Get the Basics...
  • We asked six health and fitness professionals to share what they believe are the best ab workouts to add to your routine.
  • These exercises add variety to otherwise unproductive or drab ab work.
  • Learn about Herbst twists, hanging leg raises, hyperextensions, supermans, the dragon flag, and other ways to activate your core.

Everyone knows about sit-ups and planks, but we have exercises that will help define your abs that you’re probably not already doing. Shhhhh these are top secret.

We could all use variety in the way we attack our abs. These exercises should do the trick, so incorporate these into your normal routine. They may be just what you need to break through.

#1 – Herbst Twists

I named these after me because I do not know what they are called and I got thrown out of a gym for doing them as I was hitting people. Put a barbell on your back like you were going to do high bar squats. Put a 25 lb plate on one end (or less to start). Twist to the left and right 10 times so that the bar reaches 90 degrees each way from the starting position.

Then take off the plate and put the plate on the other end of the bar and do the same thing. These are great for building stability and carved obliques for that tapered Greek statue look. Also, people will figure out to keep away as you create a hard hat area.

– Robert Herbst is a personal trainer, health and wellness expert, and powerlifter (18-time World Champion, 33-time National Champion, member of the AAU Strength Sports Hall of Fame). Visit www.w8lifterusa.com.

#2 – Activating the Core


The best ab exercises are squats, deadlifts, and standing shoulder presses. These big movements activate the core much more effectively than . . . a plank ever could.

– Charlie Seltzer, MD, Medical Director of Charlie Seltzer, MD Weight Loss, Lifestyle & Fitness Solutions. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Dr. Seltzer doesn’t just talk the talk. He recently battled out of weight gain during the winter doing no ab exercises and increased his calorie count by over 400 by the end. See the pictures above for the results.

#3 – Hanging Leg Raises


[Hanging Leg Raises are] great for the lower abdominals, and often underworked part of the abs. Hanging from a chin-up bar also forces you to engage your full body if you do it correctly. This move is all about technique to maximise its effectiveness.

With a slightly wider than shoulder width grip, hang from a chin-up bar. Tense your core so that your legs come slightly in front of you. That’s the starting position. We want to keep the abs tensed throughout the move. No swinging. No using the upper body. Our legs only return to the slightly in front of our body position, not all the way down as this takes the tension off the abs.

Using a fully controlled movement, lift the legs as high as you can without swinging or moving the upper body. Be mindful of your abs. Focus on contracting them hard. This move is about quality, not quantity, so be strict and maintain good form.

Aim for eight, slow reps. Repeat 3 to 4 times. If you can, keep your legs straight. As your as tire and your form drops, allow a bend in the knees but still keep a rigid upper body and do not swing.

– Rob Jackson, Exercise & Nutrition Coach and founder of Minimal Fit. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

#4 – Hyperextensions


The erector spinae are a very powerful and important muscle. The development of this muscle is extremely important for strength related-sports, such as weightlifters, due to the fact that it plays a massive role in cleans and snatches, and also is very important for overhead movements.

The erector spinae are trained through extending the spine. The easiest exercise for to target this muscle is also my favorite, hyperextensions. Hyperextensions are an amazing way to strengthen your lower back. These can be done with just your bodyweight, or by holding a plate to your chest.

– Liam Champion, Physical Therapist and owner of Physiwiz.com and Facebook

#5 – Supermans


Some may not see [the Superman] as an AB exercise but I highly doubt anyone could perform these without using their abdominal muscles. These are generally considered a back exercise. What most people don’t understand is how the abdominal and back muscles have to work together.

They are literally joined to each other by a few layers of fascia called the thoracolumbar fascia and also the tendons of the several layers of abdominal muscles. At certain points, they all mesh together and connect into the muscles of the back and into the spine. Your ABs and your back have to work together or one will over power the other as it pulls on the tendons and fascia (and your spine!).

So, that is why I love this exercise and highly recommend it. If you are not spending time working on the lower back muscles then you are missing a huge part of having a strong abdominal area. Your core strength will be out of balance and that will cause all kinds of other problems. If you perform these correctly, you have to keep your ABs turned on isometrically as you raise up your arms, shoulders, hips, and legs from the ground anyway.

These can be done in repetitions, but I also recommend working on holding this position. Shoot for up to 30 nice and controlled repetitions or a 60-second hold. Supermans are a bit harder to hold since all your weight is going through your mid section. It can be more difficult to breathe, and, for us guys, it has been known to be a bit uncomfortable below the belt.

– Aaron Hackett, DPT, CCI, STMT-1  Doctor of Physical Therapy, Corporate Wellness Consultant and owner of Aevitas PT and Wellness based in Utah, USA. Visit  Aevitaspt.com and follow him at Facebook.com

#6 – The Dragon Flag

I have a love-hate relationship with the dragon flag because it is a very difficult exercise to perform and ensures I am working as hard as possible to maintain the correct form. This is an exercise that targets your core stability and is best built up to as it’s not for the faint-hearted.

The movement involves laying in a prone position on the ground or on a bench and raising your legs, glutes, and lower back up off the floor by contracting the rectus abdominis. The aim is to keep your body as straight as possible. Once your body is resting on your shoulders you have to control the eccentric motion of lowering your body weight which forces your abs into overdrive as they try to keep your body stable.

To make the exercise harder you can use a decline bench to add even more range of motion. [My] top tip: ensure you use your hands to support the body by pushing yourself into the floor or bench don’t pull them towards your body or you run the risk of injuring your neck. You will also need to ensure you keep your glutes tight to prevent hip flexion.

– David Baillie, David Baillie, Personal Trainer, Veteran and owner of Front-Line Fitness. Follow him on Facebook.