The bicycle crunch is fairly easy to do, but many people get it wrong. To do it properly, lay flat on the floor and keep your lower back pressed to the ground. Rest your hands behind your head without pulling on your neck. Bring your knees up to about a 45-degree angle and slowly go through a bicycle pedal motion as pictured. First, touch your left elbow to your right knee, then your right elbow to your left knee. Perform the exercise in a slow, controlled motion. Repeat 10-25 repetitions on each side.
Then, when it comes to sculpting those abs of your dreams, it’s not as simple as doing endless crunches. “Developing a six-pack requires more than just working the ‘pretty’ muscles that you can see,” Fitzgerald says. “The deeper, transverse core muscles must be strengthened first to create a strong, solid base—without that, only doing crunches can actually make your belly stick out more. Nobody wants that.”
As they do, you should try to include at least one of the exercises described herein into your personal training program two times a week. These exercises can be made more difficult, but I seldom advise more than 10 – 20 slow reps on any of them. You should increase the resistance with these exercises rather than the reps; and if you’re working hard enough, you should only perform 2-3 sets per exercise. I would also suggest that you not perform any single exercise for more than three weeks in a row, since well-conditioned muscles adapt quickly to any exercise, and this adaptation must be minimized.
The long arm crunch is ranked the 6th most effective ab exercise, changing the traditional floor crunch by straightening the arms behind you. This adds a longer lever to the move, adding a bit more challenge and difficulty. This move also emphasizes the upper part of the abs, although it's important to remember that your rectus abdominis is actually one long muscle that travels from your lower chest to your pelvis. While you can emphasize one part, any exercise you do will work the entire muscle.
Why it made the list: There are many reasons to like leg raise variations, but one is their scalability. You can start doing bent knee raises in the Roman chair or ab straps to focus on the lower core, work up to straight leg raises, and then move to a hanging bar. By the time you can do full straight-leg toes-to-bar raises, your entire core will have strength for days.
Yuri Elkaim is one of the world’s most trusted health and fitness experts. A former pro soccer player turned NYT bestselling author of The All-Day Energy Diet and The All-Day Fat Burning Diet, his clear, science-backed advice has transformed the lives of more than 500,000 men and women and he’s on a mission to help 100 million people by 2040. Read his inspiring story, “From Soccer to Bed to No Hair on My Head” that started it all.
Why it made the list: Those infomercials got one thing right! Some EMG data suggests that using an ab wheel may beat out hanging leg raises, sit-ups, and reverse crunches for the top muscle activator. This movement capitalizes on the concept of anti-extension perfectly; as you roll out, your trunk must actively fire (eccentric motion) to maintain a neutral spine without collapsing under your body weight and gravity. Watch that you don't risk your back by allowing it to droop into extension at the bottom, though!
Do it: With your feet shoulder-width apart, lift a barbell off the rig, centering it evenly across your shoulders. (This version of the squat targets the core, not the legs, and so you should be using far less weight than you would for a traditional back squat.) Send your glutes back like you’re lowering into a chair, bending at the knees as deeply as possible. Press through your heels to return to the starting position for one rep. Do 12 reps for one set.
Lying on your back with hands either by your side or tucked under your pelvis, keep legs as straight as possible without locking them out and raise them so your heels point at the ceiling., lift your glutes off the floor and feet towards the ceiling as your twist hips to the left, feet point right, then lower, lift, and twist to the opposite side. That’s one rep and we’re already tired.
“For me, getting a six-pack was about paying attention to what I was eating and lifting heavy weights at CrossFit. I do have a semi-strict diet, and I loosely count macros (focusing on daily carbs, protein, and fat intake rather than blindly counting calories) to stay balanced and on track. It sounds like a lot of work, but it really isn’t. Eventually, it just became a part of my lifestyle, and it’s something I enjoy doing. I even started a custom meal-plan business based on macros because I had such great results!” —Tina Haupert, @carrotsncake