Forget crunches - this is my favourite ab exercise for a stronger core

The L-sit is also a one-move full-body workout that strengthens the arms, shoulders and the whole core

A young professional athlete is doing Vertical leg raise exercises for abs in the gym
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Finding the right exercise to train your core can be challenging. With so many different core workouts out there, just making a decision about which one to include in your home workouts can be exhausting, let alone doing the workout. My choice of core exercise is a move that not only trains the abs but also gives my whole upper body a run for its money.

The exercise is called the L-sit and in my opinion, it's one of the best core exercises. This bodyweight workout is up there with planks and hanging leg raises when it comes to training your whole core (and whole body) effectively with simple movements. And just like planks, you can do L-sits without using any equipment, on the floor, balancing on your hands.

Forget crunches; doing L-sits is the best way to get a six-pack!

How to do L-sits: what are isometric exercises?

You might have heard of compound and isolation exercises before; these are staples in any self-respecting bodybuilders workout routine. Especially compound movements can help pack on mass quickly without overusing your joints by having to repeat the same movement over and over again a million times. Heavy deadlifts can build muscle with just a few reps per set.

Isometric exercises are a whole different ball game. Like many other callisthenics moves - these use bodyweight as resistance - it was borrowed from gymnastics, where they use loads of isometrics exercises for training and competition. You must have seen gymnasts up on the rings with their feet pointed forward in a sitting position; that's essentially a ring L-sit, a variation of the exercise we're talking about today.

Isometric moves train the muscles not by moving but by holding a particular position for as long as possible. This puts the muscles under constant stress, meaning you won't need heavy weights to see results. You can always increase the intensity by holding the position for longer.

How to do L-sits: your secret weapon to six-pack gains

The L-sit is not a complicated exercise. In theory, all you have to do is pretend you're sitting with your legs straight, only in the air. How to master the L-sit is a bit more nuanced than this and might take some getting used to.

First of all, to be able to sit with your back straight with your legs perpendicular to your upper body requires a certain level of hamstring flexibility. This is probably the first thing you should start working on; start doing more stretching. Using a foam roller can help prime the hamstrings before stretching sessions. 

Another area that will be worked hard is the wrist, especially if you're planning on doing L-sits on the floor. Just like when you're doing push-ups, the wrist flexor will be worked hard during L-sits. Make sure you also prime this body part before you start the exercise.

For this exact reason (too much pressure on the wrist flexor), I prefer using parallettes when doing L-sits. This simple and inexpensive piece of home gym equipment helps put the wrists in a more natural position which might help avoid injuries.

Before you go all crazy by performing full-blown L-sits, I recommend doing the exercise with your legs on the ground, knees slightly bent. This will help your body get used to the isometric nature of the movement.

Once you're comfortable with that pose, you can try tuck-sits by lifting your lower body off the ground but keeping your feet close to your body. From here, you can extend the legs gradually until you reach the full L-sit position. It might take a few months but it's worth the wait!

Gym training with gymnastics rings in gym

(Image credit: Getty Images)

How to do L-sits: best L-sit alternatives

There are three main variations of L-sits: ring L-sit, parallette L-sit and floor L-sit. You shouldn't worry about ring L-sits; that's mainly for Youtube influencers and gymnasts. The other two is what you should focus on.

I recommend using parallettes first as they worked best for my wrists. That said, given that you stretch your wrists prior to exercising, floor L-sits can work equally as well. This version has the added benefit of strengthening the wrist flexor over time, although it's very easy to overexert the wrist and injure yourself doing floor L-sits. Be sensible and pay attention to your body to avoid this from happening.

Other isometric core exercises can supplement L-sit training such as planks and hanging leg raises mentioned above. It's recommended to switch up your exercise routine regularly to avoid overusing certain body parts too much. And to see results quicker, of course.

Matt Kollat
Matt Kollat

Matt is a fitness fanatic (a.k.a. fitness and nutrition writer) who's been rambling on about all things health and fitness for over two years now here at T3. His achievements include a short-lived fitness podcast called Fit Mentality Podcast and being a judge on the Fit&Well Awards 2021. In his free time, he works out at home, runs, cycles and loves a good ol' walk around the city. He writes about general fitness stuff, fitness tech, workouts, workout gear/equipment, nutrition and much, much more.