The Best Exercise to Tone Abs

Abs are one of the most popular muscle groups to train and also one of the most difficult to develop. While many “magical” pieces of abdominal exercise equipment are on the market, none of them are necessary. Revealing a six-pack takes a disciplined diet and hard work in the gym performing only the most effective abdominal exercises.

Revealing your Abs

Before toning your abs, you have to establish their visibility. To have visible abdominal muscles, your body fat percentage needs to be around 10 percent or lower. In most cases, you’ll need to shed some body fat to get to this point. Losing body fat entails burning more calories than you consume on a daily basis. Some highly effective calorie burning exercises are:

Running a 10-minute mile: 900 calories per hour
Biking at a 10 mile per hour pace: 500 calories per hour
Weightlifting: 500 calories per hour

Best Middle Ab (Rectus Abdominis) Exercises

Your abdominals are made of a few different muscle groups, the biggest of which –and the group containing the six pack–is the rectus abdominis. Many exercises target this area, but according to an in-depth analysis by fitness expert and personal trainer Bret Contreras, the most effective rectus abdominis exercises are:

Hanging leg raise: This exercise is done on the Roman Chair, which is a piece of equipment with a back and arm rests, but no seat. Support your body with the arm rests and begin with your legs hanging straight down. Slowly lift your legs in front of you, keeping them straight. When they are parallel to the ground, slowly return your legs to their original position.

Swiss ball crunch: The Swiss ball, or fitness ball, is a large, rubber bouncy ball that challenges your balance. Begin by sitting on the ball then sliding your body forward until your hips are on the edge of the ball. Slowly perform crunches as normal, taking care to keep the ball in the same position throughout.

Best External Oblique Exercises

Your external obliques are just under your skin, and run along the sides of your rectus abdominis. These muscles support twisting motion and toned external obliques make your waistline appear slimmer. According to Contreras’ research, the best external oblique exercises are:

Ab wheel roll-out: The ab wheel looks like a plate with a short bar stuck through it to form handles on each side. If you don’t have one, you can use a roller skate. Begin by assuming a push-up position, then hold your body up by gripping the handles of the ab wheel or the sides of the skate. Push the skate forward and backward by tightening your abs.

Body saw: This exercise requires putting pads on your feet so they slide easily over the floor. For this exercise, lie down resting on your forearms and toes. Remain in this push-up-like position and push backward with your forearms, letting your feet slide backward. Then, pull yourself forward by tightening your abs and repeat.

Best Internal Oblique Exercises

Your internal obliques are tucked under your external obliques and are angled, so when toned, they give your torso a tapered appearance. To effectively train your internal obliques, perform the hanging leg raise and the body saw.

About this Author

Brian Willett began writing in 2005. He has been published in the “Buffalo News,” the “Daytona Times” and “Natural Muscle Magazine.” Willett also writes for and He is an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer, and earned a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the University of North Carolina.