Stomach exercises

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If you’re looking to strengthen the muscles around your stomach or harbour dreams of sculpting a six-pack, the good news is that if your fitness regime includes compound moves you’ve got a head start. Exercises like squats and deadlifts work the midriff muscles along with many other areas of the body, making them a time-efficient pick for those trying to strengthen their core.

However, some more direct work on the abs is also a good idea, especially if you do have a six-pack in mind. To help, we asked Joel Freeman, Beachbody super-trainer and co-creator of the Core De Force workout, to pick a variety of moves for beginner, intermediate and advanced gym-goers.

Beginner Stomach Exercises

Prayer crunch

Reps 10

Lie on your back with your feet flat on the ground and knees bent. Extend your arms and bring your hands together between your knees. Curl your chin towards your chest, lift your shoulders off the ground and reach your hands as far forwards as you can. Lower your shoulder blades back towards the ground.

Side crunch

Reps 20 total

Lie on your back with your feet flat on the ground and knees bent. Extend both arms towards your feet. Curl your chin towards your chest, lift your shoulders off the ground, pull your bellybutton into towards your spine and reach one arm forwards to tap the heel of each foot, then the other, without lowering your shoulders back to the ground in between.

Rope climb

Reps 20 total

Lie on your back with both legs extended towards the ceiling, your elbows bent and your hands on your chest. Curl your chin towards your chest, lift your shoulder blades off the ground and reach one arm at a time towards the opposite foot – the sort of hand-over-hand movement you’d make if climbing a rope. Keep your shoulder blades lifted and core engaged throughout.

Intermediate Stomach Exercises

Bent-knees windshield wiper

Reps 20 total

Lie on your back with your feet off the floor and knees bent at a 90° angle. Extend your arms out to the sides with your palms flat on the floor. Keeping your head on the ground and core engaged, drop your knees over towards the right, stopping 15cm from the ground. Pause for three seconds and then reverse the movement to the opposite side.

Scissor kick

Reps 20 total

Lie on your back with your knees bent towards your chest and your hands under your glutes. Curl your chin towards your chest and lift your shoulder blades off the ground. While keeping your lower back pressed into the ground, extend your legs, holding them 15cm above the ground, and begin to criss-cross the feet.

Plank shoulder tap

Reps 20 total

Start in the top press-up position with your hands directly under your shoulders and your feet hip-distance apart. Keeping your head, hips and heels in a straight line, and your core and glutes engaged, lift one hand and tap the opposite shoulder. Continue at a steady pace, alternating sides.

Advanced Stomach Exercises

Dumbbell flutter kick

Reps 20 total

Lie on your back with your knees bent towards your chest, holding a dumbbell by your chest. Curl your chin towards your chest and lift your shoulders off the ground, then extend your legs until they’re at a 45° angle to the floor and extend your arms towards the ceiling. Lower one leg until it is around 10cm above the floor, then alternate raising each leg at a fast but controlled pace, keeping your lower back glued to the floor throughout.

Bicycle crunch

Reps 20 total

Lie on your back with your hands behind your head and your elbows wide, and both hips and knees bent at a 90° angle so your lower legs are perpendicular with the floor. Curl your shoulders off the ground, extend your right leg and twist your right elbow to the outside of the left knee. Bring your torso back to the centre then and twist in the opposite direction, while switching which leg is extended. Continue to alternate at a steady pace.

Dumbbell extension

Reps 20

Lie on your back with your knees bent towards your chest and arms extended towards the ceiling, holding one dumbbell in both hands. Keeping your lower back pressed into the ground, extend your legs and move your arms behind your head, bringing your biceps towards your ears and keeping your legs around 10cm off the ground. Hold the extended position for two seconds, then bend the knees back in and bring the dumbbell back up.