What are the best ab exercises to flatten your abs and improve tone? Is it crunches, plank, Pilates, oblique curls, stability board, ab cradle … the list goes on. In fact, there’s no one “best” exercise to work the abs. The abdominal muscles consist of several layers, which all carry out different roles in movement and stability. The more variety in your choice of ab exercises, therefore, the more thoroughly you will work all of these layers.

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Different types of ab exercises for the different layers

This 10 minute circuit has 6 different exercises so that all the layers get worked:

Crunch and reverse crunch for the top layer (6 pack)

The top layer of abdominal muscles carries out movements which bring the upper and lower body together. If you lie on the floor and do crunches, then you make them work against gravity. The ordinary crunch works the top half of the “6 pack” and the reverse crunch works the bottom half.

Oblique curls and Russian twist for the middle layers

The internal and external oblique muscles are the ones we use for bending and twisting movements. Although not as obvious as the 6-pack, definition in these muscles does show. The obliques also play a part in pelvic stability and therefore contribute to flat abs.

Plank hold and single leg stretch for the deepest layer

The deepest of the 4 layers, the transverse abdominis (TA), is the muscle that plays the biggest part in pulling the abdominal area in flat and stabilising the pelvis. Ab exercises which work this layer are ones in which the TA has to work hard at keeping the pelvis stable.

Ab exercises circuit instructions

Make sure you follow all the technique points below, because technique is important to get good results from core training. Also, please see these general exercise guidelines.  The circuit chart is below the exercise instructions.

Curl up

Reverse curl

Elbow to knee

Russian twist

Single leg stretch

Elbow plank

These are the reps/hold time for each exercise:


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Ab exercises circuit | exercises for all the layers of abdominal muscle - the 6-pack, the core and the obliques | with free workout printable

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