5 Abdominal Exercises That Will Make Your Abs Sore

Yesterday I hinted about 5 ab exercises that are really hitting my abs hard these days, so I want to spill the beans and give you all of those cool ideas today.

By the way, I also have an “Upper Body Abs Exercises” feature in Men’s Health this month (Page 47, April 2010). I was also in GQ this month, page 66 (see photo to left).

Some of these “sore abs” exercises are advanced, but others can be modified for all fitness levels. You might even be surprised at some of the exercises I’m about to share with you…

So here we go, 5 exercises that have given me sore abs in the last 3 weeks…

#1 – Stability Ball Plank

As I mentioned yesterday, it’s 30 percent harder than a regular plank, but last Friday I used it in a weird way that left my abs sore all weekend.

I did a “3 minute stability ball plank challenge”. I set a timer for 3 minutes and got in position. As soon as I started feeling fatigue, I stopped, rested for 15 seconds, and then got back in position.

I alternated between the Ball Plank and short rests for a full 3 minutes…and tallied up the amount of time I spent in the Ball Plank – and next week I’ll try to beat that time. That challenge is a great way to make the exercise harder and for the time to fly by.

#2 – Stability Ball Rollout

This is one of my 3 favorite ab exercises, and to make it harder and for more ab soreness, the key is to do a sloooooow “roll out”. That will put your abs under a loaded stretch – which causes soreness.

Now of course, you MUST train smart and conservatively…but if you are advanced, you can really extend this to about 5 seconds.

If you are an intermediate, don’t roll too far out (see photo for reduced range of motion), but take it really, really, really slow. You’ll get similar benefits.

And you can do all of my favorite stability ball ab exercises with me in the TT for Abs DVDs.

#3 – L-Chinup

Okay, this one is super advanced, but for all of my bodyweight compadres out there, dig this:

You’re basically going to do a chin-up while holding the top position of a hanging leg raise. Do all your reps like this. At first it will be really tough, but your reps will increase big time after a couple of sessions.

If that’s too tough, I still love the Chin-up with Knee-up exercise that I show you in the TT for Abs DVDs.

#4 – Regular Plank done to failure AFTER a hard upper body workout

I know what you’re thinking…how could a regular plank make your abs sore?

Well, there’s a little trick to this one…and that is to do the plank at the end of a really tough upper body workout when your arms are pumped and fatigued.

Why? Because it will force your abs to work extra hard, because it takes away a lot of the support that your arms give to a regular plank. So tack a regular plank on to the end of a biceps/triceps superset, and your abs will be pleasantly surprised.

And remember what I said yesterday about needing to be able to do the plank for 2 minutes straight. So go for as long as you can with good form, rest 30-60 seconds, and repeat.

#5 –  Strict Hanging Leg Raise and Leg Pike

Most folks are familiar with the hanging leg raise. You might even have tried it yourself. But you won’t get maximum results from this exercise unless you do it with strict form.

That simply means removing as much momentum from the exercise as possible – basically, don’t SWING your body and your legs. Instead, brace your abs as hard as possible, start from a “dead hang” position and raise your legs with muscular control – not momentum.

And what’s the ab pike? Well, it’s an advanced leg raise. In the pike, you’ll continue the movement to take your feet all the way to where your hands are holding the bar. Super advanced.

(By the way, I know these all need video demonstrations, and most of them are in the TT for Abs DVDs…but I’ll try and film a new video of all them soon.)

BONUS EXERCISE – Lying Dumbbell Triceps Extensions

Yes, the simple lying dumbbell triceps extension exercise can cause ab soreness. How? By emphasizing the stretch in your abs at the bottom of the movement.

You’ll need to have your head at the very end of the bench and you’ll need to drop the dumbbells a little lower than normal beside your head to get maximum ab stretching benefits…but done right, this will cause soreness and more sculpted abs if done consistently.

Ok, that’s it for today. When I find more “sore abs” exercises, I’ll be sure to pass them along.

Hitting your abs hard without crunches or situps,

Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, MS
Creator, TT for Abs DVDs

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  • Thanks for the stability ball plank tip! I hadn’t even thought about that one. I’ve been looking for a way to make my planks harder. I currently do my planks, side planks, supermans and birddogs after hammering my upper body, and am up to over 8 minutes on a static hold (with proper form). The stability ball rollout is another good one.

    Any thoughts on swiss ball mountain climbers? That’s another one of my favorites.