5 Core Exercises for Bigger STRONGER Abs

Everyone wants a six pack…there’s a reason why so much of the fitness industry is built around pandering to “six pack shortcuts“, “get a six pack in six weeks“, “secret six pack tips“, etc.

Unfortunately, training to get a six pack can be a boring slog fest. Once you start to get competent at the basic bodyweight ab exercises that are out there, you may have to string together 50+ reps to even begin to feel a stimulus. If you aren’t stuck busting out rep after rep you’re holding some awkward position for 2-3 minutes just to get a decent burn. Training does not have to be this boring.

Abs for me has always been the most engaging when I can load up exercises in the same way I would train any of my other major muscles groups. I like exercises where I can shoot for challenging 10-15 rep sets, and the load can be increased in a consistent and predictable manner over time.  Not only does this make things more exciting, but these rep ranges are also those that transfer over most realistically to my overall training goal which is getting STRONGER.

With this in mind here are 5 Ab exercises you can utilize for bigger, stronger abs, and better yet, you won’t have to do 1,000 reps for them to be effective.

1. Standing Cable Crunch

Most people are used to the normal kneeling cable crunch. This is fine, it’s a loaded core movement I don’t really have a problem with it.

That being said I do think it can be better. By simply taking this movement from kneeling to standing you’re going to drastically increase the range of motion in which you can travel. Not only that but I’m betting you’re going to feel a better contraction over that entire range of motion as well.

That and…basically anything beats having to be curled up into a tiny ball on the floor to do an exercise.

You can perform this exercise both facing in towards the cable machine as well as away from the cable machine and it really just comes down to personal preference on which angle you feel a better contraction from.

2. Weighted Oblique Crunch

It really doesn’t get any easier than this. Standing straight up grab a heavy dumbbell or kettlebell with one arm, and “crunch” to the opposite side using nothing but your obliques to do so.

While easy to perform this exercise is not lacking in effectiveness, and you’re going to be hard pressed to find another oblique exercise that allows you to load the movement so easily.

Weighted oblique crunches can be used to replace typical bodyweight oblique exercises like side crunches and russian twists once they begin to become too easy for you.

3. Heavy Weighted Planks

Planks are a fantastic exercises that everyone loves to hate. Unfortunately, while I do see most people include these in their ab programming nowadays, it’s rare to see someone actually challenge themselves with the movement.

Most athletes once they are used to a steady diet of planks can easily hold one out for 1-2 minutes and never really do much more than that. Now I’m not saying you should start spending 5+ minutes doing 1 set of planks but rather, make it more difficult doing what you’d do for any other exercise…increase the load.

Using a plate on your back, chains, or a weighted vest will drastically increase the difficultly of your planks without increasing the amount of time you have to spend doing them. You’ll be surprised by how much a small increase in load can impact how hard a plank can feel.

Naturally, many people have concerns with the safety of loading this position, and so long as you are gradually increasing load by small increments over an extended period of time these will pose no more danger to you than a normal plank.

4. Pallof Press

The Pallof Press is a unique anti-rotation ab movement. It’s also not really a press.

Most people when they hear “Pallof Press” think they are about to do something for chest or shoulders, but while you do press a handle away from you during this movement, none of the resistance is on your upper body.

This movement is entirely based around your trunk resisting rotation. Basically you’re fighting against the cable machine from turning your body.

This movement starts out easy at lighter loads, but you’ll quickly realize how challenging it can be as you creep up the weight, and why this movement is a staple in many athletes programming.

5. Hanging Knee/Leg Raise

This exercise starts with a caveat. In order for this movement to have my full seal of approval I’d recommend doing it out of either a captains chair setup or from hanging ab straps.

The reason being if you do hanging knee/leg raises just hanging off of a pull-up bar your grip strength is going to be the limiting factor of the exercise and not your abs.

A captain chair, or ab straps effectively take your grip out of play and you can put all of your focus into loading up a proper stimulus for your abs.

Done properly this movement is challenging before weight is even introduced. You can progress yourself from knees to chest variations, to knees to elbows, to toes to bar, and THEN you can start adding resistance by either holding a dumbbell or medicine ball between your feet, or using devices such as monkey feet.


Matt Molloy

Matt Molloy

I'm a graduate the University of Pittsburgh with a major in Exercise Science. I’m a local guy (North Penn) and athletics has dominated my life. I've led teams in basketball, baseball, soccer, golf and my passion, long distance running. I've been strength training for 6 years with a focus in power-lifting but have recently stretched to strongman since joining the pride here at the Den. When I’m not in the gym I enjoy, spending time with my friends, music, and relaxing and playing some video games.