Abs: everyone wants 'em, but the vast majority of us don't know how to build them. Boring old crunches have history and tradition behind them, but they just aren't a very effective core exercise. There are better ways to exercise your core. Let me show you how it's done!

Here are eight excellent movements mixed and matched into unique routines. Choose three routines to do each week. Put them into your regimen as you see fit, but make sure you leave a day between ab routines so you can recover!

The Moves

If you're accustomed to doing hundreds of sit-ups every day, your world is about to get rocked. These eight abdominal movements are effective, intense, and perfect for any fitness goal!

Awesome Ab Move 1: Kettlebell Russian Twist

Sit on the floor with your knees bent and your legs together. Hold a kettlebell in front of you by the horns with your elbows bent. Lift your feet off the floor and find your balance on your tailbone.

Kettlebell Russian Twist

Twist to the right and touch the kettlebell to the floor, then immediately twist to the left and repeat. Continue by alternating sides.

Tip: Make sure your abs, not your arms, are twisting your torso and the kettlebell side to side.

Awesome Ab Move 2: Kettlebell Windmill

Stand with your feet shoulder-with apart and turn your left foot out. Hold the kettlebell in your right hand, straight up in the air over your shoulder. Place your left hand on the outside of your left thigh. Turn your head to look up toward the kettlebell.

Kick your right hip to the side, and then drop slowly down toward your left ankle, sliding your left hand down along the outside of your leg. Keep your right arm straight up and the kettlebell in the air. When you've gone as low as you can, reverse the movement and return to a standing position. Do all reps on one side before switching.

Tip: Actively press the weight up toward the ceiling to engage your shoulder, back, chest, and inner abdominal muscles to hold it steady.

Awesome Ab Move 3: Cable Reverse Crunch

Attach an ankle strap to a cable and lower the pulley to the bottom of the machine. Sit in front of the machine with your legs together. Secure the ankle strap around both ankles, then lie back on the floor. Lift your legs over your hips, with knees bent 90 degrees. Extend your arms along your sides.

Cable Reverse Crunch

Lift your hips and bring your knees toward your head as far as you can. Keep your knees bent. Pause a moment at the top, then slowly uncurl to the start, resisting the pull of the machine on the return.

Tip: Use a lighter weight for this move, and focus on control and form.

Awesome Ab Move 4: Cable Rope Crunch

Attach a rope to a cable and raise the pulley. Hold a rope end in each hand. Kneel on the floor in front of the machine and draw the ends of the rope to either side of your head so your hands are by your ears. Lock your arms in place.

Keeping your hips steady, curl down and reach your elbows toward your quads, contracting your abs and exhaling hard. Pause a moment, then slowly return to the start.

Tip: With this move, a little hyperextension at the top is OK in order to eke out a little extra range of motion.

Awesome Ab Move 5: TRX Pendulum

Set the TRX 4-6 inches above the floor. Place your hands on the floor underneath your shoulders and secure your feet in the cradles, laces down. Extend your legs so you're in a suspended plank with your feet a little lower than your hips.

Keeping your legs straight and together, swing them to the right by squeezing your obliques and pulling your hip up toward your rib cage. After a pause, swing to the left by squeezing on the opposite side.

Tip: Always make sure your hips are higher than your feet, to protect your lower back.

Awesome Ab Move 6: TRX Pike

Set the TRX 4-6 inches above the floor. Place your hands on the floor underneath your shoulders and secure your feet in the cradles, laces down. Extend your legs so you're in a suspended plank with your feet a little lower than your hips.

Keeping your legs straight and together, lift your hips toward the ceiling and contract your abs to come into a pike. Your arms and back should be straight. Pause a moment at the peak, then slowly lower back to the start.

Tip: Press down into your hands as you lift your hips to improve stability.

Awesome Ab Move 7: "Rope Climb" Crunch

Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor, and your lower back arching naturally. Imagine there is a rope hanging from the ceiling and dropping right through your chest. Reach up with both arms toward the rope and curl your head and shoulders up off the floor.

Reach up with your hands and "climb" the rope, twisting side to side and lifting up while keeping your head and shoulders off the ground.

Tip: The higher you reach, the more your obliques are engaged.

Awesome Ab Move 8: Plank Circle

Get into plank with your hands underneath your shoulders and your head, hips, and heels in line.

With your hands as the pivot point, walk your feet around in a circle. Go one complete revolution in each direction to complete one rep.


Tip: Keep strict plank form, even while you're moving. Your hips should be low, your head neutral, and your spine straight.

The Routines

Now that you know the movements, here's how to put them into routines. These five are excellent places to start. Once you get the hang of them, mix and match these movements to create your own killer core workout!

Killer Ab Routine 1: The Marathoner

Endurance is an important component of abdominal training, because your abs and core need to stabilize your spine and control your movements all day long. This workout uses moderate weight and higher reps to push that threshold of endurance to the limit, making you stronger, leaner, and tighter.

  • Cable Crunch: 3 sets, 15-20 reps
  • Kettlebell Windmill: 3 sets, 15 reps per side
  • Suspended Reverse Crunch: 3 sets, 20 reps
  • Rope Climb Crunch: 3 sets, 15-20 reps per arm
  • TRX Pendulum3 sets, 15 reps per side
  • Plank Circle: 3 sets, 5 rotations.  

Killer Ab Routine 2: Tabata Torture

Want to burn out your abs in less than five minutes while also kick-starting your metabolism and burning fat? Then do this Tabata workout! Choose any one of the above exercises—I prefer the "rope climb" crunch or the kettlebell Russian twist— and do the move all-out for 20 seconds. Take a 10-second rest, then go again for 20 seconds. Repeat this pattern eight times total. You'll be fried in four minutes, guaranteed.

  • Russian Twist (or exercise of choice): 8 sets, AMRAP in 20 sec. (10 sec rest between sets)

Killer Ab Routine 3: Time Cruncher

This program hits your total core in less than 10 minutes, so it's perfect for the end of a workout. Do each move for one minute, using good form and remembering to breathe.

Rest as little as possible between moves to elevate your heart rate and your metabolism. Go through the routine once for a five-minute ab blast or twice for a crazy-hard finisher.

  • Russian Twist: 1 set, AMRAP in 60 sec.
  • Rope Climb Crunch: 1 set, AMRAP in 60 sec.
  • Cable Crunch: 1 set, AMRAP in 60 sec.
  • Plank Circle: 1 set, AMRAP in 60 sec.
  • Cable Reverse Crunch: 1 set, AMRAP in 60 sec.

Killer Ab Routine 4: It's All About the O...bliques

Sometimes in your quest for a six-pack, the obliques get sidelined. This workout will build them, hard and heavy, with the kettlebell moves, then train their endurance with the TRX. Choose a moderate to heavy weight for the kettlebell moves and execute each rep with perfect form. Rest up to one minute between sets.

  • Kettlebell Windmill: 4 sets, 10-12 reps per side
  • TRX Pendulum: 1 set, 20 reps per side
  • Russian Twist: 4 sets, 15 reps per side
  • TRX Pendulum: 1 set, 20 reps per side

Killer Ab Routine 5: The Serious Six-Pack Superset Session

Want to carve those neat little squares into your midsection? Then add this rectus-intensive superset workout into your weekly regimen. The cable moves should be done using moderate to heavy weight to encourage growth, and the plank circles should be considered a recovery move.

To do supersets, perform two exercises back to back without rest. Once both exercises are done, rest for one minute before repeating both exercises again. Repeat for the prescribed number of supersets.


  • Cable Crunch: 3 sets of 10 reps
  • Plank Circle: 3 sets, 2 reps in each direction


  • Cable Reverse Crunch: 3 sets of 10 reps
  • Plank Circle: 3 sets, 2 reps in each direction

About the Author

Lara McGlashan

Lara McGlashan

Lara McGlashan is currently the Fitness Editor for Oxygen Magazine. She also has an extensive sports background and is an ACE certified trainer.

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