1.Barbell Hip Thrust
While this exercise doesn't target your abs, per se, it does target other core muscles like the glutes and hips. This move -- a favorite of Bret Contreras, CSCS, aka “The Glute Guy” -- is one of the best exercises for challenging and strengthening your backside. HOW TO DO IT: Start seated on the ground with a bench behind you and a loaded barbell over your hips. Your upper back and shoulders should be on the bench. Drive through your feet and extend your hips by contracting your glutes, raising the bar until your body forms a straight line from shoulders to knees. Return to the starting position and repeat.
I consider the plank to be the single most effective core exercise. Despite its basic nature and somewhat beginner level reputation, it's a position that most lifters do incorrectly. The most important thing to remember about a plank position is to keep your abs flexed and do not allow your hips to sag. If your abdominals relax and hips lower, you are putting your lower back at risk.
If you can hold a basic plank for close to 2 minutes, it's time to upgrade to a weighted plank. Start with 1 set with a 45lb plate with a goal of 20 seconds. Once you can hold it for 30 seconds, move up to 2 plates for 20 seconds. Do only 1 set of weighted planks per day. My all-time record is 7 plates (315lbs) for a 10 second hold.
- Beginner: 1 Plate
- Advanced: 2+ Plates
Human flag sightings are rare. The reason: Only the fittest of the fit can do it.
"This is the master of all core moves because you have to be strong enough to hold your own weight," says Sam Stauffer, a trainer with Men’s Health Thrivein Philadelphia. "Your arms, shoulders, back, and abs are all responsible for holding up your long body."
In order to pull it off, you'll need a high strength-to-mass ratio, and a ridiculous amount of upper-body strength, core stability, and total-body muscle control, he says. It also takes a ton of practice and lots of ab workouts.
If this move is tough enough for the Italian Stallion, it’s tough enough for you. While you may not rock the dragon on a farmhouse wooden table with a fire burning in the background while you train to avenge the death of your friend and formal rival, you can pretend that’s why you’re working on this punishing move. HOW TO DO IT: Lie faceup on a bench and grab the bench next to your ears so that your elbows are bent and your upper arms are next to your head. Your hands are there simply for support -- don’t pull with them or you’ll wrench your neck. Use your core to roll up onto your shoulders until your body is straight and perpendicular to the ground --basically, you’re stacked on top of your shoulders. From here, slowly lower your body using your core, maintaining a straight body line. Work toward bringing your body down until it’s hovering just above the bench. Then bring it back up to the start and lower slowly again.
The ring layout is one of my favorite movements because not only do you work every area of your core - from the abdominals to your serratus to your spinal erectors - but you also get a great upper body pump by taxing the lats, delts, and triceps.
6.Single-Side Bird Dog
The single-side bird dog might look too easy to belong on this list, but it's a serious core challenge. In fact, about 90 percent of people can't do it, says Stauffer. That's because picking up an arm and a leg on the same side forces your core stabilizers to work overtime to keep you from tipping over or flexing or extending your back. "Most of us don't train for this type of of core stability, so we can't hold the position," says Stauffer.
Planks too easy? Try them suspended upside down. The front lever isn’t just incredibly impressive-looking, it’s even harder than it looks and will challenge your core, back and motivation as you train to perfect it. Good luck! HOW TO DO IT: Grab a pull-up bar with an overhand, shoulder-width grip. From the hanging position, use your shoulders, back and core to pull your body -- totally straight -- from the perpendicular position up to a position parallel to the floor. If you can reach this position, hold it for as long as you can. To work your way up to this position, start with your knees tucked in: You’re hanging from the bar, arms straight, but with your body tucked in a ball and your back parallel to the floor.
Place a 5 or 10lb plate on a concrete floor or another surface that will allow it to slide. Get in a push up position with your feet on the plate. Keeping your body stiff and parallel to the floor, drift back and let your arms extend out in front of you. Pull yourself back up to the starting position. Even one perfect rep is a challenge, a good goal to work for is 3 sets of 5 layouts.
- Beginner: Lie back into a plank (but no further), then pop back up
- Advanced: Try not to let your elbows touch the ground
9.Medicine Ball Hollow-Body Hold
This ab exercise is an absolute screamer. The "hollow body" position is a fundamental position for gymnasts. To do it, you must hold your upper and lower body a couple of inches off the floor by clenching every muscle from your fingers to your toes.
But unlike the regular hold, this version requires you to also keep a 3- to 6-pound medicine ball between your feet. "If you're new to this move, you'll only be able to hold it for 15 seconds before your abs will feel as if they're on fire and you'll start to shake," Stauffer says.
Popularized by CrossFit, this exercise, like the banana roll, will make you feel silly twice -- first for how you look and second when you realize how much you underestimated its challenge. HOW TO DO IT: Lie on your back with arms extended overhead, legs straight out. Lift into a “hollow” position, with arms and legs up, lower back pressed into the ground and head in line with the arms. Using your core to get going, rock your body so that you look like the bottom of a rocking chair.