We rounded up the best abs exercises for beginners, for those who would like to achieve flat, even muscular stomach and probably haven't done all that much exercising before. We are going to ease you in gently and won't ask you to do Russian twists with a kettlebell, sit ups holding a dumbbell to your chest or to do hanging leg raises, dangling from a home multi-gym.
It is a bit of a mystery why having a six pack is such a popular idea. If you think about it, there aren't many occasions when you can put your abs on display without looking like an absolute egomaniac, apart from the summer, on the beach. Nevertheless, having visible abdominal muscles is a merit of a strict gym regime and even more dedicated diet plan.
One difficulty working the abs is that they are high load-bearing muscles, meaning you will need to bomb them properly for them to take notice. We use our abs very often during everyday life, unlike – let's say – the lats, so lats can be worked relatively easier than abs. This means you will need to do longer sets and more reps to build an exceptional six pack.
Most of the best abs exercises for beginners below don't require much equipment and can be done at home. Saying that, you will be down on the floor for all of them, so a yoga mat could come in handy, especially if your abode has hard flooring. Also, for one of the below exercises, you will need a resistance band, and something to attach it to, which doesn't have to be pull up bar, a coat hook might do.
One item we can wholeheartedly recommend is to get a fitness watch, sometimes also called a running watch. These wearable devices track heart rate on the wrist, most usually 24/7, and can give you an accurate estimate of calories burned throughout the day and during exercising. Wearing a running watch is also a great way to keep track of your exercising efforts, too, and to analyse them later using the accompanying apps.
If you are on a budget, you can get a fitness tracker, the smaller siblings of running watches with slightly limited functionality, but they still track steps, calories and very often heart rate as well.
Want some abs? You'll find them in the kitchen.
Abs are indeed made in the gym and revealed in the kitchen. Depending on your goal, in order to make abs visible, you will need to have a fairly low body fat percentage, so if you want to the washboard on display, you might want learn how to lose weight first with keto diet and/or doing the ultimate HIIT workout.
Either way, you will need to keep an eye on your diet, especially your protein intake. Protein is one of the three macronutrients your body needs to function properly, the other two being fat and carbohydrate.
General rule of thumb is to cover most of your energy needs with good carbs like vegetables, lean meat/fish and fruits, add moderate amount protein from a variety of sources to the mix and keep fat levels at bay. Fat needs should mainly be covered by eating good fats, like avocado, oily fish, nuts, coconut oil and so on.
Of the three macronutrients, we can store two in our bodies – carbs and fats – but we can't store protein, so you will need to supply your body with protein throughout the day to aid muscle growth, recovery and weight loss. The most convenient way to take in protein is to to have a couple protein shakes a day, which is a combination of protein powder and water (or milk/milk substitute).
Protein, of course, can and should be sourced from a variety of sources, like fish, nuts, lean meat, vegetables and more. Keeping a healthy diet is equally as important as exercising, not to mention leaving enough time to rest. Overworking and under-supplying your body of key nutrients is the best way to get injured and to lose motivation fast.
If you are doing moderate exercising, you won't need loads of protein either: shoot for 1.2-1.5 grams per body kilogram per day. Assuming you are around 80-90 kilos, you won't need more than 100-135 grams of protein to cover your daily needs. One scoop of protein powder usually has 26-28 grams of protein in it, protein snacks usually have the same, add a high-protein/low-sugar yogurt and two medium size meals with some protein and you are all sorted for the day.
Make sure you also drink plenty of water, that will speed up your metabolism, protect your cells and help muscle regeneration, too.
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Best abs exercises for beginners
Before you start your workout, make sure you're all warmed up and that your heart rate is also in the right zone: roughly 50-60% of your max heart rate. Max heart rate can be calculated by subtracting your age from 220. For a 25 year old, their max heart rate is 195, for reference.
Also, try not to eat anything 30-60 minutes prior to your abs workout. Within half an hour of the finish of the workout, however, have a protein shake or a high-protein bar. And maybe a banana, too.
Important: if you are concerned or have any concerns about your workout, please consult a medical professional before you start exercising. Also, if you have difficulties with excess weight, you might want to lose weight first and then start working out with weights. Changing your diet is the best way to lose weight, whilst exercising can help you maintain weight loss and improve your cardiovasular system, all in the same time.
1. Ab crunches
Good for: getting used the abs-exercise movements
Crunches are not the best abs exercises, as it has been proved in recent years. Yet, done correctly, ab crunches can get your abdominal muscles used to contraction, priming them for 'proper' abs exercises.
We detail the correct technique in our how to do crunches article, but in essence, you will have to lay down on the floor, legs bent in a 90 percent angle, arms either on the side of the necks or crossed over on the chest. Don't have your hands behind your head and definitely don't try to pull your head with your arms. You might end up pulling your back or neck that way.
Raise your head and shoulders off the grounds, using nothing but your abs. You don't have to lift your upper body high; just high enough to activate your abs. At the beginning, try to do 30 second splits, so do 30 seconds of crunches then 30 seconds rest, three times.
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2. Kneeling ab crunches
Good for: full abdominal activation
You will need either a resistance band or a cable machine to be able to do kneeing ab crunches. If your using a resistance band, triple check if it's securely attached to the anchor point. Also, if you are working out at home, have a yoga mat laid out underneath your knees.
To get in the starting position, kneel down on the mat and grab the end of the resistance band. Hold the end of the band to the top of your head and place some of your upper body weight on the band. The band should be somewhat stretched even in the starting position.
Then, pull the band down, using your abs, without your knees lifting the ground. You want to make sure you isolate your abs and really work them hard. Follow the same pattern as above: do 30 seconds of exercising, followed by 30 seconds of rest, three times over.
Kneeling ab crunches provide a fuller range of movement and eliminate the back-strain element of regular ab crunches.
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3. Knee planks
Good for: improving posture, six pack gains
Planks are not exciting to do, we agree. In all honesty, planks are one of the most boring exercises out there, you literally do nothing else but hold your body in a fixed position. Saying that, it is one of the most challenging exercises you can do and if you ever want to know just how long 60 seconds can be, just try holding the low-plank position for that long and you'll see.
Knee planks are not difficult to perform – at least to know what you are supposed to do – just hold your body straight whilst resting your body on your knees and elbows. Hold the knee-plank position for 30 seconds and then rest for another 30, repeated twice.
Planks work your whole core and will make the middle part of your body stronger. This can come handy when sitting or standing for long periods and developed core muscles can also improve your posture as well.
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4. Lying knee raises
Good for: working lower abs
If you really want to work your abs, you will have to use your legs more. All the best abs exercises require you to move your legs, like hanging leg raises, flutter kicks, scissor kicks and mountain climbers. None of which are a beginner abs exercise, unfortunately.
There is one exercise, though, which can be done fairly easily and still works the lower abs: lying knee raises. Much like the knee-plank, the lying knee raise is the 'light' version of harder exercise, in this case the lying leg raise.
To perform a lying knee raise, lay down on your yoga mat and yourself on top of the mat, arms on the side, legs closed, body completely flat on the ground. Then, lift both legs up in the same time while bending them in the knee until your thighs are perpendicular to the ground, then let them down again.
Try lifting your legs up slower so you can activate your abs muscles for longer. Try not to lift your bum off the floor, and really focus on the abs as you elevate your legs.