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The 5 Best Core Rotation Exercises for Shredded Abs

Washboard abs are the pinnacle of a lean, fit body.
FACT CHECKED BY Alexa Mellardo

Shredded, washboard abs and defined obliques are the pinnacles of a lean, fit body. While you might be convinced you must do hundreds of sit-ups per day, the truth is, it's going to take more than just sit-ups to get a truly defined, well-rounded core. In fact, traditional sit-ups are among the least effective core exercises if your goal is a strong, functional core. So we're here today with some of the best core rotation exercises for shredded abs.

For a true set of killer abdominals, you need to work more than just the abdominal muscles. The full list of muscles you need to train for a shredded core includes the rectus abdominis (abdominals), obliques (side-core muscles), and transverse abdominis (deep core muscles). Training these muscle groups leads to the multilayered, muscular look that's sure to turn heads at the beach. Plus, your strong, stable core will keep your lower back safe and overall body strong for whatever life throws at you.

The following are my five top core rotation exercises for shredded abs. Perform each exercise for two to three sets of 10 to 15 repetitions. Rest for 60 seconds between sets, and perform the workout twice per week.

Russian Twist

man doing russian twist to get a flatter stomach

Russian twists are a straightforward way to target your obliques and build rotational strength. You can hold a weight in your hands, or perform them without weight, depending on your level. Be sure to keep your core engaged throughout the entire exercise.

To perform Russian twists, begin sitting on the ground with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Lean back slightly, and lift your feet off the floor, keeping your knees bent. Hold your weight in front of you, and rotate your torso to the left, lowering and tapping the weight to the floor. Rotate back to the center and then to the right, tapping your hands or the weight on the ground.

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Wood Chopper

woman holding medicine ball, getting ready to perform a wood chopper

The wood chopper is a fun exercise that mimics the motion of chopping wood. It targets the obliques, abs, and overall trunk muscles. Medicine balls are a stellar choice for weight, but any handheld weight will work.

To perform wood choppers, begin standing and holding the weight or medicine ball with both hands. Bring the weight down to your right hip. Begin the movement by twisting your torso to the left while bringing the weight up and across your body as if raising an ax to cut wood. Slowly lower the weight back down to the starting position. Repeat on both sides for target repetitions.

Bicycle Crunches

man doing bicycle crunches at the gym as part of a strength and conditioning workout

Bicycle crunches add a rotational, and thus oblique muscle, component to standard sit-ups. Focus first and foremost on control, core engagement, and not crunching your neck. Avoid speeding through the repetitions, as this is less beneficial for muscle growth and more likely to cause injury.

To perform bicycle crunches, lie on the ground with your knees bent and both feet flat on the floor. Place your hands behind your head with your elbows spread outward. Lift your shoulder blades off the ground by engaging your abdominals. Rotate your torso to move your right elbow toward your left knee while extending your right leg out as if pedaling a bicycle. Alternate, and bring your left elbow toward your right knee while straightening your left leg. Repeat for target repetitions on both sides, alternating each repetition.

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Lunge with Core Rotation

man doing medicine ball lunge

The lunge with core rotation adds a functional lower-body movement to the oblique activation, changing up the stimulus from floor exercises.

To perform a lunge with core rotation, hold a medicine ball. Step forward into a lunge. As you lower, rotate your torso and the ball toward your forward leg until you are looking sideways. Slowly rotate in the opposite direction until you are facing the other wall. Repeat for target repetitions, stepping forward into the next lunge each time.

Side Plank Rotations

fit woman doing core rotation exercises for abs, side plank with arm reach

The side plank rotation is an amazing oblique exercise that changes up the angle of gravity to activate the fibers in a slightly different pattern.

To perform side plank rotations, lie on your left side with your left elbow directly beneath your shoulder and your legs stacked. Lift your hips off the ground to enter the side plank. Lift your top arm up toward the ceiling and turn your gaze upward. Slowly rotate back, and tap the floor with your top hand. Repeat on one side for target repetitions, then switch sides.

Tyler Read, BSc, CPT
Tyler Read is a personal trainer and has been involved in health and fitness for the past 15 years. Read more about Tyler
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