The Best Core Workouts at the Gym
Everyone is always searching for the best ab exercises. A strong, lean, ripped core requires core strengthening exercises and a proper training regime. Some people think they can crunch their way to a six-pack. But in reality, getting the abdominals of your dreams takes a lot more than just isolation exercises thrown in at the end of a workout.
If your goal is visible, defined, core muscles, you need to pay attention to what you do outside of the gym. That means your diet and lifestyle factors. Don’t get us wrong - certain ab exercises are better than others. We’re going to cover some of the most effective ab exercises, and what else you can do to have the best core workout at the gym.
The Best Ab Exercises
- Russian twist
Russian twists are one of the most effective ab exercises, targeting your obliques. Your obliques are the muscles that run along the sides of your core. They are responsible for twisting and rotational movements, while protecting your spine. Here’s how you do russian twists:
- Start in a seated position on a mat with your legs out in front of you.
- Lean back until your abs are activated; usually when you’re about 45 degrees to the floor.
- Grab a weight - can be a dumbbell, kettlebell, or medicine ball, and hold it just out from your chest.
- Twist from side to side, keeping your hips still, only relying on your core to control the movement.
Planks are among the best core exercises out there. They strengthen your abdominal muscles, as well as the muscles surrounding your spine like the trapezius and rhomboids.
- From a table top position, with both your hands and knees on the floor, push your feet back until your legs are straight and your body is elevated.
- Keep your hands parallel to your shoulders and your back straight, an alternate position would be to rest on your forearms.
- Activate your abs by drawing them into your spine.
- Keep this position for at least 30-seconds, working your way up incrementally.
You can also try a side plank. It’s the same position, but only one side of your body is pushing against the floor while the other side is elevated. This is one of the best oblique exercises.
- Dead bug exercises
Dead bugs strengthens and stabilizes your core and is often used in functional workouts due to its benefit on improving coordination and balance. It may look simple, but when you perform it with slow and controlled movements, it fires up your abdominals and transfers into enhanced stabilization for your compound lifts.
- Lay on a mat, flat on your back.
- Lift your legs so your knees are directly over your hips.
- Slowly lower your left arm and right leg until they're floating slightly above the ground.
- Next, bring them back to the starting position.
- Repeat on the opposite side.
- Hanging leg raises
Hanging leg raises are considered one of the best ab exercises because of the number of muscles they work simultaneously. Not only do they improve grip strength, they force all the muscles in your abdomen to fire up and keep your legs suspended. In terms of your abs, they work the rectus abdominis, obliques, rectus femoris, tensor fasciae latae, pectineus, and adductor longus. Essentially: all the muscles that make up your core.
- Hang from a pull-up bar.
- Activate your core by breathing out.
- Draw your knees towards you, creating an inward tilt with your hip flexors.
- Slowly lower and repeat.
- Flutter kicks with an oblique crunch
Here’s a way to make the standard oblique crunch a lot more intense. You’ll be combining flutter kicks with an alternating oblique crunch, the entire time keeping your shoulders and legs lifted from the floor. This extended effort to keep yourself up will activate all the synergistic stabilizing muscles of the core and create the burn you’re looking for.
- Lay flat on your back with your legs extended.
- Float your shoulders and legs off the floor with your hands resting either side of your head.
- Flex your feet or point your toes and create a small vertical movement as if you were swimming. The smaller the movement the harder it is.
- Every five seconds, add in an oblique crunch. Keeping your legs and shoulders lifted off the ground, bring the opposite knee to the opposite elbow and switch sides.
The best core workout
Now you have some of the best core exercises, you’ve got to combine these into a workout. Contrary to popular belief, getting ripped abs is not all about how many reps you can do for each ab exercise.
In reality, it’s combining isolation and compound movements, and exercises that build strength, balance, and coordination so you can build ab muscle. It also requires some fat loss, because regardless how strong your abs are, if they are covered by a layer of fat they won’t be visible. So the best core workout also requires some high-intensity fat-burning exercises.
- Heavy compound weight lifting
Lifting weights is the number one calorie burner, so it’s a great way to lose excess body fat. Your body is forced to adapt to the added resistance, your muscles tear and recover and your metabolism increases = great for weight loss and ab visibility.
Compound movements are some of the best core exercises you can do, but so underrated. Unlike ab isolation movements like crunches, compound lifting targets the full abdomen and other muscles simultaneously.
- Isolation exercises
Your abdominal muscles are made up of the rectus abdominis - the six pack muscles; the transversus abdominis - the deepest muscle tissue, responsible for the waist size, and; the obliques - the side of your abs. A proper core routine combines all parts of your abdomen, like the exercises we listed above.
- High-intensity interval training (HIIT)
Alongside weight training, the best way to lose body fat is by doing HIIT. HIIT consists of short bursts of intense physical activity followed by short rest periods. Treadmill sprints, burpees, rowing, squat jumps - whatever gets your heart rate up the highest.