Fit Check: Personal Trainers’ Favorite Exercises for Six-Pack Abs

Fitness experts share which exercises they rely on to work their core.

Sure, the current weather doesn’t exactly scream, “Bathing suit weather!” But it’s never too early to start getting in shape for summer, right?

In our never-ending pursuit of six-pack abs, we turned to the pros for some advice. While they all say crunches alone won’t result in the flat tummy we so desire, there are certain exercises that can put you on the right track. Read on for exercises that local personal trainers promise will work you to your core.

Bosu-Medicine Ball Spider-Man

Perform for one minute with or without pushup.

Get in plank position, with your hands gripping the Bosu ball and your feet on top of a medicine ball. Slowly bring your right knee to your elbow. Release and repeat on the other side.

This tongue-twister of an exercise is one of Chris Perrin’s favorites. “I love doing core exercises on an unstable environment like a Bosu or Swiss ball,” he says. Doing so targets more of your core muscles “as your body fights to regain stability.”

Mountain Climber

15 reps for beginners, 30 for intermediate, and 50 for advanced.

“Not only does this exercise work your core,” says personal trainer Errick McAdams, “but it also works as cardio.” Keep your hips low and drive your knees to your chest while keeping your core tight.

The Plank

3 sets of 10 for 20 breaths each

Chances are your plank form needs some work, says Josef Brandenburg of The Body You Want in Georgetown. Remember, you should feel it in your core, not your neck, shoulders, or lower back. Once all of your joints are aligned, start breathing. Says Brandenburg, “Hold your plank for breaths, not for time.” (Check out our five plank variations to up the ante.)

The Bicycle Crunch

Two to three sets of 20 to 30 reps on each side.

How does Nike personal trainer Deanna Jefferson get those rock-hard abs? The bicycle crunch. “The key to a bicycle crunch is being sure one leg is fully extended and focusing on bringing your shoulder—as opposed to your elbow—toward the opposite knee for the ultimate contraction,” she says. Why it works: It targets all of your core muscles, including the transverse abdominis, which are the deeper ab muscle fibers.

Bonus: The Alphabet

The alphabet is one of our favorite ways to end a workout. Lie on your back and place your arms at your side (for extra support, place your hands under the small of your back). With your legs in the air, trace the entire alphabet (or your full name). As your legs move, it’s your core that will be doing all the work.