If you quickly scan the internet for abs exercises, then you will find hundreds of them, different methods, and explanations, all claiming essentially best to develop a strong core and visible abs too. In reality, you need no more than the four exercises you need to be consistent with to build your abdominals and lower back muscles nice and strong.
Integrate them into your weekly routine, train them hard, and regularly, and you’ll see I’m right about it. These particular exercises belonged to my training routine and utilized them successfully. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be feasible to advocate this with such certainty.
Time is essential to all of us, and you will realize after reading my article how inefficient are maybe 90% of the abs exercises pushed to you regularly. You have to start being lucrative in your workouts and stop wasting time doing useless exercises if getting results is what you aim for.
I bet this may come as a surprise to you. You may be expected of me to start with something that primarily engages the abs. But hey! I said in the title that I am going to deliver calisthenics exercises for core development, and that involves lower back muscles, glutes, and everything else that surrounds and relates to the midsection. So sprints it is!
Sprints, whether you run on flat at full speed or uphill, they contract the whole body musculature powerfully, and they especially engage the entire midsection. Even if sprints belong to athletics, because it’s bodyweight, I always consider them rather a calisthenics exercise.
Sprints burn a lot of calories and attack fat reserves too, which matters in reducing your body fat percentage to have visible abs.
Be serious about it, and when you do sprints sessions, make it as hard as possible. Not to mention that sprints help you increase the basal metabolic rate, which again helps in decreasing your overall body fat percentage. Only that, this time, you do it more effectively when you rest.
You can sprint on flat terrain (on the track if you want) and over different distances, from 50 to 200 and even 400 meters. Rest shortly between, or you can do intervals!
The high-intensity periods are typically at or close to anaerobic exercise, while the recovery periods involve activity of lower intensity like jogging. But you can also skip the rope or do Jumping Jacks for aerobic!
Interval training targets fat reserves while you jog because it requires a lot of oxygen consumption (which is catalyzer) to fuel your body with energy by burning fat. You also use the oxygen to recover for the next sprint.
Then, of course, you have hill sprints, sprinting on stairs and rough terrain. So find a place like a stadium and do your sprint intervals there. And if you also got any nearby trails and elevation gain, then you got it all covered elegantly. Hill sprints and running on rough terrain, generally, involves a lot of core contractions, which makes your entire midsection a lot stronger. More so, they target fat deposits and build muscles in the legs and calves.
That being said, we can now move to one of the most vital exercises, specifically for abdominals.
Legs fully stretched throughout the whole range of motion – this alone requires good body elasticity and not yet convinced if you can fully extend the legs like me.
You can practice dedicated stretching to improve mobility, which is what I recommend, but in case you are not going to do that, then bend the knee a little bit and focus on contractions as much as possible.
However, keeping a perfect alignment is a lot more complicated and contracts the abs much harder than having the feet arched. So if you plan on adding this exercise, then listen to my suggestion and focus on how to improve form and execution because it will help tremendously.
You have two options to do V-Raises. One hanged of a pull-up bar, I like this because it works my forearms, causing tendons to become stronger, and another on a Dip station.
The first method generates swinging, and you’ll have to balance that by squeezing harder the grip and lower back too — the second one attack more the abs, and I also feel like the lower back muscles get more work.
I love and practice both variations. Therefore, you are free to test and see what you want or work best.
Let’s get clear on something here. All these exercises develop your midsection and especially abs, but you will never see abs surface unless you have a flat belly. Those strong and well-developed abs will exist underneath the subcutaneous fat. So knowing about nutrition, dieting, and what works best to get a flat stomach is crucial (How To Eat to Get a Flat Stomach).
I covered all the nutrition and dieting aspects, plus the workout routines in my brand new shredding program linked below. You will also have workouts based on the exercises I talk about in this article:
90-Degree Leg Raises
Apply everything I said about V-Raises to this variation as well. Between V-Raises and Regular Leg Raises, this one will do more predominantly because it’s easier to execute and accrue more reps with it.
Never rush on the eccentric movement as you ferociously do on the concentric part. It will increase the time under pressure and help eliminate swinging if went in full control. In case you have trouble keeping a good form and execution, then you can switch to Knee Raises.
Knee Raises are doable by anyone regardless of who you are. Raise your knees as high as possible and closer to the chest for more tension. Blend these exercises with V-Raises if you want, and you got yourself a great calisthenics abs workout!
Does this exercise surprise you? Because honestly, high rep bodyweight squats can fatigue and induce intense soreness in the lower back and abs too.
Do at least once, as a challenge, between 500 and 1000 bodyweight squats, and you’ll see how much your lower back will burn. And while you mostly train them for developing the legs, you also improve the midsection as a byproduct.
Even so, this doesn’t mean you only focus on regular squats. You could do it, but it would help considerably if you also did frog jumps and other variations too. Feel free to add weights to it. However, to burn the lower back properly with bodyweight squats, you need to rep out good. I mean sets of over 40 reps.
Other abs exercises work as well, just not that effective as you’ve been told. Along with these 4, if you do pull-ups, dips, pushups, burpees, etc. then you need no other abs exercises. I promise you that! Not that planks or situps are ineffective, but these I talked about are superior in any aspect and worth investing more time.
Less is more! I focused a lot more on simplicity than bringing in all the exercises that theoretically attack the muscles from all angles. Somehow, my abs are well-developed even without such a variety.
Basically, all the compound bodyweight exercises will engage the abs, more or less, depending on each. Include them into your weekly training, and you’ll see how pieces will start falling into the right place like a puzzle.