Strengthen your abs and lower back anytime, anywhere with these bodyweight exercises.
Posted by Marc Barroso, National Association for Strength and Functional Training Certified Personal Trainer
To do these 10 bodyweight exercises for your abs and core, you only need a little space, a few free minutes and a well-motivated attitude. No TRX support loops, fitballs, abs rollers or dumbbells. The only equipment you might need is a gym mat. It will protect your lower back when exercising on a hard surface.
Abs exercises help correct posture, reduce and prevent back pain, and improve athletic performance. With enough reps and proper nutrition, these exercises can even remove excess subcutaneous fat from your belly.
Add these 10 bodyweight exercises at the beginning, middle, or end of your workout to ensure that your abdominals receive the attention they need.
Stand straight with feet shoulder-width apart. Sit down and place your palms on the floor. Resting your hands on the floor, perform a backward leap with your feet, at the end of which your body will return to its original position for push-ups from the floor. Push up and return to the starting position for push-ups. Now, without taking your hands off the floor, jump forward so that your feet land between your hands. Then jump upward while raising your arms above your head. This is one repetition.
Trainer’s hint. To do mobile burpees, sit down and jump backwards with your feet. Now, instead of doing a push-up, pull your right leg forward and place your foot outside of your right hand. Bring your right leg back to the starting position for push-ups and repeat the movement with your left leg, pulling it towards the outside of your left arm. Bring your left leg back to the starting position for push-ups, quickly move your legs forward to the bottom squat position, and then lift up and jump. This is one repetition in mobile burpees.
2. Exercise “folding knife”
Lie on your back with your legs straight on the floor, arms extended over your head, palms touching the floor. This is your starting position for the folding knife exercise. Group in a V shape, raising your torso and legs towards each other. The legs at this moment should remain straight, and the arms should be extended. Raise your shoulder blades as high as possible off the ground, with your feet at the top of the floor as nearly perpendicular to the floor as possible. Place your palms on your feet, then lower your torso, arms and legs back to the floor. This is what one repetition looks like.
Trainer’s tip. A modified version of the folding knife exercise is called the X-Up. To do everything correctly, lie on your back and spread your arms and legs on the floor so that you get the letter X. Keeping your right arm and left leg straight, raise your right shoulder and left leg off the floor and touch the outside of the knee or ankle with your right palm. Return to the X position and repeat the movement, this time touching the outside of the right knee or ankle with your left hand.
3. Climber exercise
Get into the starting position for push-ups. It is also the starting position for the climbing exercise. Keeping your back straight, bring your right knee up to your ribcage, then quickly return it to its original position. Now pull your left knee towards your chest and return to the starting position. Now speed up the movement by alternately lifting your legs as quickly as if you were jogging in place with your hands on the floor.
Trainer’s tip. To increase the load on the abdominal muscles in the climber exercise, place your palms on sliding discs such as Valslides or SKLZ Slides. Instead of discs, you can take sheets of paper, a towel or pancakes for a barbell.
4. Exercise “cocoon”
Lie on your back, legs extended, heels touching the floor. Stretch your arms over your head, touch the ground with your palms. This is the starting position for the cocoon exercise. Bend both legs in sync, bring your knees to your ribcage and raise your arms to wrap them around your knees. Now release your knees, extend your arms and legs again, and bring your heels back to the floor. This is one repetition.
Trainer’s tip. To complicate the cocoon exercise, keep your heels off the floor throughout the set.
5. Oblique crunches
Lie on your back on the floor. Bend your legs in the air at a 90 degree angle. Close your hands behind your head, elbows at your sides. This is the starting position for the exercise. Rotate your torso to bring your right shoulder to your left hip until your upper back lifts off the floor and your right elbow is near or touching your left knee. Lower yourself to the starting position and repeat the movement, this time rotating your left shoulder towards your right knee. Alternate left and right repetitions.
Trainer’s hint. This is not a bicycle exercise in which you simulate pedaling above the ground throughout your set. When the elbow touches the knee, return to the starting position before switching sides for the next rep. If you want to complicate the task, while doing the exercise, straighten one leg in the air while pulling your elbow to the other.
6. Hanging leg raises
Hang on a horizontal bar, arms shoulder-width apart. Hold on to the bar using an overhead (pronated) grip. This is the starting position for hanging leg raises. Raise both knees until they form a 90-degree angle with your torso. Hold in this position for 2 seconds, then lower and fully straighten your legs. This is one repetition.
Trainer’s tip. To make this exercise more difficult for your abdominal muscles, do not bend your legs while lifting, but keep them straight. Raise your legs as high as possible, linger at the top point for a couple of seconds, then return to the starting position.
Get into the starting position for push-ups from the floor. Now bend your elbows and rest on the forearms of both hands. Tighten your abdominal muscles to keep your back straight. Be sure to keep the toes of your toes facing the ground. Hold this position for a specified period of time.
Trainer’s tip. To strengthen your obliques, include a side plank in your program. To perform the side plank exercise, rotate from the starting position so that only the forearm of the right hand is supported. Raise your left leg and place it on your right. Extend your left arm up towards the ceiling. Maintain this position for 30-60 seconds. Roll over to support your body on your left forearm and extend your right arm straight up.
8. Dead Beetle Exercise
Lie on your back, knees bent at 90 degrees, shins parallel to the floor. Raise both hands up so that they are looking at the ceiling. This is the starting position for the dead beetle exercise. Now straighten your left leg without touching the ground. Your back will want to bend into an arch, but use your abdominal muscles to keep it firmly against the floor. Return your left leg to its original position and repeat the movement with your right leg. Return both legs to their original position. This is one repetition.
Trainer’s tip. Instead of keeping both arms upright, extend one arm backward. When you straighten your left leg above the floor, simultaneously lower your right hand behind your head until it touches the floor. One hand should always remain upright (above the chest and looking at the ceiling), while the other extends behind the head, and the hand touches the floor or comes close to it.
9. Reverse crunches
Lie on your back with your legs fully extended, arms to the sides of your torso, palms resting on the floor. Raise your legs up so that your hips are perpendicular to the floor. The feet are pressed together. This is the starting position for the reverse crunch exercise.
As you inhale, slightly push your knees towards your chest, while simultaneously rotating your pelvis and raising your hips with your lower back off the floor. Hold in this position for 1-2 seconds, and then, as you exhale, return your legs back to their original position.
Trainer’s tip. Throughout the set, the arms are extended and rest on the sides of the torso.
10. Sitting scissors exercise
Lie on your back, press your lower back to the floor, fully straighten your arms at your sides with palms facing the floor. With a slight bend at the knees, lift your legs up so that your heels are about 15 centimeters from the ground. Tighten your abdominal muscles and lift your back slightly off the floor. This is the starting position.
Now, as if your legs were scissors, start spreading and bringing them together so that one leg intersects with the other; change the upper leg with each rep. The abdominal muscles should be tense throughout the entire set.
Trainer’s tip. Don’t let your back round. Maintain tension in your abdominal muscles to keep your back straight at all times. To complicate the task, raise your arms and slowly rotate your shoulders clockwise with a small amplitude while bringing your legs together and apart.