My Favorite Exercises for Hot, Muscular Abs

I’m constantly looking for ways to challenge my abs. I mix it up with a huge variety of bodyweight exercises, but since I’m working towards muscular abs, I need to use weights. Here are my favorite resistance exercises for smokin’ hot abs. Five tips for getting there are at the end of this post.

Weighted Hanging Leg Raise

This exercise is a great all-over abs exercise but especially the lower abs. It can give you a burn without even using a weight, but if you’ve already been doing these awhile, ramp it up and put a dumbbell between your ankles. (Set the dumbbell on the platform, get into position on the Roman chair, and then grab it between your ankles. Make sure the dumbbell has large, round plates, which will help hold it in place.)

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Weighted Decline Crunch

Using the decline bench is essential for building ripped upper abs. Crunches are challenging on this bench but you can really take it up a notch by holding a medicine ball, plate, or dumbbell. The demo doesn’t show it, but you can do this exercise as a V-up, raising the weight above your head; you can crunch up with the weight against your chest; or you can twist at the waist with the weight to hit the obliques.

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Cable Crunch

This exercise hits both lower and upper abs with an emphasis on upper abs. All you need is a cable station and a rope. Then, get down on your knees and crunch. You can go heavy on this one but watch your form.

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Ab Crunch Machine

Once in awhile I like to use the abs machine just to mix it up!

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Stability Ball Weighted Crunch

I couldn’t find a good demo for this so use these instructions and add a weight plate either behind your head or hold at your chest.

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Woodchopper

This is my favorite oblique exercise. You can use a FreeMotion machine or any cable station in your gym. You can also use a dumbbell for this exercise, holding the dumbbell with both hands.

High-to-Low Woodchopper

Side-to-Side Woodchopper

Another great variation on the woodchopper. See the link for instructions.

Tips for Getting There

Eat clean. According to Tosca Reno, author of the Eat-Clean books, a lean, toned body comes from 80% nutrition, 10% exercise, and 10% genes. (The Eat-Clean Diet is a must read by the way.) Eating clean is a lifestyle!

Do your cardio. It’s a no-brainer that if you want to see your abs you need to keep your body fat low with regular cardio exercise. How much cardio you need depends a great deal on your body type.

Don’t just count reps. As Vince Delmonte says, focus on gorging your muscles with blood, sweating, and getting your heart rate up instead of committing to a certain number of reps. Focus on the experience of challenging your muscles, feel the contraction in the muscle you’re working.  To really light a fire in your abs, do a circuit-style workout with back-to-back exercises and very little rest.

Don’t worry about becoming “thick waisted.” You’ll be fine if you don’t go heavy on your oblique muscles (those at the lower sides of your waist) too often; a few sets a week is perfect.

Train your abs like other muscles. Work your abs twice a week and use a weight heavy enough so that you can do 8-12 reps. Why that range? If you want to go heavy, use enough weight to do 8-10 reps. If you want to go lighter, stay in the 10-12 range. Incorporate exercises that hit your upper abs, lower abs, and obliques. However, most abs exercises involve all the muscles so you don’t need to worry about which muscles you’re exercising.

20 thoughts on “My Favorite Exercises for Hot, Muscular Abs

  1. Agree with Reno; abs are much more a reflection of diet than movement. That said, I invest most of my time on the cross-over/bicycle crunches. Upper, mid, and lower abs all in one.

    Agree to stay with lower reps 1-2 days per week. Form is king with abs, and without good form, one jeopardize the spine.

    A lot of what I do for abs I can do, and is done in front of the TV. I call them my Sports Center exercises 

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  2. I like to mix my ab/core exercises up a lot… planks, crunches on the floor, on the stability ball, with & without weights working all areas from upper to lower to obliques .. too many ways to even write here. When I was younger, I was one that got blocky with too much weight for abs/core. I tend to do higher reps (good form & control) & use moderate to lower weights. I do them about 4-5 times a week but this is what works for me. We are all different….

    I do a few of the above too! 🙂

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    • Thanks for writing Jody. You mix it up because you’re a fit and smart weights gal too. All my ab routines depend on bodyweight exercises, including planks of all varieties, the stability ball, and plain old crunches. I like higher reps for bodyweight exercises too; I don’t feel the burn with lower reps. I like mixing in resistance *judiciously* to get more definition, and you’re right, we’re all built differently. Some weeks I don’t do any weights, some weeks I do all weights. Abs are great fun to work because there’s so many ways to challenge them!

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  3. Yeah, you actually scare me a little bit.

    Don’t worry about becoming thick waisted? I’m trying to STOP being thick waisted. 🙂

    I’m going to have to spend some time here. Maybe it’s time to start shaping.

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  4. Okay. I’m going to do this. I’m scared of Winter. I’ve been using the outdoors to exercise and I am so afraid that if I change what I’m doing I’ll gain back the weight I’ve lost and forget about losing this last 32 lbs.

    You’re still a little scary though. And I’m pretty sure this is going to suck as hard as my torture step.

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