The Best Ab Workouts In 2021

With another hot girl summer upon us, (and hot boy summer, too) many are scrambling to get their quarantine bodies in tip-top shape. Aside from toning with weights and trimming with cardio, creating a midsection worthy of showing off is always on the list of fitness enthusiasts, as it tends to be a challenging area of the body to modify (via Cosmopolitan).

There are more benefits of working the ab muscles than a sexy six-pack, although aesthetic motivation is commonly why one starts planking. According to WebMD, a strong core allows for an easier time with daily activities like bending to tie your shoe, or more challenging acts like swinging a tennis racket. Core and ab exercises, when done often and correctly, help the muscles in your pelvis, lower back, hips, and stomach to work together, which improves stability and balance, and reduces the risk of core-related injuries and pain.

Whether you're ready to strut the beach in that new swimsuit, or you are simply working toward a stronger core, these are the hot workouts that will set your abs on fire in 2021.

The plank is a great ab workout

The plank is an exercise that works multiple muscles in the body, including the abs, and by doing variations of the plank, you are sure to strengthen those core muscles. To perform a standard plank, as per SELF, from a position of being seated on your heels, walk your hands forward until your wrists are under your shoulders and your body is fully lengthened and evenly positioned, like a plank board. Balance on the balls of your feet, keep your abs engaged (as if you were pulling your belly button up), and hold, ensuring your spine is in alignment (straight). 

This position can be performed as a high plank, balanced on the palms of your hands, or a low (standard) plank, on your forearms. The plank should be held until failure, or for up to one minute, as Men's Health reports that after one minute, the position becomes too hard to hold for too little benefit. 

In regard to the plank, trainer Steph Dorworth, D.P.T., C.S.C.S., tells SELF, "I would call the plank a total-body exercise for sure ... In addition to working the core, which helps stabilize the low-back spine area, it really works the shoulder stabilizers and the glutes as well."

Strengthen your abs with the reverse crunch

If a six-pack is your goal, you do not want to sleep on the reverse crunch. An exercise that will have your abs on fire, hitting the deepest part of the ab muscles (transverse abdominis), the love handles (obliques), and the classic six-pack area (rectus abdominis), the reverse crunch is one move you need to incorporate in your core routine.

Perform the reverse crunch by lying on your back and raising both legs together to a 90-degree angle. Your hands can be flat at your sides or, for added support, you can place them under your lower back. Contract your abs by pulling your belly button in, and bring your knees to your chest, lifting your hips off the floor. After a slight pause, gently bring the legs back down.

The reverse crunch should be done slowly and deliberately, with a focus on utilizing the abs for the movements, and keeping the neck stable, either tucked in or resting on the ground (via Women's Health).

The dead bug is an effective ab exercise

Perhaps you have heard the term dead bug thrown around the gym but thought it was too strange to pay attention to (or you were too busy hoping it wasn't a literal bug). In 2021, the dead bug will have you talking, as it will charge up your core area, from the front to the back. This movement is excellent for working the transverse abdominis and pelvic floor, and it also targets the obliques. Moreover, it's gentle on the spine and neck, a bonus for those with pain or injuries (via Verywell Fit).

To perform this move, start by lying flat on your back with the hips and knees positioned at a right angle, and the palms placed on the thighs just above the knees. Keeping your ribs, pelvis, and spine stable,  stretch the right arm and leg out until they are about parallel to the floor. Repeat this movement on the opposite side of the body (via Women's Health).

The dead bug is a favorite ab move of Ashleigh Kast, fitness trainer and founder of Sophisticated Strength, who tells SELF that "You have to completely stabilize through your midsection in order to perform this abs exercise," and she goes on to say this is an underutilized move that works the abs "like crazy."

Blasting belly fat with mountain climbers

The mountain climber is an exercise that is a blend of cardio and muscle training which will blast that belly fat and (bonus!) help shape the booty, thighs, shoulders, and triceps (via LIVESTRONG). 

Begin in high plank position, keeping your back flat and your butt down, maintaining an aligned spine. Engage your core, lifting up your right knee, bringing it toward your elbow, and then bringing it back to the starting position while you drive your left knee up toward your left elbow. Switch the legs back and forth until it feels like you are running in the plank position. 

Muscle & Fitness suggests the mountain climber for building core strength, shaping the abs, and for cardio, which not only burns fat, but is also great for improving heart health.

Although abs may be considered the most challenging muscle to sculpt and show off, the upside is that you don't need a gym membership or fancy equipment to work them. In the comfort of your own home, you can regularly perform an ab routine that will assist you in reaching your body goals.