Exercises guaranteed to give you the best abs of your life

When it comes to setting fitness goals, the one that nearly every single person is working toward is that killer set of abs. For some that may mean a fancy six-pack while for others that may mean an overall more toned physique. Regardless of what you consider to be your dream abs, there is no doubt that these exercises are sure to get you on the path to the best abs of your life in no time.

Plank

If you have ever followed a fitness program or been to a group exercise class, then you are likely familiar with the plank exercise. NASM certified personal trainer Dani Singer called plank "the gold standard when it comes to core exercises."

"It trains your core the way it's meant to be used — stabilizing, rather than flexing, the spine," said Singer. He went on to add that planks also work the transverse abdominis, the deep internal abdominal muscles that basically act as an internal belt. These muscles are used to stabilize the pelvis and low back before completing movement.

When it comes to the plank, form is key, aiming for a horizontal body position, an engaged core, and relaxed neck and shoulders.

Swiss ball stir the pot

Once you feel comfortable with the plank and you're ready to take it up a notch, Raphael Konforti, Fitness and Education Coordinator for Youfit Health Clubs, suggests the swiss ball stir the pot movement. Don't be fooled by the name, this movement does not require a trip into the kitchen and there are no cooking skills required!

"Most people get tricked into thinking that crunches and sit-ups are the best way to tone the core," said Konforti, "but research has shown moving plank exercises like stir the pot activate the core more."

In order to complete this exercise, Konforti explained that you get into a plank position with your elbows on a stability ball, rolling the ball in a small circle in one direction, then switching to the opposite direction.

Spiderman plank crunch

At this point it is likely quite clear the plank is a key exercise to strengthen and tone our abdominals. Certified personal trainer and running coach Meghan Kennihan said, "The plank is one of the only exercises where you hit all the muscles in your core. The rectus abdominis, obliques, lower back, and glutes; everything is activated."

She went on to mention the benefit that since no equipment is required, the movement can be done anywhere. "Taking it up a notch," said Kennihan, "is the spiderman plank crunch which just adds a way to challenge your abs even more."

In order to complete this movement, Kennihan explained, "to start in a traditional plank position with your forearms on the ground and your body perfectly straight, squeezing your glutes." From there, you will bring your right knee toward your right elbow, return to the plank position, and repeat on your left side.

Standing cable rotations

While many abdominal exercises can be completed entirely equipment free, as the name suggests, the standing cable rotation does require equipment. For this exercise, you will need access to a pulley system, which can be found at most major fitness centers or gyms.

"Cable rotations can target the obliques at all different angles since you can go from high to low, side to side, or low to high," said Kennihan. "It also provides resistance throughout the entire movement." She went on to mention that this exercise is perfect for people who participate in rotation based sports like golf, tennis, and baseball.

Bicycle crunch

Another highly recognized exercise that is sure to give you gorgeous abs is the bicycle crunch. This movement is completed on your back with your legs bent at a 90 degree angle. From there, you will alternate bringing your right elbow to your left knee, then your left elbow to your right knee. Kennihan suggested to "hold the crunch for a two-count on each side to force a slower, concentrated movement."

What really makes this movement a go-to for most trainers is that "you are targeting the three main areas of your abs at the same time," said Kennihan. "It's a regular crunch, side to side motion to target the obliques, and the reverse crunch for the lower abs."

Dip your toes in the pool

No, we don't actually mean heading to the pool, but after you complete this exercise, you'll likely be sprinting your way there ready to show off those gorgeous abs to everyone around. This exercise is often referred to as toe taps but ACE certified Pilates instructor, Samira Shuruk, calls them "dipping your toes in the pool."

Just like trainer Singer brought up earlier, Shuruk also mentioned the importance of strengthening the transverse abdominals through challenging your stability. In order to complete this exercise, she explained, you will lie on your back with your legs bent at a 90 degree angle, slowly dipping one leg down to tap your toe to the floor while keeping your back and hips stable, then returning to the starting position and repeating on the other side.

"If it's easy, check that your starting position is correct," said Shuruk, "also check that you are not compensating with the non-working leg."

Woodchoppers

One of physical therapist Liam Champion's go-to moves to target the core are woodchoppers. "Woodchoppers are a great functional exercise that targets the rotational muscle groups in your core, known as the oblique muscles," he said.

He went on to add that to safely perform the exercise, you want to limit the actual rotary movement of the spine. "You should be pivoting on your feet and rotating through your hip joints for safety," said Champion.

This movement can either be completed with a cable pulley system, a medicine ball, or with a dumbbell.

V sit-ups

V sit-ups, also known as v-ups, are another great exercise to really work those abs. NASM certified personal trainer Reggie Chambers said, "It's one of my favorites because it hits the lower and upper abs together."

To complete this movement, he explained, you'll start lying on your back with your legs straight out and hands above your head. You will then bring both your arms and legs together, lifting the torso from the ground as you lift the arms, creating a v shape.

"If done properly," said Chambers, "it will increase the heart rate, giving it a cardio effect as well."

Add in kickboxing

If you have ever tried kickboxing then you will definitely understand what kickboxing instructor, Amanda Kajen, is talking about! "A lot of people associate great abs with doing crunches," she said, "but you can get the abs you desire without doing a single sit-up and instead throwing in some kickboxing moves into your workout routine."

From hooks to upper cuts, front kicks, side kicks, and roundhouse kicks, you are using your entire body. Kajen explained, "A lot of the power for the punches comes from your hips, and by turning them in the direction of the punch, you're activating your abs." Talk about a one-two punch to some killer abs!

Great abs start in the kitchen

If you have spent any time trying to research all of the best ways to get the abs of your dreams, then you have likely run across the saying that "abs are made in the kitchen" and Kajen did not forget to point that out! "I recommend eating food in its most natural form," she said, "food that hasn't been packaged and processed."

She went on to mention that we shouldn't be afraid of fat! "Fats don't make you fat," said Kajen, "I'm talking about healthy fats from nuts and coconut oil, but sugar will (make you fat). Eliminate hidden sugar that comes in packaged foods."

It may sound obvious, but foods in their most natural state are going to be the best bet, like choosing an apple over apple pie.

All of our bodies are different

It's important to remember that all of our bodies are a bit different and abs are not going to come overnight. It can be so easy to see models and personal trainers in the magazines and think it was so easy for them, but it takes hard work, determination, and a little sacrifice.

It's important to mention that "spot reduction is a myth. Exercising your abs won't burn stomach fat," said Singer. "In fact, any exercise or diet program claiming to 'blast belly fat' is a scam, considering it's physiologically impossible to choose what part of your body loses fat."

He suggests maintaining a caloric deficit, working your abs, especially your transverse abdominis, and you are sure to have a tummy that you will love.