.

Do not worry, this means your muscles are rebuilding and you are on the way to an impressive physique.

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