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wikiHow to Start an Ab Workout

Three Parts:Targeting Your AbsStarting a RoutineGetting the Most Out of Your WorkoutCommunity Q&A

There are so many benefits for working out your abs, including stronger bones and muscles, better heart health, maintaining a healthy weight, and just feeling better about yourself. Having a strong core not only looks good, but it feels good too. It might seem impossible to start an ab workout if you’ve got next to no core strength, but just a few minutes a day can make a big difference.

Part 1
Targeting Your Abs

  1. 1
    Start with butterfly crunches. This is a simple yet effective move that targets the rectus abdominis and is great for beginners.[1]
    • Lie on your back with the soles of your feet together as close to your body as possible, with knees bent out to sides.
    • Place your hands behind your head, elbows in line with your ears.
    • Keeping your back flat on the floor and stomach muscles contracted, exhale and curl your chest up a few inches off the floor toward your legs.
    • Lower to start position. Repeat 10 times.
  2. 2
    Work towards a 6 pack with the abdominal hold. This move can look a little wonky but it really targets your rectus abdominis.[2]
    • Sit tall on the edge of a sturdy chair and place your hands on the edge with your fingers pointing towards your knees.
    • Tighten your abs and bring your toes 2 to 4 inches off the floor. Lift your butt off the chair.
    • Hold this position as long as you can, aiming for 5 to 10 seconds.
    • Lower yourself down and repeat 10 times.
  3. 3
    Challenge yourself with a side crunch. Side crunches look a lot easier than they are. They test your balance and work your oblique muscles.[3]
    • Kneel on the floor and lean all the way over to your right side, placing your right palm on the floor.
    • Keeping your weight balanced, slowly extend your left leg and point your toes.
    • Place your left hand behind your head, pointing your elbow toward the ceiling.
    • Next, slowly lift your leg to hip height as you extend your arm above your leg, with your palm facing forward.
    • Look out over your hand while bringing the left side of your rib cage toward your hip.
    • Lower to your starting position. Repeat doing two sets of 6 reps, then switch sides.
  4. 4
    Try scissors. Scissors will quickly get your obliques burning with just one move.[4]
    • Lie on your back with your fingers resting behind your head.
    • Keeping your abdominals tight, raise your left knee and touch it to your right elbow.
    • Return to start, then raise your right knee and touch it to your left elbow.
    • Alternate for 15 reps in a smooth, continuous motion, keeping abs engaged and hands relaxed so you don't pull on your neck. Work up to 2 sets.
  5. 5
    Hold a front plank. Similar to the side crunch, the front plank looks deceptively easy. This move targets your transverse abdominal and will have your muscles shaking in seconds.[5]
    • Start on your hands and knees. Keeping your back and ab muscles contracted, drop down to your forearms while extending legs out behind you so you are resting on the balls of your feet.
    • Be sure to keep your back straight, hips up, and neck relaxed.
    • Hold for 3 seconds, then return to start. Repeat 10 times.
  6. 6
    Swing your legs. Leg swings are a simple move with a big pay off for your obliques.[6]
    • Lie on your back with your arms out to the sides, legs and feet pointing up.
    • Exhale and draw your navel in towards your spine as you lower your legs to the left side about 5 inches from the floor.
    • Return to start and repeat on the right side.
    • Keep switching sides for a total of 15 reps. Work up to 3 sets.
  7. 7
    Practice squat thrusts. Targeting the erector spinae and obliques, this move might sound like it has “wrenched back” written all over it. Practice slowly at first to make sure your form is correct and soon you’ll be working out your abs (and glutes!) with ease.[7]
    • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and extend your arms in front of you at shoulder height.
    • Begin by squatting down, bending your knees 90 degrees, and twisting your upper body to the left.
    • Now come up and repeat the exercise to the right.
    • Keep your weight in your heels and don’t allow your knees to jut forward away from your toes. Keep your knees facing forward as your chest and shoulders move side to side.
    • Repeat exercise for two minutes.
  8. 8
    Climb up. This climb up move is a twist on the classic lying-down crunch that targets the rectus abdominis.[8]
    • Start by lying on the floor with a 3-foot-long scarf or towel wrapped around the ball of your right foot, knees bent, left foot on the floor.
    • Hold the scarf in both hands, and extend your right leg, keeping your foot flexed.
    • Slowly walk your hands up the scarf as you lift your head and shoulders off the floor. Hold for a count of 2.
    • Now lower yourself back to the starting position, walking your hands back down the scarf.
    • Do two sets of 8 to 10 reps on each sides. Remember to keep your head neutral. Don’t tuck your chin or tilt it back.
  9. 9
    Try an advanced move. Fingers to toes works your rectus abdominus without even moving that much.[9]
    • Lie on your back with your legs straight and extended toward the ceiling, with arms down by your side.
    • Exhale and contract your abs as you crunch up your waist and extend your hands toward your toes. Keep your back flat on the floor.
    • Work up to 2 sets of 15 reps.

Part 2
Starting a Routine

  1. 1
    Find the best way to workout for you. There are so many exercising options today including group classes, videos and books you can purchase, free tutorials online, magazines, apps, the list goes on and on. Find the best option that works for you and your needs.
    • This process could take a little trial and error. You could go to a group exercise class thinking you’ll love the environment and discover you prefer to work out alone. It’s okay to try new things and change up your routine multiple times before finding the ones that work best for you.
  2. 2
    Crank up the cardio. Everything you do that gets your heart pumping, like jogging, biking, or dancing, burns calories. But when it comes to working off belly fat, not all cardio is created equal. There are moves you can do for a killer cardio routine that burn even more calories while engaging your deepest core muscles.
    • High knees is a simple and effective cardio move. Stand to the left of a ring or square on the floor (or just imagine one drawn on the ground). Drawing your knees up to your chest with each step, step your right foot inside the ring, then your left. Step your right foot out, then left. Repeat in the opposite direction as fast as possible for 30 seconds, remembering to engage your lower abs.[10]
    • Many people may think jumping rope is juvenile, but it’s actually a great form of exercise. Jump rope for 15 minutes, doing basic jumps for five minutes, one minute on the left and right foot, three minutes alternating legs, and ending with five more minutes of basic jumps. Keep your breathing steady and engage your core the entire time.[11]
  3. 3
    Give yourself at least 20 minutes a day. If you can devote more time to working out, then go for it! But with just twenty minutes a day, you can do these moves and see results in a couple weeks.[12]
    • Butterfly crunches. 1 set of 10 reps.
    • Side to sides. 1 set of 15 reps.
    • Front plank. Hold for 3 seconds. Repeat 10 times.
    • Fingers to toes. 2 sets of 15 reps.
    • Scissors. 2 sets of 15 reps.
    • Leg swings. 3 sets of 15 reps.
  4. 4
    Exercise regularly. The key to getting in shape is to exercise regularly. One workout every two weeks isn’t going to get you the results you’re looking for. Perform three to four aerobic workouts per week, starting at 20 to 30 minutes per session. As you become stronger, you can build on that time.[13]
    • If even 20 minutes feels too long, start with 10. You want to challenge your body without putting yourself in danger. Whatever level you’re at, be proud that you’re there and remember you’ll improve quickly if you keep at your routine.
  5. 5
    Target all abdominal muscles. Your core is made of different parts including your obliques, transversus abdominis, rectus abdominis, and erector spinae. They’re different muscles with fibers running in different directions. Therefore, it’s crucial to train them in more than just one angle.[14] When you’re exercising, make sure to include different moves for different parts of your core.
    • Scissors target obliques while planking targets the transverse abdominal muscle.[15]So doing both of these moves in a workout will target more than just one area of your abs, which means better results.
  6. 6
    Slowly build on your routine. As you become stronger, both physically and cardiovascularly, your routines will begin to feel easier. As you become stronger, build on your routine so it remains challenging.[16] If your routine becomes too easy, you’ll no longer be challenging your heart or muscles so you’ll stop seeing results.
    • You can build on your routine multiple ways. If you normally do 4 sets of 10 crunches but you want to challenge yourself, trying adding 2 more sets. If you think you can do even more sets, keep pushing yourself.
    • You can also challenge yourself with time. If you have been working out for 30 minutes for a few weeks and you’re feeling stronger, try pushing yourself to work out for 45 minutes.
    • Remember that you always want to challenge yourself, but also know your limits. You don’t want to end up injured because you pushed your body too far.

Part 3
Getting the Most Out of Your Workout

  1. 1
    Consider your needs or limitations. Before you start planning your workout, consider anything that might affect it such as time or environment. If you’re an extremely busy person, you may only have twenty minutes a day to workout so 60 minute group ab class won’t fit into your schedule. If you feel more motivated when you’re working out among other people, you may want to consider a gym membership.
    • It’s completely acceptable to have some needs and limitations when planning workouts. Most people do. But don’t let one limitation be an excuse to not start an ab workout. It’s easy to say “I only have 15 minutes a day to work out so what’s the point?” But 15 minutes is all you need in some cases!
  2. 2
    Pay attention to your diet. In order to lose fat, you have to burn more calories than you take in, but that doesn’t mean you can burn them all with exercise. Exercise by itself isn’t very effective for weight loss so you have to pay attention to both what you’re eating and how much too.[17]
    • Eating lean protein promotes fat loss and muscle gain, which is important for developing great abs. It also keeps you full which prevents unnecessary snacking. Some great sources of protein include green peas, quinoa, nuts, beans, eggs, tofu, and chia seeds.
    • Cut down on carbohydrates. The average American meal is too high in sugar and fast-burning starches to bring body fat down to visible abs.[18] Opt for foods on the low end of the glycemic index that burn more slowly and don’t spike blood sugar like, oats, broccoli, peaches, kale, quinoa, yogurt, beans, peanuts, and oranges.[19]
  3. 3
    Drink plenty of fluids. Hydration is absolutely key when you’re on a fitness plan, especially one targeted towards your abs. It helps keep your stomach full so you don’t overeat and it flushes out excess sodium to prevent belly bloating. Plain old water is the very best thing you can drink and the old rule of 8 glasses a day is a good start. Drink more water if it’s hot out or if you feel your body needs it.[20]
    • Try to avoid putting flavor packets in your water. While it may taste good, it’s loaded with extra unnecessary sugar. If you need a break from water, try iced tea or some flavored waters, as certain brands have zero calories and zero grams of sugar.
  4. 4
    Consult a physician if necessary. Regular exercise is wonderful for controlling your weight, strengthening bones and muscles, and just feeling better about yourself. But if it’s been awhile since you’ve exercised and you have health concerns, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor before starting your new ab workout.
    • Moderate physical activity such as brisk walking is generally safe for most people. Health experts suggest that you talk to your doctor before starting a more intense exercise program if you have heart disease, asthma or lung disease, type 1 or type 2 diabetes, kidney disease, arthritis, or if you’re being treated for cancer or have recently completed cancer treatment.[21]
    • The American College of medicine also recommends speaking with your doctor if two or more of the following apply: you’re older than 35 years, you have a family history of heart disease before the age of 60, you smoke or quit smoking in the past six months, you don’t normally exercise for at least 30 minutes most days of the week, you’re significantly overweight, you have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, or you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes.[22]
  5. 5
    Remember genetics matter. Some people, like those trying to sell a product or idea in a bodybuilding magazine, will tell you that anybody can build a superhero physique as long as they’re motivated. While it’s true that anybody can lose weight and become bigger and stronger, there are limitations. Those limitations are genetics.[23]
    • Consider bone structure. An individual with a small, frail bone structure will simply never be able to support an extremely heavy musculature like Bob Paris.
    • While genetics play a role in your body’s ability to build muscle, don’t let it discourage you because you never know just how strong you can get until you try.
  6. 6
    Remind yourself results don’t happen overnight. It can be discouraging to complete a challenging workout and wake up the next morning not feeling any different. It’s important to remember that results take some time so you can’t expect to do a workout or two and suddenly look like a new person. Expecting instant results is a surefire way to end up disappointed and eventually quit. So, before you even start your workout, know and understand that results are definitely on the way, but they’ll take a little time to show up.

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    • Exercise routines are almost always explained in reps and sets. A rep is the number of times you perform a specific exercise and a set is the number of cycles of reps that you complete.[24] Suppose you complete 15 crunches and then rest. You would say you’ve completed one set of 15 steps.
    • It’s not necessary to work out your abs every day. Abs are just like every other muscle in the body, and they need time to recover. When they get worked hard, a couple of days of rest while you focus on other parts of your body, is necessary. [25]
    • Never forget that building core strength takes time. Don’t expect to see results overnight.
    • If you find yourself feeling unmotivated, try switching up your routine. Try a new gym class or find a new move to add into your daily workout.

    Sources and Citations

    1. http://www.fitnessmagazine.com/workout/abs/exercises/flatter-abs-in-2-weeks/
    2. http://www.fitnessmagazine.com/workout/abs/exercises/top-10-abs-exercises/?page=1
    3. http://www.fitnessmagazine.com/workout/abs/exercises/top-10-abs-exercises/?page=4
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    Categories: Abdominal Exercises

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