Trainers Rank the 6 Hardest Abs Moves With a Hurts-So-Good Payoff

Photo: Stocksy/Milles Studio
When you want to get maximum benefits in minimal time, there's no messing around—you've gotta go with the moves that provide the ultimate hurts-so-good payoff. And who better to get the best picks from than trainers who, despite having a dozens of ab exercises up their sleeves, certainly have some favorites that provide a better all-around burn than anything else.

Grab your mat, blast your favorite playlist, and make your way through the hardest ab moves below. From an extended plank that will make you extra wobbly to tabletop crunch rocks that put your balance to the test, these exercises will fire up your core like never before.

Experts In This Article

The 6 hardest ab moves, ranked

1. Around the world extended plank

If you want to instantly make a typical plank harder, do this version from trainer Sashah Handal that extends your arms and legs further than normal.

How to do it:

  1. Start in a high plank.
  2. Reach your left arm forward, then your right arm forward.
  3. Reach your right leg out to the side, then your left leg out to the side.
  4. Pause for a second, then bring your legs back in, followed by your arms.
  5. Repeat 10 times.

2. Pike twist

Think of this as a side plank... with a little spice. Instead of just holding, Pilates instructor Chloe De Winter says you're twisting your body, working your obliques.

How to do it:

  1. Start in a side plank position with one foot in front of the other and your arm straight overhead.
  2. Reach your top hand under and through your body toward your back ankle, then return to your starting position.
  3. Complete 12 reps on each side.

3. Pike up

You'll feel the burn all over with the pike up. "That one's like a sneak attack—you don't realize how challenging it is," says trainer Charlee Atkins.

How to do it:

  1. Start in a high plank position.
  2. Push your tailbone toward the sky and tiptoe your feet toward your hands until your shoulders are directly over your wrists.
  3. Slowly return to your starting position.
  4. Complete 10 reps.

4. Hollow rocks

Trainer Meg Takacs puts your core strength to the test with hollow rocks, which have you rocking back and forth with straight arms and legs.

How to do it:

  1. Sit on your mat with your knees slightly bent and arms straight overhead.
  2. Slowly roll back, lifting your straight legs off the ground right as your lower back meets the mat.
  3. Keeping your legs straight and upper body lifted, rock back and forth.
  4. Complete 12 reps.

5. Single-leg toe touch

If you thought normal crunches were tough, just wait until you try trainer Ash Wilking's single-leg toe touch. "We're going to reach up and touch that toe, trying to lift your upper body off the ground," she says. "This is similar to a jackknife position, but we're going to take it one leg at a time."

How to do it:

  1. Lie on your back with your arms overhead and legs straight.
  2. Simultaneously crunch your upper body and extend your right leg toward the ceiling, tapping your toe with your hands. Keep your arms straight the entire time.
  3. Lower and repeat on the left leg.
  4. Complete 10 reps on each leg.

6. Tabletop crunch rock

One of the trickiest way to fire up your obliques is through the tabletop crunch rock. Instead of just crunching into a bicycle-like position, trainer Keoni Hudoba takes things to the next level by adding a rock into the mix that requires control and balance.

How to do it:

  1. Lie on your back with your legs in tabletop and your hands behind your head.
  2. Crunch up, extending your left leg and gluing your left elbow to your right knee.
  3. Holding the position the best you can, slowly rock your body 10 times.
  4. Repeat on the opposite side.

For even more ab exercises, try this boxing core workout:

Oh hi! You look like someone who loves free workouts, discounts for cult-fave wellness brands, and exclusive Well+Good content. Sign up for Well+, our online community of wellness insiders, and unlock your rewards instantly.

Loading More Posts...