Targeted Ab Training: Top 5 Moves For Your Core

Think those crunches are helping you earn that 6-pack? Not as much as you think. These five ab movements are more effective.

For many of us, ab training means finding an open corner in the gym and doing sets of crunches until we know that 6-pack can only be a few days away. The day arrives, but the abs seldom do.

The problem with this type of thinking is twofold. One, you'll never have abs if your body fat isn't scarce enough to see them—and body fat is hugely dependent on nutrition. The second big problem is that crunches are probably the least effective way to work your abs.

There are better ways to train abs, and I'm here to share them. Trust me, it's time to break free from your usual crunch-heavy routine. Try these moves instead. They've been shown to stimulate 200 percent or more ab activity than regular crunches.

Top 5 Ab Exercises

5 Must-Do Ab/Core Exercises: Ripped Freak Abs

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EXERCISE 1 // Plank
(2-3 sets of 30-60 second holds)

The plank is great for working your entire core, and it can stimulate up to 130 percent more ab activity than the crunch. To make it more difficult, widen your feet and reach forward with your hands—that'll give your core an even bigger challenge. When you reach forward, try not to tilt from your hips.

If reaching forward isn't quite hard enough, or you want to do more oblique work, bring your knees up and toward your elbows.

EXERCISE 2 // Side Plank
(2-3 sets of 30-60 second holds)

The side plank can target each side of your body, allowing you to address weaknesses and correct imbalances. This move hits more than your abs—your abductors, adductors, quads, hamstrings, glutes, upper body, and lower back all get a workout.

Your ankle, hip, and shoulder should be in one line, and your chin should remain off your chest. If you need a greater challenge, raise your top leg to parallel with the ground. You can also grab a dumbbell and "sweep" the weight from under your body. You should end with your arm straight up.

EXERCISE 3 // Bicycle Crunch
(2-3 sets of 20-30 reps)

This movement can stimulate nearly 190 percent more activity than the regular crunch. The key is to fully extend one leg at a time and think about bringing your shoulder, rather than your elbow, up to touch your opposite knee. Visualize that contraction.

To make this harder, use a medicine ball and crunch up as you weave the ball in a figure-eight pattern in and out of your legs.

EXERCISE 4 // Reverse Crunch
(2-3 sets of 12-20 reps)

Tuck your hands under your butt and bring your knees to your chest. Concentrate on your pelvis as you tuck it up. You should feel your lower abs kicking in as you roll your pelvis up and forward. This exercise should activate 140 percent more of your abs than a regular crunch.

EXERCISE 5 // Vertical Chair Knee Raise
(2-3 sets of 12-20 reps)

This exercise should stimulate 200 percent or more abdominal activation than a regular crunch. Amazing! Make sure your shoulders and back are posture-perfect. Raise your knees past your waistline; if you don't move your hips far enough, your hip flexors will do all the work.

For a higher degree of difficulty, do straight-leg raises or alternate legs. You can also hold a dumbbell between your legs for added extra resistance.