Quick and easy ab exercises circuit to improve your core

What are the best ab exercises to flatten your abs and improve tone? Is it crunches, plank, Pilates, oblique curls, stability board, ab cradle … the list goes on. In fact, there’s no one “best” exercise to work the abs. The abdominal muscles consist of several layers, which all carry out different roles in movement and stability. The more variety in your choice of ab exercises, therefore, the more thoroughly you will work all of these layers. This ab exercises circuit is designed to make sure all the muscle layers are worked.

Ab exercises circuit

Different types of ab exercises for the different layers

This 10 minute circuit has 6 different exercises so that all the layers get worked:

Crunch and reverse crunch for the top layer (6 pack)

The top layer of abdominal muscles carries out movements which bring the upper and lower body together. If you lie on the floor and do crunches, then you make them work against gravity. The ordinary crunch works the top half of the “6 pack” and the reverse crunch works the bottom half.

Oblique curls and Russian twist for the middle layers

The internal and external oblique muscles are the ones we use for bending and twisting movements. Although not as obvious as the 6-pack, definition in these muscles does show. The obliques also play a part in pelvic stability and therefore contribute to flat abs.

Plank hold and single leg stretch for the deepest layer

The deepest of the 4 layers, the transverse abdominis (TA), is the muscle that plays the biggest part in pulling the abdominal area in flat and stabilising the pelvis. Ab exercises which work this layer are ones in which the TA has to work hard at keeping the pelvis stable.

Ab exercises circuit – instructions

Ideally, you should use an exercise mat for this workout. If you don’t have a mat, make sure you are lying on something that will cushion your spine. See an exercise mat buying guide here.

Make sure you follow all the technique points below, because technique is important to get good results from core training. Also, please see these general exercise guidelines.

Exercise chart

Complete 3 full circuits – that is, do all 6 exercises for the number of reps given, then start again and repeat twice more. Exercise instructions are below the chart.

Ab exercises circuit chart

Exercise instructions

The Russian twist exercise will be more effective if you do it with a weight. You can use a single hand weight or a kettlebell.  A weight between 2-5lb (1-2kg) is a good level to start at. See a hand weight buying guide here and a kettlebell buying guide here.

Basic crunch

ab exercises circuit - Reverse crunch

Oblique crunch

Russian twist

ab exercises circuit - Single leg stretch

Elbow plank

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