10 Best Ab Exercises for Men
Achieving a rock hard six-pack is a goal for many who dedicate their time to health and fitness- but how easy is it? The pursuit of perfect abdominal muscles can be tricky, and it definitely isn’t something that can happen overnight.
These days abs have become a true testament to dedication and perseverance in the workout world. Though, there’s more to gain in exercising this muscle group besides their aesthetics. Whether you want to lift heavier, run farther, hit harder, or balance better, all strength stems from your core.
Though gaining a set of abs can be a lot of work, it’s not impossible, and thankfully this guide is here to help you get started. Below you’re going to find some of the best ab exercises out there, outlining techniques that can be implemented in both a standard gym or an at-home workout set up, as well as key tips for understanding more about this muscle group. Let’s get started!
What Are Your Abdominal Muscles?
Before you begin your journey to a stronger set of abs, let’s take a deeper look into what makes up your abominable muscle group. Your abs are a key muscle group, working to support your trunk, allow for movement, regulate abdominal pressure, and they hold all your organs in place. Even if you’re not actively working on your abs, they are putting in the work daily to support you as you move through the world.
In the fitness world, your “abs” generally refer to the more visible, superficial muscles on the outer core of your abdomen, not the whole of the muscles that keep you stable. You ab muscles are located between your ribs and pelvis on the front of your body and can be broken down as follows:
Transversus Abdominis: Your transversus abdominis works to stabilize your trunk and maintain your internal abdominal pressure. This is your deepest layer of muscle, located underneath your rectus abdominus.
Rectus Abdominis: Your rectus abdominis works to move your body between your ribcage and your pelvis. It is located at the front of your abdomen, between the pelvis and your pubic bone. These muscles are what you associate with a six-pack, as they are the bumps and bulges on display when you picture abs.
External Oblique Muscles: Your external obliques are located on either side of the rectus abdominis. These muscles work to make your trunk twist, but to the opposite side of the external oblique, that is contracting. This means that when the right external oblique is contracting, it’s working to turn your body left.
Internal Oblique Muscles: Your internal oblique muscles are located on either side of your inner hip bones, acting in the opposite way to your external oblique muscles. This means when you turn your trunk to the left, the left internal oblique and the right external oblique contract at the same time.
Must-Know Ab Workout Tips
Before working on your new ab routine, it’s best to keep these things in mind:
Use Proper Form
It’s important to ensure that you are keeping proper form when performing ab exercises! When done improperly, bad form can lead to injuries and tears, putting a serious halt in your workout regimen goals.
When performing any ab exercise, make sure you hold tension in your core, pulling your belly button towards your spine and contracting your abs with each rep. Perform slow movements with good control, and always ensure you support your neck and head when needed. Never pull on your head during an exercise, and avoid pulling your chin in tight to your chest to avoid neck strain.
Slowly Introduce New Sets
The pursuit of perfect abdominal muscles has led to many a fad workout, inspiring people to attempt 200 crunches a day right from the get-go. If you are just starting to introduce abdominal exercises into your routine, take the time to slowly ease them in. Start with a small set number of reps, and week by week, slowly increase the intensity by adding more. By doing this, while leaving time to recover between workouts, you’ll be able to achieve results without risking an injury. Remember, slow and steady wins the race!
Take Your Rest Days
As we said above, while it can be tempting to embark on a once-a-day style workout routine, it can put a lot of pressure on these muscles and, in the worst case, cause an injury. I’m not just talking strains or minor tears- overworking your abs can lead to more serious setbacks, like lower back pain, spine issues, or even a hernia.
It’s important to know how much you can work out before it does you more harm than good. Whether you’re new to exercise or a seasoned pro, be sure to give your muscles the adequate time to heal between your sets. When doing core-specific exercises, try not to do them more than two to three times a week, with a day of rest in between. If you can’t resist the urge and need to work in some form of exercise daily, figuring out how to properly work out while sore is something you should prioritize.
Don’t Forget to Breathe
It’s tempting to hold your breath when you’re giving it all during an ab routine, but it causes more harm than you know. Be sure to keep breathing during these exercises, inhaling and exhaling with each movement. Perfecting your deep exhale can help you maintain the core tension you need to really work your muscles. Match your deep exhale with a deep inhale to ensure you’re still getting oxygenated blood to the muscles that need it. This may seem small, but you’ll be doing your body a lot more good than you would holding your breath.
Change Up Your Routine
Planning different variations of your ab workout routine for a more well-rounded regimen is beneficial in the long run. You may have your favorite exercises to use but diversifying your approaches can help you ensure you’re not accidentally excluding any muscle movements to truly define your shape.
This doesn’t have to be too complicated! You can make small edits to existing moves in your routine if you’re not looking to memorize a wide variety of different exercises. For example, you could try multiple variations of old reliable exercises like curls, crunches, or planks to target new muscles with different kinds of movements.
Adjust Your Diet
Diet is key if you want visible abdominal muscles. Fitness experts say that to achieve the washboard look, men typically need to get down to 10% body fat for them to be visible. If this look is your goal, burning fat should be a key priority when it comes to your health routine, as you need to burn off more calories than you consume to lose body fat. Getting online or busting out the cookbooks to look for some new healthy meals is a great place to start on your ab journey!
The Ten Best Ab Exercises For Men
Ready to get to work? The moves we’ve outlined below are a great place to start. While some of these exercises do rely on some forms of gym equipment, we have included many beginner moves that can be performed with body weight alone. Whether you are just beginning to work on your abs, or you’re a bodybuilding pro, there’s something for everyone to be found here:
The dreaded plank is a classic technique for building better abdominal and core muscles, engaging both your rectus abdominis and the muscles that follow your pelvis and spine up to your shoulders. Adding a plank to your routine can help to strengthen your overall core while building stronger abs. Be sure to use a mat or other comfortable flooring when doing a plank. If building a home gym, it could be worth looking into options for optimum gym flooring if planks become a regular part of your routine.
- While on all fours, extend your entire body length, resting your forearms and your toes. Your legs and core should be raised off the ground, back straight, head relaxed, and looking down.
- Flex and engage your ab muscles, sucking your belly button towards the back of your spine. Make sure you are keeping your body rigid and your spine in a neutral position. Your feet should be straight, heels over the balls of your feet. Your hips should be shoulder-width apart, and your back should be straight, not curved.
- Hold your position for 10 seconds or any other desired length. Keep breathing.
- Release the position and rest back on the floor.
2. Dumbbell Side Bend
A dumbbell side bend may appear easy, but don’t let it fool you! This is much more than leaning side to side. This exercise works especially well to target your obliques, stretching out the often ignored side muscles in your core. Be sure to use a weight level appropriate for you and keep your abs tight for maximum results.
- Stand straight, feet hip-width apart, with a dumbbell in one hand, palm facing inward.
- Keeping your spine straight, bend your side, holding the dumbbell as far to the side as you can.
- Hold your position for a second once you’ve gone down as far as you can go, then return to your start position.
- Repeat the move on either side.
3. Medicine Ball Slam
Medicine balls slams are perhaps one of the oldest exercises in existence, but its perseverance over the years has been for a good reason. Part of its longstanding appeal is its simplicity- this exercise is hard to mess up, making it perfect for even the most inexperienced person. Just be sure you’re using the correct weight for you. Though you may be tempted to go big, an 8-10 pound ball is good enough to exercise without risk of injury.
- With your knees slightly bent, standing shoulder-width apart, hold a non-bounce medicine ball overhead.
- Throw the ball down, in front of your feet, as hard as you can. Catch the ball if possible.
- While throwing, engage your abs, contracting your muscles.
- Lift your medicine ball back to the starting position and repeat.
4. Russian Twists
The Russian Twist can help to strengthen the planes of muscles along your sides, mixing it up from more parallel exercises like crunches or sit-ups. This move can also be great for toning shoulders and hips, making it a great addition to any full-body routine. While you can do a variation of this move with just your body, we recommend adding in some kind of weight. A medicine ball, weight plate, or dumbbell will do!
- Sit on your sit bones with your feet off the floor, creating a V shape with your body.
- In this position, hold your weight of choice with both hands, centered at chest level.
- While tightening your abdominal muscles, hold your weight chest level as you twist left and right. Tap your weight to the ground when you reach the side of each twist motion.
5. Hanging Knee Raise
This bodyweight exercise is excellent for building core strength along with stamina and endurance. It’s also a great choice to target your lower abs if you’re working on your deep V and will help you build up your grip and bulk up your forearms. Upper body strength is key here, needed for hanging from the exercise bar during these raises, so this move may not be best for a beginner routine.
- Grip a pull up bar, standing shoulder-width apart.
- Keeping your back and body straight, and keeping your legs together, lift your knees towards your chest until they are at a 90-degree angle.
- Lower your legs slowly, close to your start position but not touching the ground. Repeat movement.
6. Kneeling Ab Wheel Rollout
Though it’s called an ab rollout, this exercise is great for your entire body, engaging multiple muscle groups. With an ab rollout, you can engage your abdominal muscles, work on balance, stabilize your spine, and utilize your upper arms, chest, and shoulder muscles with each movement. Ab rollouts are great for more than just ab day and will do wonders to improve core strength and overall balance.
- Start in a kneeling position, holding your ab wheel in both hands with your arms straight. Your head should be parallel with the wheel, back rounded out, and tailbone tucked in.
- Roll the wheel forward, pushing your body forward with its movement, straightening your spine.
- Once fully extended, contract your ab muscles.
- Pull your ab wheel back towards you, re-entering your starting position. Repeat.
7. Barbell Back Squat
Though many consider the barbell back squat to primarily be a leg building exercise, it has many benefits for your abs as well. Be sure to take care to keep your entire body engaged and balanced if doing this move, as it requires a lot of ankle and core stability to maneuver. It could be worth your while to build up to this exercise with some classic bodyweight squats before jumping into something advanced like this.
- Set up your barbell to be just below shoulder height, with appropriate weight
- Stand under the bar, feet shoulder-width apart, with the bar resting at the top of your back. The bar should not touch the back of your neck
- Grip the bar wide, arms behind you, removing it from the rack
- With the bar in your hands, bend at the knees, keeping your back straight. Squat until your thighs are parallel with the floor
- Slowly raise your body back up, concentrating your weight on your heels, until you are in your starting position. Repeat
8. Side Plank
A side plank is a great exercise for strengthening your obliques, as well as engaging your chest, shoulders, and hips. If you’re looking to build up your strength and core to decrease issues like back pain, this is a great move to master! When performing this exercise, be sure to keep your head and neck straight and keep your ab muscles as rigid as possible.
- Hold yourself up on your side, feet together, forearm below your shoulder. Be sure you are balancing on the side of your foot, not the sole.
- Keep your core muscles rigid, hips raised off the ground, holding your body in a straight line.
- Hold the position for as long as possible. Repeat on the opposite side.
Crunches are an exercise fundamental and have been a go-to ab workout for decades. This move is great for targeting the rectus abdominis, toning the muscles directly along the front of your torso. If gaining the look of a classic six-pack is your goal, this is the exercise to take you there. This move is both simple and effective, making it great for even the most novice user.
- Lay down on the ground with your knees bent, back, and feet flat. Keep your arms either behind your head or crossed over your chest.
- Inhale, keeping your abs rigid, as you lift your shoulders off the floor by 1-2 inches.
- Once up, exhale, hold, and slowly lower back down.
- Repeat steps.
10. Leg Raise
Another simple yet effective move, a leg raise is great for building strength in your hips and lower back. If you work any kind of office job where you spend a lot of time sitting, this move can help build strength to decrease back pain. If you find doing a leg raise a little too easy, you can always add more challenging elements. Try holding a medicine ball between your feet if you’d like a bigger challenge.
- Lay down flat on the floor, arms at your sides.
- Keeping your legs together, lift them up, so they are straight as possible, pointing at the ceiling.
- From this posting, slowly lift your hips, raising your pointed legs as far as possible towards the ceiling.
- Lower them back down until your hips are hovering over the ground.
- From here, raise your legs again, repeating the exercise.
10 Best Bicep Exercises for Men
If you’re looking to bulk up and build some drool-worthy biceps, you’ve come to the right place! Whether you’re looking to work it out in the gym or get some reps in at home, this list has various workouts to pick and choose from when working towards your dream arms.
Large bicep muscles are a true testament to a well-seasoned workout and can do wonders for your personal appearance. It can really pay off to incorporate some bicep workouts into your regular routine if you’re looking to add some well-earned girth to your upper body.
Many people don’t know that working to add some muscle mass to your biceps can be a bit of a challenge. However, don’t let that stop you! Though it may be hard, it is not impossible, as long as you zero in on target exercises and put some strict commitment to your workout goals. Before we dive into the bicep workouts you’ll need to master to tone your physique, let’s learn more about this muscle group.
Breaking Down Your Biceps
Let’s begin with some Bicep Muscles 101. Your biceps (known in Latin as biceps brachii, meaning “two-headed muscle of the arm’) are a large group of tendons found on the front-facing section of your upper arm. This muscle comprises two tendons, attached to the scapula bone in the shoulder and the radius bone found at the elbow. These tendons are often referred to as the “short head” and “long head,” combining to make up the single bicep muscle.
Your bicep is designed to both rotate your forearm and flex your elbow, allowing you to accomplish lifting and pulling movements. They are one of the most powerful muscles in your upper arm, supporting and stabilizing other muscles as you accomplish daily tasks. The biceps are also the only muscle group in the collection of muscles that make up your upper arm that pass through two joints, both the shoulder and elbow.
Key Bicep Workout Tips
It is in the best interest of anyone looking to get into the world of weightlifting to make their biceps a top priority. However, because biceps are involved in much of our daily heavy-lifting tasks, they are especially susceptible to harm. You must take care when strengthening this muscle group, as strains and tendon tears can happen easily. Be sure to keep some of the following tips in mind before embarking on your new bicep workout routine:
Always Properly Stretch
As with any workout, it is always important to ensure you are properly warmed up before you begin! While some may find this step tedious and boring, we promise you’ll notice an immediate difference if you incorporate some simple stretches into your pre-workout routine.
By properly stretching, you increase blood flow to your muscle groups, providing better oxygenation, and leading to better bulking results. As an added bonus, this increased blood flow and oxygenation will also lead to less risk for tears or muscle soreness while heavy lifting.
Invest in Equipment
To get your dream biceps faster, investing in some equipment can really make a difference. For those of you with a gym membership, most of the equipment referenced in our listed exercises can be found in any standard gym. For those who are embarking on a bicep workout journey from home, investing in some basic equipment can make a huge difference in your results.
Getting a set of basic dumbbells should be a priority for those working on their biceps at home. Resistance bands can also work as a great substitute in these exercises, with some modifications. If you’re looking to invest and build a larger home gym, an adjustable workout bench, cable machine, and barbell bar would also be worthwhile additions.
Don’t Forget to Squeeze
The novice lifter may not know the importance of squeezing with each rep. If you’re looking to build some serious muscle mass, squeezing the top of each muscle contraction as you exercise is a key practice. You are putting force and tension on the muscle by squeezing, breaking down fibers to build new mass. Constant tension is a must in bicep workouts if you want to reach maximum results.
Switch Up Your Routine
Finding your perfect routine can be nice but be sure not to let it get stagnant! It’s ideal to switch up your exercises every so often to ensure you’re reaching your full potential and properly working out this muscle group. Vary your reps and sets as you go, change up your equipment, and try new types of exercises as you reach for your goals.
When building your bicep routine, try to come up with two different variations, alternating between them weekly. By embarking on this kind of routine, you should be able to build fuller biceps faster and see visible results in as soon as eight to twelve weeks.
Take Deep Breaths
This may seem obvious, but don’t forget to breathe! Some may find themselves unconsciously holding their breath as they exert their strength on a heavy lift. While you may think this is helping, you are causing a lot of internal stress. Holding your breath can cause a momentary spike in blood pressure and leads to less oxygenated blood getting to your muscle groups. It’s more than worth your while to make sure you’re equally focused on taking in some air as you are on your lifting technique.
Many powerlifters use the art of “bracing” while they breathe. To perform this exercise, push your stomach into your chest, also engaging your sides and back as you breathe in, reacting as you would if you were about to get punched in the gut. This brace is essential for your core when doing hardcore lifting and can offer much-needed support during heavy-weight exercises.
Remember to Rest
Just like warming up, taking rest days are essential when it comes to any workout routine. Knowing how often to workout is extremely important. Sometimes you may feel that you want to power through soreness and exercise daily to achieve your results, but rest periods play a significant role in any workout.
Resting is essential for repairing ripped and torn tendons that naturally get worn and broken down as you work them out. Rest days will allow your muscles to fix the microscopic tears caused during workouts, helping your tissue to heal and return better than before. Rest day will also go a long way to prevent muscle fatigue and soreness and reduce your risk of injury in future workouts due to strain.
It is just as important to rest during a workout as it is to rest afterward. While some assume you only need to rest for thirty to sixty seconds between reps, it is actually good to give yourself more time.
When planning your bicep workout, try to find a way to incorporate three to four-minute rests for this muscle group between sets to allow your muscles to return to full strength before starting again. If you don’t want to wait around during the rest period, you could try training a different muscle group in the downtime.
The Ten Best Bicep Exercises For Men
As we stated above, there are many benefits to focusing on biceps as an area of improvement in your own workout routine. If you’re looking to put the work into bulking up your biceps, the exercises we break down below are a perfect starting place. From beginners to seasoned pros, there’s something for every stage of your workout journey to be found here:
1. Standing Dumbbell Curl
The standing dumbbell curl is a classic exercise and can easily be replicated with some basic home equipment. For this exercise, you can use a dumbbell of appropriate weight or improvise with any heavy object at home that you can get a safe grip on. Be sure to take caution when performing this exercise to avoid injury- keep slow control, remember to squeeze, and keep your back straight!
- Standing up straight, hold one dumbbell in each hand, with your arms straight, palms facing forward and down by your sides.
- Keep your elbows locked beside your torso, stationed above your hips.
- While keeping your upper forearms still, curl the weight upwards towards your shoulder as far as you can. Repeat on either arm.
2. Standing Barbell Curl
This is another common bicep exercise, considered an old favorite by many. This exercise is well-liked for a good reason, as it allows you to work on both bicep muscles simultaneously, leading to more even results. When performing a standing barbell curl, be sure to keep your body fixed and straight, and avoid swinging as you lift. Your elbows should also remain by your sides and not move while lifting the weight.
- Grasp the bar with an underhand grip while standing shoulder-width apart.
- Get yourself into position, standing with a straight back, arms extended, and feet together.
- Keeping your upper forearms locked by your side, curl the bar up towards your chest. The bar should not touch your chest.
- After pausing, lower the bar back to your starting position. Repeat.
3. Hammer Curl
The hammer curl can be considered a more nuanced version of the classic dumbbell curl, working to target your biceps from your brachii to your baracialis. This exercises ability to better target the whole of your bicep muscle can help you gain some much-needed bulk. When done properly, a hammer curl can also put less stress on your wrists, if that’s an area of concern.
- Standing straight, hold a pair of dumbbells by your sides, palms facing inwards towards each other.
- Keeping your upper arms locked in place, curl the dumbbells towards your shoulders as far as you can, keeping your palms facing inward.
- Hold your position for a second, then lower the weights back down, entering your starting position.
4. Spider Curl
The spider curl is another variation of the classic curl. This approach can allow for a greater range of motion than other bicep exercises, ensuring that an optimum amount of tension is being held on the muscle. When performing a spider curl, you will need an adjustable workout bench set at an angle where you can stand leaning forward, allowing your arms to hang straight down to the floor while holding your dumbbells or barbell bar.
- Lie down on an angled workout bench, so you are standing, leaning forward, with your arms angled straight down.
- Hold your dumbbells in both hands, palms facing upwards towards you.
- Keeping your upper arms still by your side, curl your dumbbells upwards towards your chest as high as you can.
- Pause briefly before lowering your arms back down to their starting position. Repeat.
5. Zottman Curl
The Zottman is definitely a more complex exercise, but it is worth learning this technique. By leveraging different hand positions to maximize its target multiple muscles, this exercise can allow you to build a more even and balanced look to your bicep. Be sure to take particular care of your positioning when performing this exercise, as improper movement could lead to sprained or tense wrists.
- Stand in a shoulder-width stance, holding a dumbbell in each hand by your side with your palms facing inward towards each other.
- With your palms still facing inward and your upper arms locked, lift your dumbbells until your arms are at a 90-degree angle.
- Once your arms are at a 90-degree angle, rotate your hands, so your palms are facing up toward the ceiling.
- Once in this position, continue to lift up your forearms, twisting your palms, so they are facing outward away from you.
- Lower your arms back to their starting position. Repeat.
6. Regular EZ Bar Curl
An EZ Bar can be a great piece of equipment for working out your biceps, with its undulating handle allowing you to handle more weight than you could with other equipment. It also works to alleviate the pressure on your elbows and forearms, which can be great for healing muscles. Many claim that an EZ bar can stimulate better muscle growth than barbells or dumbbells, but it’s best to pick what works best for you! Adding this variation into your technique could lead to a new go-to set.
- Standing shoulder-width apart, hold the EZ bar in an underhand grip, resting it in front of your thighs.
- Keeping your upper arms locked by your side, curl the EZ bar up towards your shoulders.
- Squeeze your muscles, then slowly lower the bar. Repeat.
7. Incline Dumbbell Curl
An incline dumbbell curl is a variation of the dumbbell curl that works to provide a deeper muscle stretch. You should be on an inclined bench in this curl, sitting upright with your back flat against the pad. If doing this workout at home without access to a bench, any straight back chair or bench will do – just ensure you’re sitting at a roughly 90-degree angle.
- Begin by sitting upright with your back straight, keeping your arms down straight towards the floor, palms facing forward, with a dumbbell in each hand.
- Keeping your upper arms locked and palms upward, curl both dumbbells upwards towards your shoulders as close as you can.
- After a pause, lower the dumbbells, putting your arms back into their start position. Repeat.
8. Chin Up
This classic move is more difficult than meets the eye but can be highly effective when building your biceps. Plus, a good set of chin-ups can also work your shoulder and back to increase that overall upper body bulk when done properly. For those embarking on home workouts, there is a multitude of at-home chin-up bars online- just be sure it is properly installed to avoid any accidents. Any multifunction workout station should have the proper bars to get the job done for those in a gym setting.
- Standing shoulder-width apart, grip your chin-up bar, keeping your palms facing towards your face.
- Pull yourself upwards until your head is fully above the bar, with your feet off the floor.
- After a pause, slowly lower yourself back to your start position. Repeat.
9. Underhand Seated Row
This exercise utilizes any kind of cable machine, working to target both your biceps and your back. This makes it a great exercise for an overall body routine. When performing this exercise, be sure to keep your back extra straight and secure. It’s best not to lean forward when performing this maneuver, adding unnecessary strain and improper form.
- Sitting at a low pulley cable station or rowing machine, grab your straight bar with and underhand grip, shoulder-width apart, palms facing up.
- Pull the cable towards your chest, both keeping your shoulders down and pinching your Shoulder blades together in the back.
- After pausing, return your arms to their starting position. Repeat.
10. Standing Cable Curl
The use of the cable machine can allow you to perform rapid-fire sets with increased tension throughout the bicep, making it perfect for a quick routine. There are also many variations to this exercise, depending on the pulley attachments you attach to your machine. We’ll outline how to perform a standing cable curl with a straight bar attachment in the low position for these instructions.
- Standing shoulder-width apart with a straight back, grab the straight bar with your arms extended, palms facing upward.
- Keeping your upper arms stationary, slowly pull the bar up towards your shoulders as closely as possible.
- After pausing and squeezing your muscles, return to your start position.