3 Ab Exercises That Don’t Suck


Ok, I’ll come right out and admit it: I hate training my abs/core/midsection/whatever you want to call it.

I mean I hate it like I hate going into a Walmart near the first of the month. Hate it. Traditionally ab training tends to be longer than it needs to be, frustrating, somewhat painful, and has you lying on the floor like an idiot (like the afore-mentioned Walmart trip). I’ve always hated it and I know that a lot of other guys do, too.

There are lots of people who maintain that you don’t need to train your abs at all and that simply “squatting and deadlifting heavy” should be all the abdominal training you need. While that probably works for some of the bodybuilders out there who don’t actually have to do anything with their abs other than stare obsessively at them in the mirror, I don’t know a serious strength athlete or competitive athlete who can get away without performing some dedicated midsection training, or at least operate at peak power.

Trust me, I’ve tried.

Every time I try to avoid doing at least some dedicated strength work for my abs I end up with a back injury and/or having a hard time transferring power from my lower body to my upper. That means that the heavy squats and deadlifts that I’m trying to do in place of ab work keep going down!

As I’ve said before: “Smaller, weaker, and bent over like you belong in a bell tower is no way to go through life” (paraphrasing)

So given that I obviously have to perform some sort of direct ab work it’s become a mission of mine to find at least a handful of exercises that don’t suck. I’ve found three that I’ll share with you today.

Well, in the interest of full disclosure I’ve got to admit that I sort of lied to you in the title of this post, because these three suck, too. The very bitter truth is that there’s no such thing as an ab exercise that doesn’t suck just like there’s no such thing as a woman who thinks you make too much money or “it’s a good size”.

However, these particular exercises suck just a little less than the rest because they’re intense (and thus over quickly), engage and benefit muscle groups beyond just your abs, and make you more athletic overall.

*****I’m not going to go into a hardcore explanation of abdominal function and training, so all of you hard-core biomechanics guys can take a hike right now, but I will give a brief explanation of why these exercises work.*****

Less Sucky Ab Exercise #1: Ab Wheel Roll-outs

Often called “The Wheelie of Death”, this little gem will build very strong static strength throughout the entire midsection, primarily in the through abdominal flexion/extension. It teaches you how to engage your abs, requires stabilization from the lats and shoulders, and even pulls your spinal erectors and glutes into the mix. It’s also pretty easy to scale to different levels of ability by moving from different levels of kneeling to standing. If you’re using the right variation for your ability it’s also hard as a motherfucker and that means you don’t need to spend an hour doing it. Super.

You can get one of those cute little yellow ab wheels from most any department store for about $9, so this is a no-brainer for most people.

As a word of warning: If you’ve never done these before, the eccentric (negative) phase of the movement is pretty hardcore, so be prepared for some impressive soreness at first if you over-do it!

Less Sucky Ab Exercise #2: Side Crawls

My clients all know that I love (and they hate) quadrupedal movements. Moving on all fours teaches you to coordinate your hands and feet, develops great static strength in your abs, shoulders, and hips, and tends to be a knockout conditioner. The side crawl is one of my favorites for developing lateral strength in the midsection.

The movement is exactly what it sounds like: Get in the push-up position, and while staying nice and flat, crawl sideways. If you need a little extra, then load up a weight vest, chains, a plate, or hook up a band for some resistance.

Less Sucky Ab Exercise #3: Suspended Knee Tucks

The suspended knee tuck, in addition to working that flexion/extension of the rectus abdominis (RA, “six-pack” muscle) as well as static strength like the roll-outs, brings lots of hips and glutes into the movement. Coordination of the abs, shoulders, glutes, and hips through movement = Badass athleticism.

Find something secure to attach some blast straps, chains, a Jungle Gym, or TRX straps to so they hang a few inches off the ground. Put your feet in the straps while holding the top of a push-up position and pull the knees into the chest. Return to the starting position under control and repeat. On the way down don’t let your mid-section sag! You can work a little bit of scapular (shoulder-blade) action by doing a “push-up plus” at the top or bottom of the movement, if you want to get a little nasty.

Now we all know that a) visible “six-pack” abs are built in the kitchen (less shitty food, fatty) not in the gym, and b) I love my heavy unilateral (1-legged, 1-armed) stuff, strongman movements, Turkish Get-ups, and even overhead squats when it comes to getting all-over strong and secure, but those are more integrated movements. Here I wanted to go over some dedicated “core” exercises that I use to bring up a weak set of abs in those that need it. If that describes you, and I’m almost positive it does, then it’s time to kick your 1000 crunches to the curb, Mr. Bateman, and get into something a little more useful.

Want to see how I build health, fitness, and athleticism in my adults and turn them from Average Joes to Superheroes? Check out The Athlete Reborn today!

Comment below with your favorite “ab” exercise!

Pings on 3 Ab Exercises That Don’t Suck

March 15, 2012

Comments on 3 Ab Exercises That Don’t Suck Leave a Comment

September 1, 2011

pete @ 12:33 pm #

Nice one coach! video time!!!! LOVE IT and atcully incorporating tons of roll outs fall out and jack knives in my training. I have a slew of herniations and back issues. and I know doing crunches ,sit ups, and shitty leg raises is not going to strengthen it. Thanks for the post

Isaac @ 2:30 pm #

Thanks, Pete! Yeah, I pulled that vid out from quite a while ago!

Fall-outs are awesome! I actually prefer them over the roll-out most of the time because the straps allow a little more shoulder mobility. When my shoulders are dinged up roll-outs can sometimes give me trouble, but with the fall-outs I can adjust my hand position a little bit.


September 2, 2011

MOM @ 1:54 am #

Hey, I was using one of those little wheels approx. 35 – 40 yrs. ago ! Thanks for the reminder. Guess I need to get one1 I don’t think i will try the other two yet. Great post as always. LOVE, MOM.

Isaac @ 11:53 am #

Hey Mom!

Yeah, sometimes it’s hard to improve on what works! I’ll hunt one up for you, I have several.


September 9, 2011

Rumiana @ 7:41 pm #

Really nice abs exercises 🙂 I also love to take push up position, toes lifted on a char, then jump down next to hands and jump back on the chair. Cardio and strength with 1 exercise :))))

September 11, 2011

Isaac @ 12:07 pm #

Rumiana: A foot-elevated Squat Thrust, awesome!

Thanks for the input,


June 5, 2012

Admiral_Komack @ 11:30 pm #

Have you tried doing planks?

I do planks and side bends for my abs; nothing else (if I find an exercise I like, I’ll use it, but these are the two I use).

Watching your calorie intake can help, too (I use the Lose It! app).

Isaac @ 11:36 pm #

Yep, Planks are a classic and I start most of my clients out on them!

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