The 16 Best Core, Ab And Six-Pack Exercises 2020

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Drake. Ronaldo. Tyler The Creator. That one Jonas Brother. And just about every guy to ever feature on Love Island. What do they all have in common? The answer, of course, is abs you could grate a block of cheddar on, then throw that cheddar away, because you don’t get the abs of a Greek statue by indulging in pizza toppings, dammit.

No, when it comes to a toned midriff, you need core commitment. It isn’t all for aesthetics, either. Spend some time on your torso strength and you’ll see your fitness exploits improve too.

It’s easy to think of the core as just the ‘six-pack’ muscles, but personal trainer Rachel Lines explains it’s actually a barrel shape, with a front, back, sides, top and bottom, all of which need equal attention to help us maintain good physical form day to day.

“Strengthening the core will not only help you lift bigger in the gym,” she explains, “but will also help you avoid postural issues such as lordosis (exaggeration of the lumbar spine), kyphosis (the hunchback stance where the thoracic spine is exaggerated) and scoliosis (the lateral bending of the vertebral column) – all of which suffer when we spend all day sitting at a desk.”

With that in mind, here are the best core exercises to help you un-desk yourself, and build a stronger foundation for health and fitness.

Best Core Exercises

Pick a handful of moves that hit your abs, obliques and lower back then work through them in a circuit, either at the end of your normal sessions or as a standalone core workout.


“This is one of the best exercises you can do as it works your entire body from your shoulders to your hamstrings,” explains personal trainer Peter Maciver, founder of PMac Fitness. Start with your forearms flat on the ground, back straight and toes on the floor. “Squeeze your glutes to stabilise your body and hold for 30 seconds.”

Plank rotations

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You can’t burn fat in specific areas, but you can build the muscles underneath to create more definition. “This works your obliques and helps to tighten your waistline,” explains Maciver. Start in a plank position, then lift one arm and rotate your body to reach up to the sky. Pause, then reverse. “It’s a step up from your traditional plank, as you’re required to twist and lower your hips towards the floor one side at a time. Slow and steady is the key.”

TRX Pike

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“This is my favourite exercise,” says Lines. “It’s like the plank, but with added fire.” If you don’t have a TRX, an exercise ball works just as well. “Start by placing your feet in the TRX rig and turn so you’re facing the ground. With your wrists under your shoulders, raise your hips up into a plank position, pushing down into the TRX for stability. Push the ground away through your shoulders, raising the hips as you do so. Aim to get the hips as high as you can while keeping them straight and the belly button pulled up towards your spine. Slowly control the movement back into the plank position.”

Dorsal raise (aka Superman)

“This exercise works the back extensor muscles, helping you to maintain good posture and avoid back pain,” says Lines. You can either do it on the floor or, for bonus points, an exercise ball. Either way, start stomach down, hands at your ears and elbows flared out, then drive your hips either into the floor or ball. “You’re going to raise your trunk, feeling the tension along your front – don’t overextend and injure your back. Slowly lower yourself down again for one.”

Tuck crunch

“Crunches typically isolate the abdominals but can cause back issues,” says Maciver. “Add in bent knees and you’ll reduce pressure on your lower spine.” Start flat on your back, knees bent. “Exhale and lift your torso and legs at the same time, then slowly lower both back to the start for one.”

Shin taps

“Rotations are great for working the oblique muscles,” says Lines. Those are the ones down the side of your six-pack. To hit them hard, start in a sit-up position. Instead of crunching up, you’re going to shift side-to-side. “Keep your arms by your sides as you slowly roll your head and shoulders up off the floor. Maintaining a gap between your chin and your chest, lift your arms up parallel with the floor. Now reach forward, tapping the left hand to left shin, then the right hand to right shin. Repeat until you’re ready to collapse.”

Russian twists

“An old classic. Sit on the matt and lift your legs in the air, crossing them at the ankles. Have your knees only slightly higher than your hips and move the weight – a medicine ball is ideal – from side to side, keeping your core engaged,” says Maciver. The heavier the weight, the tougher the move, which adds a calorie-burning element too (because belly fat means no six-pack).

Hanging leg raises

“Using the core to move the legs against gravity is a great way to build strength through the transverse abdominal, obliques and hip flexors,” says Lines. This move will challenge your grip strength, too. Start hanging from a bar with an overhand grip, then breathe out as you lift your legs until they’re parallel with the floor. If that’s a struggle, try it with bent legs. “It will help reduce the strain on your lower back.”

Mountain climbers

Cardio meets muscle-building in this classic core exercise. “It’s a great addition to a HIIT workout,” says Maciver. “Get in a push-up position with your hands underneath your shoulders. Then, brace your core and bring one knee towards your chest. Return to the starting position, swap knees, and keep going.” Speed is good, but so is form – if your hips are pointing at the sky, you need to slow down.

Plank pull-throughs

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“This is great for improving core stability and strengthening your upper body,” says Maciver. Start in a press-up position (also known as a high plank) with your feet spread slightly more than shoulder-width apart. “Using your right arm, move a kettlebell from your left side to the right, keeping your core engaged. Release and repeat using your left arm. Simple.”

Flutter kicks

“These aren’t for the feint hearted,” warns Lines. Lie flat on the floor, back pressed into the ground, then lift your legs until they’re perpendicular to the floor. Slowly lower them until you feel your back lifting – try to fight that pulling your bellybutton towards your spine to tense your abs. “The lower the legs, the tougher this move will be,” says Lines. “Working at a steady pace flutter kick the legs alternating left then right on top. About 20-40 reps should do it.”

Raised toe taps

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A great definition builder that isolates your abs without putting pressure on your spine (good news for those with bad backs). “Lying on your back with your feet in the air, soles pointing upwards, reach your hands towards your toes whilst engaging your core,” says Maciver. “Touch your toes, then lower your torso back to the start position.”

Ab curl with pelvic tilt

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“This is a good way to see if you have true core strength or if you use the hip flexors to ‘cheat’,” says Lines. Start in a standard crunch position – back on the floor, feet flat – then lift and tilt your pelvis in the direction of your head. “Place your hands on your thighs and slide your palms up the thighs towards the knees whilst holding the pelvis in place. Exhale as you lift and inhale to return to the ground.” Good for your six-pack, bad for your ego.

Boat pose

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“This is a yoga movement which is really good for toning and strengthening your abs,” says Maciver. “It improves your balance and can be advanced by stretching your legs in and out.” Start seated, then lift your legs into a V with hands stretched out in front of your shoulders. If you can straighten your legs, great – if not, start with bent knees. “Engage your core and hold the position, moving your legs from side to side for extra intensity.”


“This full body burner targets your entire range of abs and jacks your heart rate up,” promises/threatens Maciver. From standing, drop onto all fours, then kick your legs back into a high plank. (If you’re feeling brave, toss in a press-up.) Kick your feet back forward then jump up into the air. Land, repeat, fight waves of nausea.

Dead bugs

Ignore the unappealing name – this is one of the best top-to-bottom six-pack moves. “Training the abs while moving the arms and legs is great for improving athleticism and will help with compound moves in the gym,” says Lines. “Dead bugs can be done with or without dumbbells and are a great addition to any core workout.” Start on your back, then pull your knees up so there’s a right angle between torso and thighs, and thighs and calves. Raise your arms above your chest. Breathe in. “Rotate the pelvis to engage the abs, making sure your lower back doesn’t lift from the floor. Working in diagonal pairs, slowly extend one arm behind you, and the opposite leg towards the floor, exhaling as you do so.”

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