23 Best Bodyweight Ab Exercises to Build a Six-Pack

Developing a toned, tight midsection, ideally with visible abs, is at the top of most people’s ideal body wish list.

There is much more to the abs, however, than flashing a six-pack. Not only is this one of the hardest areas to remove fat, it’s also one of the first places where excess body fat stores itself.

Stored weight around the midsection is a major indicator of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and death. However, there is a lot you can do to refine your waistline. By combining cardio and clean nutrition with targeted abdominal exercises, you’ll be able to develop a tight, defined set of abs that is fat-free and functionally fit.

In this article, we have collected together the best bodyweight ab exercises to allow you to work your abs into subjection anywhere, anytime, and sculpt the midsection you've always wanted.

Anatomy of Your Abs

There are three muscle groups that make up the abs:

  • Transverse abdominis
  • External and internal obliques
  • Rectus abdominis

The transverse abdominis is like a corset that wraps around your torso horizontally. This muscle helps to control your posture and balance and gives shape to your waist.

The internal and external obliques sit on top of the transverse abdominis. These muscles are responsible for side to side twisting.

The rectus abdominis runs vertically down the front of the torso, allowing you to bend forward and downward. Although it is actually one long muscle, this is what we refer to as the six-pack.

When it comes to the size of your waist, there are baseline figures for both men and women. If your waist size is more than 94 cm (37 inches) for a male and 80 cm (31.5 inches) for a female, then your health is at risk.

The Importance of Cardio and Nutrition

The exercises that follow will help you to shape, tone, and strengthen your abdominals. To really get rid of the fat that is sitting around your middle, however, you will need to complement your ab workouts with cardiovascular exercise to burn off the calories. The best form of cardio for fat loss is high intensity interval training (HIIT). Studies confirm that HIIT is the best way to burn calories, boost your metabolism, and improve your cardiovascular fitness.

You also need to eat a balanced diet. By limiting your complex carbohydrate intake, upping your amount of lean protein, and getting a good supply of healthy fats, you will be supplying the nutrients that your body needs while cutting out the fat content.

8 Beginner Bodyweight Ab Exercises

Exercise #1: Bench Dip Leg Raise (Supported)

Muscles Involved:

  • Primary: Lower Abdominals
  • Secondary: Triceps

Execution method:

  • Position yourself in front of a chair with your hands on the seat of the chair behind you. Your finger should be hanging over the edge pointing down. One knee should be bent with the foot firmly planted on the floor. The other leg should be straight with the heel off the floor.
  • Raise up by straightening your arms and kicking your leg straight up. Exhale as you kick up. Lower and repeat.

Exercise #2: Bicycle

Muscles Involved:

  • Primary: Obliques
  • Secondary: Lower abdominals

Execution method:

  • Lie on the floor, face up and place your hands by your ears. Keep your legs out straight and slightly elevated.
  • Bring one knee up as you bring the opposite elbow to touch that knee. Contract your abs tightly as you come up with an exhale.
  • Alternate with the other side.

Exercise #3: Cross-Over Slides

Muscles Involved:

  • Primary: Obliques
  • Secondary: Intercostals

Execution method:

  • Lie on the floor with your weight resting on your hands as if you are about to perform the plank exercise. You need to have cloths or towels under your feet.
  • Bring one knee up and across to the opposite side, keeping your leg straight throughout. Return and repeat with the other side. Exhale as you kick the leg out.

Note: Do this exercise on a sliding surface such as a polished floor.

Exercise #4: Double Knee Slides

Muscles Involved:

  • Primary: Obliques
  • Secondary: Intercostals

Execution method:

  • Lie on the floor with your weight resting on your hands as if you are about to perform the plank exercise. You need to have cloths or towels under your feet.
  • Bring both feet across your body as far as you can and extending them to the opposite side. Exhale as you kick to the side. Keep your shoulders up over your hands throughout.
  • Repeat with the other side.

Note: Do this exercise on a sliding surface such as a polished floor.

Exercise #5: Knee To Elbow

Muscles Involved:

  • Primary: Obliques
  • Secondary: Triceps

Execution method:

  • Lie on the floor with your weight resting on your hands as if you are about to perform the plank exercise
  • Drive one knee up to the opposite elbow. Exhale with the crunch, squeezing to get the knee as high as possible.
  • Alternate with the other side.

Exercise #6: Leg Raise

Muscles Involved:

  • Primary: Lower abdominals
  • Secondary: Upper abdominals

Execution method:

  • Lie face up on the floor, placing your hands at your sides and legs out straight.
  • Lift your legs a few feet off the ground. Now drive your thighs up to your chest.
  • In the top position, rotate your hips upward. Now lower to the ground, but keep your feet just off the ground in the bottom position.

Exercise #7: Pike Slide

Muscles Involved:

  • Primary: Upper abdominals
  • Secondary: Front deltoids

Execution method:

  • Assume the plank position with your hands directly below your shoulders. You need to have cloths or towels under your feet.
  • As you exhale, bring your straight legs up to your hands, with your hips driving into the air. Keep the core tight throughout.

Note: Do this exercise on a sliding surface such as a polished floor.

Exercise #8: Pilates Leg Pull

Muscles Involved:

  • Primary: Lower abdominals
  • Secondary: Triceps

Execution method:

  • Sit upright on the floor with your feet directly in front of you. Put your hands behind you with palms on the floor, fingers facing toward your body.
  • Straighten your arms so that your body is in a reverse plank position.
  • Keeping your legs straight, exhale as you raise a leg. Focus on squeezing your glutes and push down firmly with your arms.
  • Alternate with the other leg.

7 Intermediate Bodyweight Ab Exercises

Exercise #9: Pilates Side Hip Raise

Muscles Involved:

  • Primary: Obliques
  • Secondary: Intercostals

Execution method:

  • Lay on your side with your knees bent behind you. Your torso should be resting on just one elbow. The other hand should be on your hips. Your upper torso down to your knees should form a straight line.
  • Lift the hip up off the ground, pushing as high as you can as you exhale.
  • Lower back down but don’t allow your hip to touch the ground. Push back up to move into the next rep.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Exercise #10: Plank Crawl

Muscles Involved:

  • Primary: Lower abdominals
  • Secondary: Upper abdominals

Execution method:

  • Assume a forearm plank position with a straight body and tight core.
  • Take small steps with the toes and forearms to move forward, sideways, and backward.

Exercise #11: Reaching Oblique Crunches

Muscles Involved:

  • Primary: Obliques
  • Secondary: Intercostals

Execution method:

  • Assume a normal crunch position with hands touching the sides of your head.
  • Crunch up as you reach one hand across to the opposite ankle. Exhale as you crunch up.
  • Return to the start position.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Exercise #12: Reverse Crunch

Muscles Involved:

  • Primary: Lower abdominals
  • Secondary: Intercostals

Execution method:

  • Lie in front of a chair with your hands grabbing the chair legs behind you. Draw your legs up with knees bent and feet elevated.
  • Crunch your abs back toward your chest. Bring your tailbone off the ground, exhaling as you draw the legs up.

Exercise #13: Scorpion Reach

Muscles Involved:

  • Primary: Obliques
  • Secondary: Front deltoids

Execution method:

  • Lie on the floor with your weight resting on your hands as if you are about to perform the plank exercise.
  • Move your left knee across and up toward your right elbow.
  • Kick the leg back and up in the air, reaching it across the body to form a triangle with the body.
  • Come back down to return the knee to the opposite elbow.

Exercise #14: Table Reaches

Muscles Involved:

  • Primary: Obliques
  • Secondary: Upper abdominals

Execution method:

  • Lay on your back with hands at your sides. Your feet should be flat on the ground with knees up.
  • Roll to one side, lifting your hips off the ground as you reach your hand across as far as you can. Exhale as you reach across.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Exercise #15: Sprinter Set

Muscles Involved:

  • Primary: Upper abdominals
  • Secondary: Obliques

Execution method:

  • Lay down on your back, completely stretched out with hands over head.
  • Sit up as fast as you can, drawing one knee up to your chest.
  • Hold the top pose for a second, strongly contracting your abs before returning to the start position.
  • Alternate with the other side.

8 Advanced Bodyweight Ab Exercises

Exercise #16: Side Plank Thrust

Muscles Involved:

  • Primary: Obliques
  • Secondary: Intercostals

Execution method:

  • Assume a side plank position, kicking your legs out straight with one leg on top of the other. Your body should be supported by one forearm and the side of one foot.
  • Lift your hips high into the air as high as possible, squeezing your obliques tightly.
  • Lower back down to the mat and then push the hips back up.
  • Repeat with the other side.

Exercise #17: T-Side Plank

Muscles Involved:

  • Primary: Obliques
  • Secondary: Deltoids

Execution method:

  • Assume a side plank position, but rather than resting on one forearm, place your bottom hand on the floor, palm down.
  • Your other hand should be lifted directly overhead. Tighten the entire core area as you maintain a perfect “T” position. To make the exercise more challenging, raise your top leg to form an “X” position.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Exercise #18: Toe Taps

Muscles Involved:

  • Primary: Upper abdominals
  • Secondary: Obliques

Execution method:

  • Lie on your back with your legs in the air and spread wide in a “V” shape.
  • Place your hands together and reach across to first one ankle and then the other. Exhale as you reach across. Keep your chin off your chest at all times.

Exercise #19: Twist

Muscles Involved:

  • Primary: Obliques
  • Secondary: Lower abdominals

Execution method:

  • Sit on the floor with your feet in the air and your torso forming a “V” shape with the lower body.
  • Clasp your hands together, moving them across to touch the floor on one side and then the other. Try to touch the ground on each side, keeping your feet up as you do so.

Exercise #20: Vertical Leg Crunch

Muscles Involved:

  • Primary: Upper abdominals
  • Secondary: Lower abdominals

Execution method:

  • Lie on the floor with your arms at right angles to your body and your straightened legs sticking directly up. Your feet should be touching one another.
  • Exhale as you crunch up to reach to the toes. Keep the legs as straight up as possible. Keep the chin off the chest.

Exercise #21: L-Sit

Muscles Involved:

  • Primary: Lower abdominals
  • Secondary: Triceps

Execution method:

  • Sit upright with your feet straight out in front of you and arms pushing into the floor, with fingers facing forward.
  • Keeping your entire body tense, straighten your arms as you lift your lower body a few inches of the floor.
  • Hold for the required length of time.

Exercise #22: Hanging Windshield Wipers

Hanging Abdominal Windshield Wipers

Muscles Involved:

  • Primary: Obliques
  • Secondary: Intercostals

Execution method:

  • Hang from a pull-up bar, grabbing the handles at a distance of about 8 inches apart. Hang with your arms at full extension and bring your hips and legs up so that your body is in an “L” shape with your feet in the air above the level of the bar.
  • Now move from the hip joint to bring your feet down to the left as far as you can, and then across to the right as far as you can. You will be simulating the movement of car windshield wipers.

Exercise #23: Dragon Flag

Dragon Flag Progressions - BH Bars (Tutorial)

Muscles Involved:

  • Primary: Lower abdominals
  • Secondary: Intercostals

Execution method:

  • Lie on a flat bench, grabbing the edges of it with your hands above your head. Straighten out and tense your entire body.
  • Bring your body up into the air, keeping your legs straight and shoulder blades down. Come up until your body forms an angle of about 70 degrees. Your body, from shoulders to toes, should form a straight line.
  • Slowly lower your body until your feet are a few inches from the ground. Repeat.

Conclusion

The abdominals are the ideal body part to work without equipment. By progressing through the best bodyweight ab exercises featured here, you will be able to craft a strong core. This will enable you to perform all of your physical tasks more effectively. Be sure to regularly perform HIIT cardio and to keep your nutrition on point and you will soon be carving out the abs that you’ve always wanted.

Have we got your favorite ab move covered in our best bodyweight ab exercises? If not, add it in the comments section below!

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