Curated By Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S.
If you’re on a quest for stronger abs and a rock-solid core, it never hurts to bang out a few sets of crunches or situps. But the true path to ab strength is different: You want to challenge your abs to work throughout the rest of our workout, too.
Your abs are meant to stabilize your spine on every single exercise you do, from squats to biceps curls. And by making subtle tweaks to classic full-body moves, we can place even more emphasis on your core, building real-world ab strength. The best part about this approach: You’ll be layering on total-body muscle, too.
Attack this workout 3-4 times a week to experience what I call “stealth abs” training. You can also inject these moves into your other training; if you do that, aim to do at least one per day.
1. ELEVATED DEAD STOP PLANK ROW
This is my go-to stealth core exercise – and it’ll also build critical back strength too. Start in an elbow plank, with your elbow on a bench or chair, and a dumbbell on the ground held in your right hand. Row the dumbbell to your right hip, then lower.
The key: Keep your hips and shoulders completely square to the ground. This’ll require you to never stop squeezing your abs and glutes. Do 3 sets of 10-12 per side.
2. PAUSED GOBLET SQUAT
The goblet squat is one of the most underrated leg exercises out there, and as you start to do the movement with heavier loads, your abs can’t help but feel it. Start standing, with a dumbbell held at your chest, then lower into a squat.
Pause for one count, deepening the core challenge, then stand back up. Aim for 3 sets of 8-10 per side. And don’t be afraid to go heavy here. Your abs (and legs) can take the challenge.
3. SINGLE-ARM Z PRESS
This shoulder movement challenges your abs in a unique way: because you’re sitting on the ground, your core handles all stabilization duties, preventing your torso from swaying from side to side and keeping your back from arching.
Keep your legs straight as you press overhead on every rep. Aim to do 3 sets of 8-10 per side.
4. ALTERNATING DUMBBELL PRESS
The bench press has always been one of my favorite exercise, but we can ratchet up the core tension by doing alternating reps. When you lower each dumbbell, expect the weight to slightly “tip” your torso down to that side.
You’ll need to tighten your abs to resist that rotation. Chase 10-12 reps per set, and do 3 sets.
Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S.
Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S., is a certified trainer with more than 10 years of training experience. He’s logged training time with NFL athletes and track athletes.
His current training regimen includes weight training, HIIT conditioning, and yoga.
Ebenezer has had multiple prestigious positions including serving as a sports and tech columnist for the New York Daily News.