4 Essential exercises for building rock-hard abs

Want a washboard stomach? Liz Connor shares a handful of moves for keeping your core in shape.

Whittling your midsection to a chiselled six-pack is many people’s end goal in the gym, but having a strong core does more than just look impressive in your Instagram photos.

Core strength can help you to maintain a better posture, which is essential if you’re hunched over a desk all day, and it can help eliminate lower back pain too.

The single most important tool that you need in order to develop your abs is diet – make sure you’re eating healthy, balanced meals with plenty of protein – but the other non-negotiable is having a routine of go-to exercises that can help to condition your core.

Here are a handful to try next time you’re stuck for inspiration in the gym…

1. Plank

The plank is the don when it comes to stomach-blasting exercises, because it works all of the muscles in your core.

How to do it: Start on your hands on knees on a mat. Place your hands directly under your shoulders and step your feet back. Try to maintain a straight line from your heels to your shoulders, being careful not to arch or cave your back. Squeeze the muscles in your bottom, thighs and core and hold for 30 seconds.

2. Russian twist

The precarious balancing act involved in this V-sit move engages your core like no other, as you brace your abdominal wall.

How to do it: Sit on the floor, raise your legs into a bent position in front of you and lean back slightly until you feel your core engaged.

Clasp your hands together and twist your torso from side to side without moving your legs. You can make this exercise more challenging by holding a weight or a medicine ball in your hands.

3. Wheel roll-out

You’ll need to get your hands on an abs wheel for this exercise – an inexpensive but invaluable piece of home kit that will help to strengthen your core over time.

How to do it: On your hands and knees, hold the bars on either side of the wheel and roll forward along the floor. Once extended, hold the position for two to three seconds, and then use your core strength to pull yourself back up. Try to keep your back straight as you roll forwards.

4. Mountain climbers

This explosive, compound move is guaranteed to leave you in a puddle of sweat after just a few rounds.

How to do it: Starting from a plank position, with your core braced and arms extended, move one knee towards your chest, then return it to the starting position. Repeat the movement with your other leg, then continue, alternating legs throughout.