4 Best Exercises for Ripped Abs and a Lean Stomach

Getting a set of six-pack abs is as much about dieting as it is exercise, since no one will be able to see the results of your workouts if your stomach is covered by a layer of fat, warns the experts at Bodybuilding.com. Cut out white bread, soft drinks and other empty carbohydrates, suggests Muscle & Fitness magazine, and increase the amount of protein you eat. Men’s Health magazine recommends aiming for a gram of protein for every pound of body weight. Then, pair your ab-friendly diet with ab exercises that various exercise publications and research studies have identified as being some of the best for your washboard stomach.

But don’t waste your time on inefficient exercises. Fitness professionals and exercise experts have identified some of the best movements to get you a lean, strong core. Your new, ripped torso is just a few crunches away!

Hanging Knee Raises

While you may think of your pullup bar as reserved for just shoulder and chest development, Men’s Fitness magazine notes that doing knee raises on a pullup bar ranks as “the most effective abdominal workout there is.” Grab a pullup bar with your hands spaced just slightly wider than your shoulders. From this neutral hanging position, tighten and contract your core while raising your knees toward your chest as high as you can go. Pause, then slowly uncurl and straighten your body into a neutral hanging position.

One-Hand Bicep Dumbbell Presses

Bicep presses work your chest to build impressive pecs, but make one slight change and you’ll also target your abs for what Men’s Health magazine calls one of the best ways to “chisel your core.” Lie down on a bench just as you would if you were doing a traditional dumbbell bench press, holding a dumbbell in each hand. However, instead of pushing both dumbbells into the air, keep your left dumbbell in the starting position and push the right dumbbell up in the air until your right arm is straight. Pause, then slowly lower your right hand back down toward your chest and repeat for your left hand. In essence, you’re splitting a traditional dumbbell bench press into two moves instead of one. This lopsided, weighted movement works your abdominal muscles as they try to stabilize your body, and Men’s Health says you “won’t believe how hard your abs and glutes contract.”

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Isometric Crunches

Isometric workouts, involving holding a tense muscle group in one position for a few seconds, are one of the top seven ways to develop abdominal muscles, according to Muscle & Fitness magazine. One of the best examples is the isometric, or static, crunch. (Reference 6) Perform a crunch as you normally would, lying on your back on a mat or towel. At the peak of the traditional crunch movement, pause. While keeping your abs contracted with your belly button sucked down toward your spine, hold the position for 30 seconds. Once this time is up, try to bring your torso up even higher and pause for another 30 seconds before relaxing and lying down completely.

Air Bicycle

In a study commissioned by the American Council on Exercise, researchers found that the bicycle maneuver engaged the abs even more than stereotypical ab workouts, such as traditional crunches. Lie down on your back with your thighs pointing in the air, perpendicular to the ground, and your calves parallel to the ground. (Reference 8) Clasp your hands behind your head, elbows out, and bring your right knee in and toward your left shoulder while slightly straightening your left leg. Repeat for the opposite side of your body, creating a movement that makes you look like you’re pedaling a bicycle in the air.


1. Bodybuilding.com: 5 Big Fat Six-Pack Abs Lies

2. Men’s Health: Sculpt Rock-Hard Abs in 5 Steps

3. Muscle & Fitness: 7 Tips for Sharp Abs

4. Men’s Fitness: What Women Want in a Man – Her Favorite Body Parts

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5. Men’s Health: The Chest Exercise That Works Your Abs

6. Men’s Fitness: Want Beach-Ready Abs This Summer?

7. American Council on Exercise: New Study Puts the Crunch on Ineffective Ab Exercises

8. Shape: Bicycle Maneuver