6 Best At-Home Ab Workouts to Tone & Strengthen Your Core

Plus, nutrition tips to support your workouts.

Best ab workouts2
By January 30, 2023

A lot of people may dream of having a six pack, or even just flattening their stomach pooch slightly, but don't know where to start to get results. Is it really as simple as doing 100 crunches a day? Or do you need a gym membership and a certified personal trainer?

If you’ve been wondering how to tone and strengthen your abs in the most effective way, we’ve got you covered. We've compiled a list of the best ab workouts you can do. The best part? You can do them all from home.

Can I Really Build Abs at Home?

Yes, it's definitely possible! You don’t need a gym or a personal trainer to achieve your core goals. You can execute strength training ab exercises from the comfort of your own home with great results, and little to no equipment required.

The most efficient ab exercises are those that are executed properly, so make sure you understand the proper form needed for the exercises below (regardless of your location).

6 At-Home Ab Exercises That Actually Work

We've rounded up a list of good core exercises for abs that are effective and will help you build a strong abdominal foundation.

Abs Workout 1: Side Plank

We definitely recommend trying a traditional plank first, before moving on to the side plank position.

  1. Grab a yoga or exercise mat and lie down on the mat on your right side.
  2. From this starting position, your forearm should be flat on the floor and your elbow should be right under your shoulder.
  3. Your legs should be stretched out along the length of your mat, and your feet should be stacked on top of one another.
  4. Push yourself up onto your right arm, being mindful of how high you raise your hips (they should be roughly centered) while engaging your entire core and glute muscles as you lift your hips off the floor.
  5. At this point, your body should be in a straight line. Hold for your desired amount of time, slowly lower yourself, and repeat for your desired number of reps.
  6. Repeat the exercise on the opposite side. Beginners should start with 1 set per side for 10 to 15 seconds. To increase the difficulty, add more sets or more time.
Side plank

Abs Workout 2: Elbow Crunch Plank

An elbow crunch plank is a great way to add an extra challenge to your ab exercises once you’ve mastered the traditional plank and side plank.

  1. Grab a yoga or exercise mat and get into a plank position.
  2. Beginning with your right leg, engage your core and lift your right foot while drawing your right knee up towards the outside of your right arm. Avoid twisting your body and be sure to engage your core.
  3. Put your right foot back down into normal plank position and repeat the move on your left side.
  4. Repeat for your desired number of sets with your left leg. Beginners should start with 3 sets, rotating right and left, for as many reps in 15 seconds. To increase the difficulty, add more sets or more time.
Elbow crunch plank

Abs Workout 3: Bicycle Crunches

Bicycle crunches are a fairly low-impact exercise, but research has shown they are one of the most effective ab exercises you can do.

  1. Grab a yoga mat and lie on your back with your legs straight out and your arms at your sides.
  2. Place your hands behind your head and lift your shoulder blades off the mat.
  3. Raise your knees off the mat so they’re bent at roughly a 90-degree angle.
  4. Engage your core and alternate extending your knees, as if you’re pedaling an imaginary bicycle.
  5. With each imaginary pedal, twist your core to touch your elbow to the opposite knee each time. Remember to slowly extend your knees to engage your core — if you "pedal" too fast the workout won't be as effective.
  6. Repeat until failure.
Bicycle crunches

Abs Workout 4: Glute Bridges

Glute bridges are also low-impact and pretty attainable for the average beginner. The next time you're watching TV, do some during the ad breaks.

  1. Grab a yoga or exercise mat and lie flat on your back with your legs extended straight out and your arms at your sides.
  2. Bend your knees and place your feet shoulder width apart flat on your mat so your heels are just underneath your knees.
  3. Engage your core by pressing your lower back into the mat.
  4. Lift up your body but keep your head and shoulders on the mat. Engage your core and glutes as you push upwards.
  5. Hold the position briefly, then lower your body back onto the mat.
  6. Repeat for your desired number of sets. Beginners should aim for 4 sets of 15 reps. Increase sets and reps to increase difficulty.
Glute bridges

Abs Workout 5: Russian Twist

This exercise helps particularly when it comes to balance. It might be challenging to get the hang of at first, but you'll find it gets easier the stronger your core muscles become.

  1. Grab a yoga or exercise mat and sit with your legs extended out in front of you.
  2. Place your feet so they’re flat on the floor, then raise them slightly off the mat while bending your knees.
  3. Engage your core and interlock your fingers. Begin rotating the trunk of your body while bringing your elbow down toward the floor on each side of your body.
  4. Continue to keep your legs bent and raised as you complete your desired number of reps. Beginners can do 3 sets of 10 reps and increase as needed.
Russian twist

Abs Workout 6: Reverse Crunches

While a typical crunch is effective, a reverse crunch is great for working the transverse abdominal muscles (aka lower belly fat).

  1. Grab a yoga or exercise mat and lie flat on your back with your legs extended out straight and your arms at your sides.
  2. Place your feet flat on the floor, shoulder width apart so your heels are just underneath your knees, like the starting position for a glute bridge.
  3. With your knees bent and your abs engaged, raise your legs in and up toward your torso and the ceiling above you.
  4. Lower your feet toward the mat but don’t touch the mat with your feet — allow them to hover just above the mat — then raise them again in the same motion.
  5. Repeat for your desired number of reps. Beginners can start with one set of 12 reps and increase as needed.
Reverse crunch

Benefits of Ab Exercises

Ab exercises provide a number of health benefits. Strengthening your core can help improve your posture, balance, and stability. Good posture is important to avoid serious or chronic back pain (especially as you age). Balance and stability is important not only for day-to-day activities, but it can help improve your overall fitness performance with other sports and exercises.

Can Ab Exercises Help Me Lose Weight?

It’s important to note that ab exercises alone will not help you lose weight. If you're looking to reduce your body fat percentage, you need to do more. Working your abs will help strengthen your core muscles, training abs alone is not effective in decreasing abdominal fat, per a 2011 study.

While a strong core is important for your overall wellbeing, that’s why it’s so important to incorporate strength training and cardio exercises into your regular fitness routine, in addition to proper nutrition, for the best results.

What Are the Best Abdominal Exercises for Women?

Whether you're a man looking for washboard abs or a woman looking to flatten her stomach pooch post-pregnancy, abs are abs. That means whatever exercises are good for abdominal muscles are good for both men and women. If the suggestions above aren't cutting it for you, and you're looking for more, here's another list of ab exercises to consider:

How Often Should I Do an Ab Workout?

For best results, and to avoid injury, train your abs two to three times per week. Any more and you may risk your progress if you sustain an injury that sidelines you for some time.

Dos & Don'ts When Training Your Core

Don’t expect to get six pack abs from crunches alone! The best ab workouts for beginners require more than just one repetitive motion, so incorporate the above at-home abs exercises into your routine to work both your upper abs and lower abs for best results.

Do watch your diet. The most effective abdominal exercises alone will not help you reach your goals, what you eat matters, too! Limit your intake of sugary drinks, fried foods, and simple carbs when trying to tone your abs, as these types of foods can interfere with your progress when training your core.

Do give yourself a rest day. No matter how much you want a strong core, you don’t have to train your abs every single day! Doing so can lead to strain, and if you injure yourself, you risk not being able to meet your goals within your desired timeline.

Do other training. Even when trying to achieve the best abs, remember, it’s important to work in other types of training at the same time. Aerobic exercise, like running or biking, and training other muscle groups, like your upper body and lower body, are essential even when you’re focusing on your core.

Don’t forget to stretch before and after your workout! Stretching helps loosen your muscles to prepare them for exercise and ensures proper cool down for recovery.

Recommended Equipment for Ab Workouts

While most of the exercises we’ve shared above require little to no equipment, some basic home equipment can help you enhance your workouts — and provide a bit more of a challenge as you begin to build your strength.

Here’s what we recommend:

  1. yoga mat. Most of the above exercises require you to lay on the floor, and a yoga mat will help take strain and pressure off both your upper body and lower back while you’re lying down.
  2. A few dumbbells. Once you get the hang of the abs workouts above, challenge yourself by incorporating dumbbells. Try a weighted glute bridge, for example, by placing a dumbbell on your hip bones and use your hands to hold the weight on either side as you raise your hips. When adding weights to an exercise, remember to always start out light! Another alternative for adding weight to your workouts is a weight plate.
  3. A stability ball. If you want to challenge yourself, level up your basic, traditional crunch! Add a little bit more difficulty into your routine by using a stability ball to help build a strong core.

Nutrition Tips to Support Your Ab Workouts

Your nutrition is key when it comes to achieving your fitness goals, including abs, and what you eat is just as important as having a regular exercise routine.

In order to achieve your goals, keep these basic nutrition tips in mind.

What to Eat

Pile your plate with fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats. Protein and lean meats are also very important when it comes to building muscle. You'll want to make sure you're eating about one gram of protein per pound of body weight every day. So, if you weigh 150 pounds you should aim to eat 150 grams of protein daily.

It can be difficult to get enough protein from just things like meat, beans, and nuts alone. Remember that foods like cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, and quinoa also have a lot of protein. Try adding a protein shake to your daily routine too (this is especially great as a pre- or post-workout snack). Check out these delicious smoothie recipes from some of Playbook's top creators.

What to Avoid

You should be limiting your intake of anything processed. This means trying your best to limit items like soda, chips, fast food, and packaged sweets. You should also avoid simple carbs like white bread or pasta, and instead opt for the whole wheat and whole grain alternatives.

Take a Nutrition 101 Course

The information above is a basic overview. There is so much more information out there when it comes to nutrition — how to count your macros, understanding nutrients and serving sizes, and more. Playbook has developed a multi-series nutrition course on the app designed to help you understand the fundamentals and use that to reach your goals, whatever they may be. If you're already an app subscriber, you can check it out here. Or, sign up for the app here to get started today.

Do I Need to Take Supplements When I Exercise?

Not necessarily.

While supplements are not necessary, incorporating the following ones into your routine may help you achieve the results you desire:

  • Whey protein powder stimulates muscle growth while also helping you feel fuller for longer, so you may find you’re hungry less frequently. Consume whey protein after a workout for best results.
  • Casein protein powder is another great protein option, but it takes longer to “feed” your muscles and is digested slowly, so it’s a great option to take before bed rather than right after your workout.
  • CLA or conjugated linoleic acid helps your body burn fat for energy, so consider adding a supplement to your routine to increase lean muscle mass while strengthening your core with the workouts above.

As always, you should consult your doctor or a medical professional before adding a new supplement into your diet. This article is for informational purposes only and does not serve as medical advice.

Playbook's Favorite Ab Workouts

There are so many Playbook creators who have core training workouts. Whether it's a full-length strength training abs exercises or a quick 10-minute core burn, you can find a workout that fits your needs and your style.

Here are just some of our favorites you can check out:

  1. Dana Linn Bailey's Abs Workouts
  2. FitGurlMel's Core-Focused Workouts
  3. Juli Bauer Roth's Core Workouts
  4. Juice & Toya's Ab Workouts
  5. Chanel DeLisser's Sexy & Toned Abs

All of these ab exercises can be done from just about anywhere — so whether you’re traveling and on the go, don’t have access to a gym, or simply prefer to workout from the comfort of your own home, you have the best abs workouts to strengthen that core!

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