All you need for these 10 bodyweight core exercises is some space, a few minutes, and a motivated attitude—no suspension trainers, stability balls, ab wheels, or dumbbells necessary. The one apparatus you might want on hand is a foam mat to protect your lower back from whatever firm surface you'll be doing these exercises on.

Ab exercises can improve your posture, reduce and prevent lower-back pain, and advance your athletic performance. With enough reps and a good meal plan, these exercises might even trim up your waist a bit more.

Add these 10 bodyweight moves to the beginning, middle, or end of your routine to make sure your abs get the attention they need.

1. Burpee

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Squat and place your palms on the floor. Keeping your hands on the floor, immediately kick your legs behind you so that you end up in the top of a push-up position. Do a push-up and return to the top position. Still keeping your hands on the floor, quickly draw up your legs so your feet land back between your hands. Now, jump vertically with your hands reaching overhead above your ears. That's one rep.

Trainer Tip: To do a "mobility burpee," squat down and kick your legs back. Now, instead of doing a push-up, bring your right leg forward and place your foot on the outside of your right hand. (Getting into this position is sometimes known as "doing a groiner.") Bring your right leg back to the push-up position and repeat the process with your left leg, bringing your left foot up to the outside of your left hand. Return your left leg back to the top push-up position, quickly bring both legs back up to the low squat position, then stand and jump. That's one mobility burpee rep.

2. Jackknife Sit-Up

Lie on your back with your legs straight out on the floor, your arms extended above your head, and your hands touching the floor. This is the starting position. Bring your body to a "V" shape by lifting your legs and torso toward each other, keeping both your legs straight and your arms extended. Lift your shoulder blades off the ground as you raise your legs as close to perpendicular to the floor as you can. Touch your hands to your legs, then lower your torso, arms, and legs back to the floor. That's one rep.

Trainer Tip: A modified version is called the X-Up. To do this, lie on your back with your feet and legs spread apart to form an "X" shape on the floor. Keeping your right arm and left leg straight, lift your right shoulder and left leg off the ground and touch your right hand to the outside of your left knee or ankle. Return to the X position and repeat the movement, this time touching your left hand to the outside of your right knee or ankle.

3. Mountain Climber

Get into the top of the push-up position. This is the starting position. Keeping your back in a straight line, bring your right knee toward your chest, then quickly bring it back to the starting position. Now, bring your left knee in towards your chest and return to starting position. Now speed up the movement, alternating legs quickly as if you were running in place with your hands on the ground.

Trainer Tip: To increase tension on your abdominal muscles, place the palms of your hands on sliding discs such as Valslides, SKLZ Slidez, paper plates, or weight plates.

4. Cocoon

Lie on your back with legs extended and your heels touching the floor. Straighten your arms above your head with your hands touching the floor. This is the starting position. Simultaneously bend both legs and bring your knees to your chest as you bring your arms down to hug your knees. Now, release your knees and extend your legs and arms again, returning your heels back to the ground. That's one rep.

Trainer Tip: To increase the difficulty, keep your heels off the ground for all of the reps.

5. Oblique Crunch

Lie on your back on the floor. Keep your legs bent in the air at a 90-degree angle. Place your hands on the back of your head with your elbows flared out to each side. This is the starting position. Twist (rotate) your torso to move your right shoulder toward your left thigh until your upper back is off the floor and your right elbow is close to or touching your left knee. Lower yourself back down to the starting position. Repeat the movement, this time rotating your left shoulder toward your right knee. Alternate reps between your right and left sides.

Trainer Tip: This is not a bicycle crunch or air bike, where you pedal your legs above the ground the entire time. Once your elbow and knee touch, return to the starting position before switching sides for the next rep. For a more intense exercise, kick one leg out straight as you bring your elbow to the other.

6. Hanging Leg Raise

Hang from a pull-up bar with your hands shoulder-width apart. Grab the bar using an overhand (pronated) grip. This is the starting position. Lift both of your knees until they make a 90-degree angle with your torso. Hold this position for 2 seconds, then fully extend your legs below you. That's one rep.

Trainer Tip: To increase intensity, instead of bending your legs as you raise them, keep them straight. Raise them up as high as possible, hold that position for 2 seconds, then return to the starting position.

7. Plank

Assume the top push-up position. Now bend your elbows and place your forearms flat on the floor beneath you. Tighten your ab muscles to keep your back flat. Make sure your toes are pointed into the ground. Hold the position for the prescribed duration.

Trainer Tip: Incorporate side planks into your routine for oblique strength. To do a side plank, rotate from the plank position so that you're supported by your right forearm. Stack your left foot on top of your right foot and extend your left arm towards the ceiling. Hold this position for 30-60 seconds. Roll your body so that you're now supporting your body on your left forearm with your right arm extended toward the ceiling.

8. Dead Bug

Lie on your back with your knees bent in the air at 90 degrees and your calves parallel to the floor. Raise both arms up above you so they are pointed toward the ceiling. This is the starting position. Now, straighten your left leg without touching it to the ground. Your back will want to arch, but use your abdominal muscles to keep it pressed firmly into the floor. Return your left leg to the starting position and repeat the movement with your right leg. Return both legs to the starting position. That's one rep.

Trainer Tip: Instead of keeping both arms pointed to the ceiling, extend them one at a time. As you straighten your left leg to the floor, extend your right arm above your head until your hand touches the floor. One arm should always be in the starting position (above your chest and pointed towards the ceiling) while the other is extended above your head with the hand close to or touching the floor.

9. Reverse Crunch

Lie down on your back with your legs fully extended, your arms along your sides, and your palms on the floor. Move your legs up so that your thighs are perpendicular to the floor and your feet are together. This is the starting position.

As you breathe in, pull your knees toward your chest as you roll your pelvis backward and raise your hips and upper back off the floor. Hold this position for 1-2 seconds, then exhale as you move your legs back to the starting position.

Trainer Tip: Keep your arms straight along your sides throughout this movement.

10. Seated Scissor Kick

Lie down with your back pressed against the floor and your arms fully extended to each side with your palms facing down. With a slight bend in your knees, lift your legs up so that your heels are about 6 inches off the ground. Contract your abs and bring your back slightly off the floor. This is the starting position.

As if your legs were a pair of scissors, open and close them by crossing one extended leg over the other, alternating which leg is on top. Keep your abs flexed at all times.

Trainer Tip: Don't let your back round. Keep your abs tight to maintain a strong, straight spine. For more intensity, raise your arms up and make small, slow clockwise circles with your shoulders as you scissor kick your legs.

About the Author

Mark Barroso, NSCA-CPT

Mark Barroso, NSCA-CPT

Mark Barroso is an NSCA-CPT, Spartan SGX Coach/Obstacle Specialist, and freelance fitness writer based in New Jersey.

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Bodyweight Back Abs