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Top 10 Core Exercises For 6 Pack Abs

If you’re reading this, you’re probably after that chiselled midsection that everyone dreams of but few actually attain. 

We’ve all seen the Instagram influencers and fitness models flaunting their six-pack abs and thought, “Why can’t that be me?” 

Well, good news: it can be

I’ve been in the fitness industry for over 15 years and let me tell you, achieving a killer set of abs isn’t as elusive as it seems. It just takes the right blend of exercises, nutrition, and good old-fashioned grit.

Forget about those ineffective crunches or that dusty old Ab Roller lurking in your garage. 

In this article, we’re going to dive into the top 10 core exercises that will actually deliver results. From planks to mountain climbers, these are the exercises that have not only worked for my clients but for me as well.

So buckle up, because we’re about to turn that beer belly into a washboard.

Read our Medical Disclaimer before starting any exercises.

Anatomy Of The Core

Abs anatomy illustration

Understanding the anatomy of the core is crucial if you’re serious about crafting those six-pack abs. I’ve seen plenty of people in the gym aimlessly working out, thinking that any ab exercise is a good one. That’s not how it works, folks! 

To target the core effectively, you need to know what you’re working with. Here’s a quick anatomy lesson for you.

Rectus Abdominis

This is the muscle everyone thinks of when we talk about a ‘six-pack.’ It runs down the front of your abdomen and is responsible for the ‘crunching’ motion. When this muscle is well-developed and you’ve shed enough belly fat, hello six-pack!

Obliques

There are actually two types here: internal and external obliques. These are situated on the sides of your abdomen.

They’re the muscles you use when you’re twisting or turning your body. A toned set of obliques can really make that six-pack pop and give you that coveted V-shape.

Transversus Abdominis

This is the unsung hero of a solid core. Situated beneath the rectus abdominis and obliques, it acts like a natural weight belt, stabilising your lower back and pelvis.

Trust me, you’ll want to work this muscle to not only look good but feel good too.

Erector Spinae

These are the muscles that run along your spine. While not a ‘core’ muscle in the way that most people think of them, a strong set of erector spinae will help with overall core stability.

Plus, it helps you maintain good posture, which is essential for showing off that six-pack you’re going to get.

In a nutshell, you can’t just focus on one of these muscle groups and expect six-pack magic. 

You’ll need to target all of these areas with a well-rounded exercise regimen. And that’s exactly what we’ll cover next.

Best 10 Core Exercises 

You want that six-pack and you want it now. But with so many exercises out there, which ones should you be focusing on?

Here are my top three go-to core exercises for achieving that ripped midsection.

1. Planks

Plank illustration

Look, I get it. Planks might seem boring or basic, but I swear by them. Why? Because they engage your entire core, not just the rectus abdominis, but also your obliques and even that hidden gem, the transversus abdominis. 

Planks are perfect for beginners and advanced gym-goers alike. Trust me, if you think planks are easy, you’re probably not doing them correctly.

How to do it: 

  1. Get into a push-up position but rest on your forearms. 
  2. Keep your body in a straight line from your head to your heels. 
  3. Hold for as long as possible, aiming for at least 30 seconds to start.

2. Russian Twists

Russian twist illustration

If you want to hit those obliques and make that V-shape stand out, Russian Twists are your best friend.

I love this exercise because it adds a dynamic, rotational element that many other ab exercises lack.

I often use a medicine ball or a dumbbell for added resistance. And don’t worry, this isn’t just for the pros; just adjust the weight and even beginners can get in on the action.

How to do it:

  1. Sit down and lean back slightly, keeping your back straight. 
  2. Hold a weight with both hands. 
  3. Rotate your torso to each side, touching the weight to the floor beside your hip.

3. Hanging Leg Raises

Hanging leg raises

This is my personal favourite and let me tell you, it’s a killer. This move targets the lower section of the rectus abdominis, which is often the most stubborn area to tone. 

The hanging position adds an extra stability challenge, engaging that all-important transversus abdominis. This exercise might be a bit tricky for complete beginners but, with some practice, anyone can master it.

How to do it:

  1. Hang from a pull-up bar with your arms fully extended. 
  2. Keeping your legs straight or slightly bent, raise them towards your chest, then lower them back down.

4. Bicycle Crunches

Crunches illustration

This one’s an all-rounder and, in my opinion, criminally underrated. Bicycle crunches are fab because they engage both the rectus abdominis and the obliques. 

That twisting motion is money for targeting those side muscles and adding depth to your six-pack. They’re accessible for almost everyone, from beginners to seasoned pros.

How to do it:

  1. Lie flat on the floor, hands behind your head. 
  2. Bring your knees to your chest and lift your head off the ground. 
  3. Rotate your torso, touching your right elbow to your left knee, then alternate.

5. Cable Woodchop

Now, this one’s a bit more specialised, but don’t let that deter you. I love cable woodchops because they’re a functional exercise that mimics real-world movements, and they blast your obliques like nothing else. 

Plus, they engage the transversus abdominis, which, as you know, is key for overall core strength.

How to do it: 

  1. Stand beside a cable machine, grip the handle with both hands, and set it to chest height. 
  2. With arms fully extended, pull the handle across your body diagonally to the opposite hip, while rotating your torso.

6. Dead Bug

Dead bug

Don’t laugh at the name; this exercise is a sleeper hit for core stability. It’s fantastic for engaging the deeper core muscles, specifically the transversus abdominis. 

I’ve got a soft spot for the Dead Bug because it’s low-impact and perfect for those who might be nursing back issues or are new to core training.

How to do it: 

  1. Lie on your back, arms extended towards the ceiling and knees bent at 90 degrees. 
  2. Slowly lower your right arm and left leg simultaneously.
  3. Keeping your lower back pressed to the floor, then return to the start position and switch sides.

7. Swiss Ball Rollout

Swiss ball rollout

I’m a huge fan of this exercise. The instability of the Swiss ball makes your core work overtime to keep you balanced.

It’s a fantastic way to engage both the rectus abdominis and the transversus abdominis.

Plus, it’s gentler on the back compared to some other exercises, making it a good choice for those with back concerns.

How to do it:

  1. Kneel in front of a Swiss ball and place your forearms on it. 
  2. Slowly roll the ball away from you by extending your arms, then pull it back.

8. Mountain Climbers

Mountain climbers illustration

This exercise is gold. Not only does it work your entire core, but it also gets your heart rate up, making it a great choice for those looking to get some cardio in while working on their six-pack.

Your rectus abdominis, obliques, and transversus abdominis all get a piece of the action.

How to do it: 

  1. Start in a plank position. 
  2. Drive one knee towards your chest and then quickly switch legs, as if you’re running.

9. Reverse Crunch

Reverse crunches illustration

This one’s a killer for the lower abs, an area that can be notoriously difficult to target. I love reverse crunches because they take the focus away from the hip flexors and place it squarely on that lower rectus abdominis.

If you’re struggling to tone that lower belly, this is your move.

How to do it:

  1. Lie on your back with your hands beside you or under your hips for support. 
  2. Lift your legs so your thighs are perpendicular to the floor. 
  3. Curl your hips off the floor towards your chest, then lower them back down.

10. Ab Wheel Rollouts

I’m not gonna lie; this exercise is tough, but oh-so rewarding. An ab wheel rollout challenges your entire core, especially the rectus abdominis and transversus abdominis. 

It also requires quite a bit of upper body strength, so it’s best for those who’ve got a bit of gym experience. However, if you’re new to this, you can start on your knees and work your way up.

In my opinion, this is the exercise that separates the men from the boys, or the women from the girls, when it comes to core strength.

Master this, and you’re pretty much a core demigod. It’s the final piece of the puzzle, the icing on the cake, the… you get the idea.

How to do it: 

  1. Kneel on the floor holding an ab wheel. 
  2. Slowly roll the wheel forward, extending your body into a straight line. 
  3. Then roll the wheel back to return to your starting position.

Example Core Workout

Now that we’ve gone through the essentials, it’s time to piece it all together into a practical workout. This isn’t just a random collection of exercises; it’s a targeted plan that I’ve found to be extremely effective in my years in the fitness industry. 

So without further ado, let’s dive into the core workout that could very well be your game-changer.

Planks

Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute

2 sets

Russian Twists

15 reps each side

3 sets

Mountain Climbers

20 reps each leg

3 sets

Swiss Ball Rollout

10 to 15 reps

3 sets

Reverse Crunch

12 to 15 reps

3 sets

Start with planks to activate your entire core. This will prime your muscles for the rest of the workout. Then, move into Russian Twists to hit those obliques early on. 

Mountain Climbers are next to add some cardio and further engage the core.

Follow these with Swiss Ball Rollouts; by this point, your core will be fired up, making the instability of the Swiss ball even more challenging. 

Finally, wrap it up with Reverse Crunches to target those lower abs.

Rest for 30 to 60 seconds between sets, but try not to go over that. The goal is to keep the core engaged throughout the entire workout.

Trust me, this workout is a recipe for a rock-hard six-pack. It’s a balanced approach that targets every key muscle group, and it’s scalable based on your fitness level.

Core Exercises FAQ

Over the years, I’ve heard a tonne of questions about core exercises, and I bet you’ve got a few of your own.

Let’s address some of the most commonly asked questions to put your mind at ease and set you on the path to that chiseled midsection.

Q: Do I need to do core exercises every day to see results?

In my experience, quality trumps quantity. Overtraining your core can lead to muscle fatigue and even injury, which is counterproductive.

Aim for 3-4 times a week, focusing on different aspects of the core to keep things balanced.

Q: Can I get a six-pack just by doing core exercises?

I hate to break it to you, but no, core exercises alone won’t give you a six-pack. Diet plays a massive role; you’ve got to lower your body fat percentage to make those muscles visible.

Combine core exercises with cardiovascular workouts and a balanced diet, and you’ll be well on your way.

Q: How long will it take to start seeing results?

Ah, the million-pound question. The truth is, it varies from person to person, depending on factors like starting point, workout intensity, and diet.

However, most people can expect to see some noticeable improvement in core strength and stability within 4-6 weeks of consistent, targeted training.

Q: Are core exercises safe for people with lower back pain?

Exercise caution here. Some core exercises can exacerbate lower back issues, so it’s essential to consult with a healthcare provider for personalised advice.

That said, exercises like planks and the Dead Bug are generally considered low-impact and may even help strengthen the muscles that support your back.

Best Core Exercises: Summary

There we have it, folks—your comprehensive guide to the 10 best core exercises for sculpting that envy-inducing six-pack. 

From the anatomy of the core to a curated workout routine and even tackling your FAQs, we’ve left no stone unturned in this core-ography (see what I did there?).

Remember, consistency is key.

You can’t expect to see those chiselled abs overnight. But with dedication, the right exercises, and a bit of nutritional savvy, you’re well on your way to making waves at the beach, or just feeling more confident in your own skin.

This isn’t just a random selection of exercises. These are moves that I’ve seen work wonders over the years, both for myself and countless others. 

Integrate these into your workout routine, and you’re not just building a six-pack, but a stronger, more functional core that will benefit you in daily life and other physical activities.

So, why wait? Your six-pack journey starts now. Trust me, future you, with that killer core, will thank you.

Medical Disclaimer

Medical Disclaimer: The content on this fitness website is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended as, nor should it be considered a substitute for, professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult with a qualified healthcare professional before starting or changing any exercise, diet, or wellness program, particularly if you are pregnant, nursing, have any pre-existing medical conditions, or are taking medications.

Illustrations © Lio Putra | Dreamstime.com

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