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These Are the 5 Best Exercises for Toning Your Abs, Says Trainer

Here's are the greatest moves you can do for a strong and toned midsection—period.

Looking to tone your abs? You need to begin by focusing on the basics: regular strength training, regular cardio conditioning, and the right diet. (For more on the latter, see here.)

But when comes to actually training your abs, it's helpful to remember that there are at least 5 essential functions that your abs are responsible for when it comes to moving around in the three-dimensional space: There's anti-extension (your abs work to keep your spine straight and prevent your lower back from arching too much backward, or hyperextending), there's rotation (your abs help you swivel around your spine), there's lateral stability (your abs and obliques prevent too much flexing and twisting of the spine), there's lateral bending (that's the flexing of the spine sideways), and there's spinal flexion (that's the flexing of your upper back—sorta like a crunch).

Believe it or not, for each and every one of those functions, there's a specific abs exercise that is the absolute best. So if you want to start toning your abs starting now, here are the 5 best—no, essential—abs exercises that you should be doing. So read on, and for more training advice as it pertains to your midsection, check out The Secret Exercise Trick for Flatter Abs After 40.


Ab Wheel Rollout (10-15 reps)

1 ab wheel rollout

Get into a kneeling position with your hands holding the ab wheel. Keeping your core tight and glutes squeezed, extend your body forward towards the ground, leading with your arms and hips. Go down as far as you can while maintaining tension in your abs, then return back to starting position. And for more great exercise advice, see here for the Secret Exercise Tricks for Keeping Your Weight Down for Good.


Decline Bench Leg Raise (10 reps)

2 decline bench leg raise

Start by positioning your upper back on a decline bench with your arms holding the handle. Flatten your lower back, then begin lifting your feet towards you. Once your legs are in front of you, kick them up as high as you can. Flex your abs hard at the top, then lower slowly under control while maintaining tension in your core. Return to starting position before performing another rep.


Side Plank Hip Lift (10 reps each side)

3 side plank hip lift

Begin by setting yourself up against the wall with your heels, butt, and shoulders touching the wall. Get your shoulder in line with your wrist and feet stacked on top of each other. Keeping your core tight and glutes squeezed, tilt and flex your hips straight up and down, maintaining tension in your obliques. And for more on planks, don't miss why Science Says This Is the Single Best Abs Exercise You Can Do.


Band Chop Rotation (15 reps each side)

4 band chop rotation

Tie a resistance band around a sturdy beam and take a step out to the side to get some tension on it. Hold the end of the band with a pronated (overhand grip) with both hands and a wide foot stance. Keeping your core tight, rotate the band across your body from your upper back (thoracic spine). Flex your obliques during the entire range of motion, then return back to starting. Perform all prescribed reps before switching sides.


Weighted Swiss Ball Crunch (15 reps)

5 weighted swiss ball crunch

Get into position by setting your upper back on a stability ball with your feet firmly planted. Hold a weight plate or light dumbbell and straighten your arms fully. Begin by slowly curling up and crunching, reaching towards the ceiling while holding the weight. Pause at the top of the rep for a second, maintaining tension in your core. Slowly reverse the motion until your abs are stretched at the bottom before performing another rep.

Toning your abs require getting down to a lower body fat through a healthy diet and regular strength training. However, you can also improve them by adding these exercises to your routine. Give them a shot and watch your abs change. And for more great exercises to try, see here to learn about the 3 Workouts Proven to Change Your Body Shape.

Tim Liu, C.S.C.S.
Tim Liu, CSCS, is an online fitness and nutrition coach based in Los Angeles Read more about Tim