Nothing says fit like a washboard stomach. But scoring high-definition abs isn’t as easy as cranking out crunch after crunch. To sculpt a stronger, more chiseled core, you need the best ab workout to work the two dozen muscles between your hips and your shoulders in the many ways they function. After all, your abs do more than flex on a daily basis—they stabilize and rotate, too.
You don’t have to crunch more than an accountant during tax season to score a six-pack. Instead, try the elevated bird dog—a new (and much harder) spin on the standard bird dog ab exercise.
“The bird dog forces you to keep your core stiff,” says Jack. “Lifting your knees off the ground just a couple of inches—as you do in this exercise—makes it even more challenging to keep your torso still as you switch arms and legs.” That means your hips and lower-back muscles, obliques, rectus abdominis (also known as the six-pack muscles) are working together to keep your spine stable.
What’s the fastest way to sculpt a rock-solid core like Rocky Balboa’s? Slow it down. “Your muscles can handle more weight on the eccentric, or lowering, phase of a lift,” says Todd Durkin, C.S.C.S., owner of Fitness Quest 10 in San Diego, California. So decreasing the pace of that phase—like you do with this slo-mo ab exercise from Rocky IV—forces your muscles to work harder, accelerating your gains.
After you’ve slowed it down with Rocky Abs, try picking up the pace to hit your abs in a whole new way. The running man works your rectus abdominis—also known as your six-pack muscles—just as crunches do. “But quickly pumping your arms and legs also builds explosiveness and coordination, which is fundamental to athleticism,” says Durkin.
Build a strong back and sculpt a rock-solid middle in one shot with the archer row. This ab exercise combines a staggered side plank with a dumbbell row. “As the load moves up and down, your body has to fight to resist rotation,” says Gaddour. That means your entire core—lower-back muscles, obliques, rectus abdominis (also known as your six-pack muscles)—is working overtime to keep your spine stable.