Today I’d like to talk about bodyweight exercises for abs.
More specifically, I have spent some time going through question and answer sites online, as well as Google.
I wanted to see what the most frequently asked questions were about abs and ab exercises.
I know you probably just want a list of exercises, and this is actually what most of the other search results will provide.
However, I must admit that I’m not in complete agreement with many of the lists of exercises you’ll find on other websites.
So, I wanted to answer a FAQs first and this will hopefully reveal some of the best bodyweight exercises for abs.
And don’t worry, I’ve still got you covered anyway – I will also include details of some of my favourite ab exercises that require nothing than your bodyweight.
Bodyweight Exercises For Abs
Can You Build Abs By Doing Sit Ups and Crunches?
I would hazard a guess that most people will typically turn to a mixture of crunches and sit ups before anything else in order to achieve those coveted 6-pack abs.
Before I go any further, PLEASE DON’T.
Whereas, sit ups and crunches were probably a staple of ab work for many years, there were those in the know who realised that this was probably the worst way to try to achieve any ab definition.
In fact, the best you can hope for from performing hundreds and thousands of crunches and sit ups (as many people do) is a bad back, and potentially a misaligned spine.
You may even add “bulk” to your midsection from all the “excess work” you are doing.
I’m not saying that crunches and sit ups won’t build any ab definition, but it’s certainly not the ideal place for most of us to start.
The vast majority of us typically have a fairly weak core, so I often think that we should work this area as a whole in order to achieve a set of toned abs.
In fact, I’ll go a far to say that you will produce far better abs through structured full-body workouts than any direct ab-training.
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Can You Build Abs Without Weights?
I was actually quite surprised to come across this question.
I wrongly assumed that most people would think that the best way to produce abs was by using my two least favourite exercises (see above).
However, it’s good to see that some people believe that using weights will help them achieve ab definition.
The abs are a muscle (or group of muscles I should say), and just like any other muscle in the body, they will react accordingly to stimulus from weight training.
With that said, it’s also important to realise that you can produce larger muscles in the body through weight training, and the same can be said for abs.
I’m guessing that most people will want sleek, sexy, toned, and defined abs, as opposed to large slabs of muscle.
So, YES, you can certainly build abs without weights, in fact I highly recommend bodyweight training for specific ab work.
But also be aware that you can also “Build Abs” that are probably undesirable to most from pumping iron if you’re not exercising correctly.
Is it Bad to Work Abs Every Day?
The abs are basically like any other muscle in the body, and therefore they do require rest in order to “grow”.
When I use the term “grow” I more specifically mean that if you want your direct ab work to show, in terms of more definition, then this is typically achieved by taking the occasional break.
So, NO, I don’t think you should work abs every day (just as I don’t think you should work any other muscle every day).
With that said, I see nothing wrong with performing exercises that activate the ab muscles on a daily basis, and exercises such as mountain climbers, inchworms, and planks can often form part of a warm up circuit.
In fact, some of my favourite “ab work” is completed when performing exercises that require the core muscles to stabilize.
A prime example of this is one of my favourite conditioning circuits to perform, which is a repetitive tri-set of goblet squats, pull ups, and burpees.
Now, I know that this very much depends on your current strength and fitness levels, whether you can complete the same workout as me, but I will frequently have a day when I perform 10 reps of each of the above 3 exercises, for a total of 10 sets.
This will mean that I have completed 100 goblet squats, 100 pull ups, and 100 burpees, 300 reps in total.
Now that is quite a “hefty” workout, which will typically take me 25-30 minutes to complete.
There is no direct ab work going on here, but each one of these exercises will force the core to stabilize and work the abs muscles anyway.
I can tell you now, even though I haven’t “worked the abs directly” in this workout, this will be one of the best overall workouts you can perform for the core muscles.
With that said, please obviously complete reps and sets of a workout like this within your own capabilities.
Will 100 Crunches a Day Do Anything?
Ah, I see, we’re back to crunches again, LOL.
I have actually come across a lot of questions like this online.
Will doing 100 (insert whatever exercise) a day do anything?
I think I’ve already made my thoughts clear about crunches, but I’ll quickly go over it again.
If someone completed 100 crunches a day, at a guess, they would notice some difference to their abs within 10-14 days, and potentially much more after 30 days.
However, the spine simply isn’t meant to be bent and scrunched up in this unnatural manner over-and-over again.
By the time you achieved 1,000, 2,000 or 3,000 crunches in this way over a period of weeks, who knows what damage you may have already done to your spine.
So, while completing 100 crunches a day may have some initial “effect” on your abs, you may have already placed irreparable damage on the spine.
Additionally, going back to the “Doing 100 reps of (any exercise)” question in general, I occasionally think this is a cop out.
More often than not, this is simply because we typically find an exercise “easy” to perform, so we would like to know what the potential results may be by repeating this over-and-over again.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure many times people will pick a particularly hard exercise and wonder what results they may produce over an extended period.
I myself have even completed “x” amount of reps of an exercise, every day, for a specific period, usually 30 days.
However, I do this more as both a physical and mental challenge, and not so much for the results I hope to achieve.
There’s nothing wrong with setting yourself challenges such as these, but my advice would be to avoid performing 100 crunches a day (or any crunches at all for that matter).
Why Are Lower Abs Harder To Get?
Oh, I like it, good question.
I guess this is true for everyone.
I’m sure we’ve all noticed that when we have spent a specific amount of time working on our abs and core in general, it’s not often too long before we start to see the top two abs start to show.
However, the lower portion of the abs (of the six-pack) seem to always take a lot more work.
In truth, the lower portion of the abs is where the body typically looks to store excess fat, and this is especially true for men.
Okay, I realise that women have to contend with stores of fat here too, but more often than not, a woman’s stores of excess fat will also make their way to the hips and thighs as well.
You can do all the lower ab work you like, but if you have excess fat in the lower abs, then the majority of this will be down to your diet.
I will also say that genetics can play a role in lower belly fat too.
However, if you’re eating the wrong types of starchy carbs and fats, this is typically where they will end up showing.
Not to put too fine a point on it, these are generally the types of foods that we all love, but that WE KNOW we shouldn’t be eating.
I’m talking – cakes, pastries, pies, fries, chips, muffins, sweets, biscuits, cookies, fried foods, etc.
Yes, there are many other foods that you should avoid if you’re looking for a set of toned abs, but simply cutting out the above could set you well on your way.
You will also need to perform more types of exercises and workouts that will burn body fat.
The best of the best will be weight training and general resistance work, plus short, sharp, and intense rounds of conditioning exercises, such as workout finishers.
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What Are The Best Bodyweight Exercises For Abs?
What you’ve been waiting for.
Now what follows is just my opinion, and what I have found works best for me (but it should also work well for anyone).
I’ve mentioned above in my conditioning circuit that focusing on full body exercises that activate the ab and core muscles, such as goblet squats, pull ups, and burpees, seem to work very well.
I will also say that I don’t often do any direct ab work, but I still have a set of toned abs (not always a 6-pack, but some definition nonetheless).
However, for me, the best bodyweight exercises for abs typically involve facing the ground.
So, this is very different from exercises such as sit ups and crunches where you are facing the ceiling, or upwards.
One of the most obvious direct ab exercises where you are facing the ground will be planks.
With that said, I also prefer to be moving in some way.
This may involve plank variations, which include the push up to elbow plank, or raised feet, toe tap planks.
I also like to incorporate a twist, so this may involve doing a side plank with reach around.
Don’t worry, I’ve included a video of some of my favourite plank variations just below.
Additionally, an exercise like the bear crawl, which is basically a moving plank (forwards, backwards, and side-to-side) is fantastic for activating and engaging the entire core.
You could also add mountain climbers to this list, and the many variations of mountain climbers.
In fact, one of my favourite mountain climber variations is what I would call a spiderman mountain climber with a twist, often lauded as the World’s Greatest Fat Burning Stretch (I’ve included another video for this just below).
For me, all these exercises involve you using the core as a whole, and also encourage fat-burning (great for the lower abs).
They strengthen the entire core area as well, which means that you don’t have to worry about potential spinal injuries most commonly associated with sit ups and crunches.
15 Must Do Plank Variations
The World’s Greatest (Fat Burning) Stretch
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How Long Does it Take to Get Six-Pack Abs?
Well the answer to this will obviously vary depending on your starting point.
If you are someone who is severely overweight, new to exercise, and have spent years eating a bad diet, you could be looking at up to a year before even noticing any considerable tone to your abs, and over two years before producing a six-pack.
Whereas, if you are someone who exercises regularly, who’s in pretty good shape, and eats sensibly most of the time, the answer could be less than a month.
So, in effect, it’s all relative.
It’s funny, but one of the most common goals in fitness I see time-and-time again is how to achieve a six-pack in 30 days.
I’m not sure if this is down to some great marketing tactics by the many ab programs that are available nowadays, or some other reason (that I’m not aware of).
However, as I say, how quickly you can achieve six-pack abs will depend on your starting point.
I have produced six-pack abs many times myself, but it’s not something I overly concern myself with.
The reason I say I have achieved this “many times” is because you typically need to have everything on-point to get six-pack abs.
You need to be doing the right amount of resistance work, conditioning work, ab and core work, as well as having your diet and nutrition sorted.
I know that many people will permanently live their lifestyle in this way, and I too have done the same for a number of years.
However, my love of food (and often bad food) may stop me from having the coveted six-pack abs all year round.
With that said, I always possess a set of toned and defined abs, it’s just not the “perfect” six-pack that we’ve come to know and love.
Six-pack abs are all about your body fat percentage.
For a woman, you’ll need to have a body fat percentage in the region of 14-20%, whereas for a man this will need to be 6-15%.
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Thank you for reading through my FAQs of bodyweight exercises for abs.
As you can see there many varied and interesting questions asked online about abs in general.
The answers I have provided are merely my opinion.
I will say that if you are looking for a set of toned, sleek, sexy, and visible abs then sit ups and crunches are not the way to go.
I believe my view on these exercises is plain for all to see.
For me, producing great abs requires various actions, which not only includes the types of exercises you are doing, but also what’s going on in the kitchen.
Thank you for reading.
Hi, I’m Partha, the founder of My Bodyweight Exercises. I’m someone who’s been passionate about exercise and nutrition for more years than I care to remember. I’ve studied, researched, and honed my skills for a number of decades now. So, I’ve created this website to hopefully share my knowledge with you. Whether your goal is to lose weight, burn fat, get fitter, or build muscle and strength, I’ve got you covered.