7 Ab Exercises Better Than Sit Ups

I can’t believe it!

Despite the hundreds of articles warning about the dangers of sit ups and crunches, I still see trainers taking their clients through ineffective workouts that will never ab definition.

I feel bad for these people.

Dropping money on training sessions in the hope of getting flat, toned abs…

But trust me, if it’s happening here in SF, then it’s happening where you are, too.


Because of the BS served up by mass media.

You see, with their ridiculous claims,  conflicting information and “miracle” supplements, getting flat abs has become downright unattainable.

But I want to help you!

So with these 7 ab exercises I’m about to share, you’ll learn exactly what you should be doing instead of sit ups to accelerate fat loss and finally get your abs defined.

(And it’s not doing a 5 minute plank with a 10lb weight plate on your back!)

Unlike other exercises, these ones actually work!

I’ve even put them in order from easiest to hardest. Don’t say I never do anything nice for you ;)

Start with Numero Uno and work your way up to #7, ok?

#1: Dead Bugs

No matter what your current fitness level, “dead bugs” are my go-to activation exercise for anyone who wants to get abs.

Why? It’s switches on every layer of muscle in your midsection. That includes your transverse abdominis, internal and external obliques, rectus abodminis – the whole shabam. And this is the most important step to getting defined abs – getting the right muscle groups to fire. So when you move on to the ab strengthening exercises, your muscles are ready to rock.

Here’s how to do it:

dead bugs

I know I know. This exercise has a crazy name and looks weird (and by the way I take no responsibility for that ok. ;) But I think you’ll get a good challenge from it!

So once you’re nailing the dead bugs, try the next move…

#2: SLOW Mountain Climbers

If you’ve ever been to a bootcamp workout, I bet you’ve seen people doing the “fast” version of mountain climbers. And oftentimes — “fast = bad form” — and you can injure your back and shoulders if you’re not careful.

That’s why you need to try SLOW mountain climbers.

You see, while the fast mountain climbers might be good for cardio (and a great way to break your back if your form is sloppy) — go slow and squeeze your abs hard and hold it for 3-4 seconds on every single rep.

Give it 30 seconds. 45 seconds if you want to take a chance and live a little.


It burns your abs like a mother.

mountain climbers

#3: Leg Raise with Hip Lift

Now we’re getting into the more challenging ab strength exercises. Surprisingly – the hip lift part of this exercise is more challenging than you think.

If you’re new to fitness, try the lying leg raise without the hip lift. Why? You want to build up strength in your abs first. Make sure your back is flat on the ground. You should not feel pain in your lower back, either. If that’s the case, don’t lower your legs so close to the ground, and stop if you feel pain or if your lower back is coming off the mat.

Adding the hip lift will strengthen your abs so you can rock out the next exercise I’ll share with you…

leg raises

#4: Hanging Knee Raises

Here we go… time for the “fun” ab strengthening exercises.

This move is the “gold standard” of ab exercises. Meaning it will test your true ab strength. Plus you need decent shoulder strength and stability. You’ve probably seen Olympic gymnasts doing this exercise a lot… and that’s because it works.

Struggling to nail this move? No dramas. It is tricky after all. So go back to #3 – the lying leg raise with the hip lift. And instead of going as fast as you can, take your time on every rep and control the movement.

If your grip strength is giving out, try doing this on parallel bars/Equalizers.

Here’s how to do it:

hanging knee raise

#5: Jack Knife

I love the Jack Knife exercise! It’s a great “bridging” exercise that will help you progress from Hanging knee raises (#4) to the Ab Pikes (#6 coming right up).

This exercise is similar movement to the hanging knee raises. Except you’re horizontal with your feet are on a Stability Ball (or suspension trainer if you have one).

Practice doing a regular plank with your feet on a Stability Ball first. Why? Well just try it and you’ll see. (I’m trying to be nice here and help you lol!) ;)

But seriously, if you’re not bracing your abs you’ll fall off the ball. And we don’t want that.

Here’s how to do it:

jack knife exercise

#6: Ab Pikes

Ab pikes require an enormous amount of upper body and core strength and stability. And now we’re getting to the moves that will help you see definition in your abs!

To get a full range of motion, you’ll need decent hamstring flexibility, too.

It’s very similar to the Jack Knife move (#4). In fact, it’s a progression from this exercise. So make sure you can do that one first with solid form before you attempt the ab pike.

You can do the ab pike on a Stability ball or use a Suspension trainer. Again, you’ll find the Stability ball more challenging, since it tests your lateral stability – which is your ability to stop the ball moving side to side


Ready for the final challenge?

#7: Ab Wheel Rollouts

This is hands down the toughest ab exercise on the block. And it’s super effective for sculpting a rock hard midsection.

Why? You’re contracting your ab muscles while they are lengthening – so basically you need to work extra hard to stabilize your core.

That’s why it’s hard. And it’s extremely important you do this exercise with correct form.

Warning: If you have any lower back issues, please do not attempt this exercise at all.

ab wheel rollout

Here’s How To Do Ab Wheel Rollouts

You can check out THIS article for more tips on how to do the ab wheel rollout with correct form. 

Now the secret to effective ab workouts is this:

Instead of adding more reps and doing longer ab workouts…. You simply choose a harder exercise, so you get better results without spending more time working out. And maintain your abs.

You see, the first 3 exercises are most effective if you do more reps. While exercises like the hanging knee raise, ab pikes and ab wheel rollouts are core strength moves. So you do less reps but more sets. (in fact, you need total bodyweight strength in order to pull these off correctly.)

And let’s keep it real: No, you WON’T get abs overnight. Give yourself at least 90 days.

If you want to tone and tighten up your abs, or even sculpt a six pack, you need to be consistently doing the right exercises in the right order at the right intensity.

And yes, your diet must be on point.

If you want to sculpt awesome abs, then grab my free Core Cardio workouts for starters. You don’t need any equipment! Check it out here:

==> 9 Minute Core Cardio Workouts

Your Coach and Friend,



Kate Vidulich
Exercise Physiologist