13 Best Calisthenics Ab Exercises for a Sculpted Core

Achieving sturdy and toned abs is the ultimate goal of many fitness enthusiasts.

However, it requires proper training and diet to bolster your abdominal muscles and reveal six packs.

In this article, I’ll share the best calisthenics ab exercises and how you can use them to create a good core workout plan.

Calisthenics is more effective for improving muscle coordination than other forms of training like Pilates1Effects of calisthenics and Pilates exercises on coordination and proprioception in adult women: a randomized controlled trial – (Journal Sports Rehabilitation) and helps improve posture, strength, and body composition without the use of any major training equipment, all you need is your body weight.2 The effects of a calisthenics training intervention on posture, strength, and body composition – Isokinetics and Exercise Science (Research Gate)

Whether you are an athlete or a typical fitness enthusiast, you can do calisthenics exercises to forge your abdominal muscles and improve your midsection muscle symmetry.

Are Calisthenics Exercises Good for Core?

Yes, calisthenics exercises are effective for developing core strength and definition.

You can do various exercises to bolster your abdominal strength, such as v-ups, hollow body, hanging knee raises, L-sit, and plank.

A study has shown that core stability exercises can help ease low back pain, reduce the risk of injuries, and improve body composition. 3Optimizing Performance by Improving Core Stability and Core Strength – Sports Medicine

However, any exercise you perform with poor form can lead to injuries. So when you feel discomfort or pain, check your form and improve so that you can train effectively.

List of Calisthenics Ab Exercises for a Sturdy Core

Calisthenics Ab Exercises (The 10 Best Workout)
calisthenics ab exercises

Here’s a list of bodyweight calisthenics abs workouts you can do at home with little to no equipment.

  1. Hollow Body Crunch
  2. Hanging Knee Raises
  3. Reverse crunches
  4. Front and Side Plank
  5. L-Sit
  6. Windshield Wipers
  7. Single Leg Tuck-up
  8. Lying Leg Raises
  9. V ups
  10. Dragon Flag
  11. Kneeling Ab Wheel Rollout
  12. Sit-ups
  13. Bird Dog Plank

All the above exercises are a part of my general abs workout routine. And I do them in my 10-minute core workout plan.

Let’s find out the benefits of each exercise and how to perform them step-by-step.

1. Hollow Body

The hollow body crunch is an isometric exercise that highly activates core muscles and helps build shredded abs.

It engages as many as six muscles at the same time, for example, the oblique, hip flexors, back, hamstrings, quads, glutes, and especially the abdominal muscle.

You can incorporate this exercise into your calisthenics abs workout routine to improve your core strength, stability, and endurance.

How to do hollow body crunch

  1. Lie on your back with your arms straight behind you and legs straight in front of you.
  2. Keeping your abdominal muscles tight, lift your legs off the floor and bend your knees in front of you so your feet are facing forward and thighs are in line with your hips. That’s the start.
  3. Inhale and raise your upper torso and arms off the floor (until you feel the contraction in your abs) while keeping your lower back entirely on the floor.
  4. Inhale, pause for ten seconds, and then return to the start.
  5. Do as many reps and sets as possible.

2. Hanging Knee Raises

The hanging knee raise is an efficient and effective pull-up bar ab calisthenics workout you can do to increase functional strength and muscular development.

This will also help you improve grip strength, dead hang, and pull-ups.

How to do a hanging knee raise

Calisthenics Ab Exercises
  1. Grab the pull-up bar with an overhand grip with your hands shoulder-width apart and legs straight downward.
  2. Engaging your abdominal muscle, bring your knees upward toward your body until your abs are fully engaged.
  3. Hold for a couple of seconds, then lower your legs until your knees are extended. That’s your complete rep.
  4. Try to perform two sets of 10 reps each.

3. Reverse crunches

The reverse crunches are better than traditional ones because they engage core muscles efficiently without putting much stress on your lower back.

It specifically targets the lower abs and helps build ripped abs.

Incorporating reverse crunches in your calisthenics ab workout routine can improve core stability and tone muscles and may help you build six-pack abs quickly.

How to do reverse crunches:

  1. Lie on the mat with your face up and legs extended.
  2. Keep your arms out to the sides with the palms facing downward. That’s the start.
  3. Exhale, brace your abdominal muscles, lift your feet off the floor, and bring your knees toward your chest until your abdominal muscles are fully engaged.
  4. Hold in this position for a couple of seconds, breathe as usual, then return your knees to the start. And without landing your feet on the ground, do the subsequent repetitions.
  5. Do two sets of 10 to 20 repetitions each, depending on your strength and endurance.

4. Front and Side Plank

The plank is one of the compound workouts that work on several muscles at once, such as arms, shoulders, hips, legs, and primarily the core.

It requires you to keep your body in a stable position for a set amount of time. It looks easy but challenges your abdomen strength and fires up core muscles.

The plank has several variations, such as the forearm, lateral, extended, and high plank.

Let’s look at step-by-step instructions for the forearm front and side plank.

Forearm Plank

Calisthenics Workout for abs
  1. Get into an “up” position of a pushup, with your arms straight underneath your shoulder and legs behind. Make sure your body is straight from your head to the heels.
  2. Keep your body weight on your forearms and toes, and keep your core tight.
  3. Hold there for as long as you can for effective results.

Side Plank

  1. Lie on either side with your forearm on the ground underneath your shoulder, and keep your legs straight in a stacked position.
  2. Lift your hips off the floor and maintain a straight torso. That’s your start.
  3. Brace your core and hold in this position for 20 to 30 seconds, and then switch to the opposite side.
  4. Do it once on each side.

5. L-Sit

The L-sit is one of the best calisthenics ab exercises you can do with and without equipment to develop a powerful core.

L sit works better than several core exercises because it engages as many as eight muscles: rectus abdominish, obliques, hip, arms, quadriceps, shoulders, and pectoralis major.

Steps to perform L sit on a floor:

  1. Sit on the floor with your legs straight in front of you.
  2. Keep your hands on the floor beside your hips.
  3. Brace abdominal muscles, maintain your back as straight as possible, and push into the floor with your hands to lift your legs (straight and together) off the floor; your thighs will be parallel to the floor.
  4. Hold in this position for as long as possible, and lower your body to the start. Repeat three times.
  5. Your legs should be above the floor as straight as possible when you hold them above the floor.
  6. Keep your core tight throughout the movement.

6. Windshield Wipers

The windshield wiper helps improve balance and flexibility and develops a firm core. It works on multiple muscles simultaneously, such as the abs, oblique, and hips.

You can do this exercise on the floor and the pull bar. Doing it on the pullup bar isn’t possible at home, so let’s see how to do it on the floor.

Steps to perform a floor windshield wiper:

  1. Lie on the mat with your legs straight and together on the floor.
  2. Keep your arms straight out to the sides with your palms down.
  3. Brace your core and position your hands firmly on the ground.
  4. Raise your legs until your heels are facing the sky/ceiling.
  5. Lower your legs to the right until your feet touch the floor.
  6. Pause for a moment, then repeat on the opposite side.
  7. You’ll feel the contraction in your abdominal muscles during the entire movement.

7. Single-Leg Tuck-up

The single-leg tuck-up is a simple but effective exercise for abs. It targets the lower abs and improves overall balance.

You can incorporate it into your calisthenics workout plan to strengthen and tone core muscles.

How to do a single-leg tuck-up:

  1. Lying on your back, keep your arms straight behind you and your legs in front of you.
  2. Brace your abdominal muscles and lift your torso off the floor.
  3. Keep your arms straight and bring your right knee inside toward your chest simultaneously.
  4. Hold there for a moment, then return to the start.
  5. Follow the same steps and do equal reps and sets on each side.

8. Lying Leg Raises

The leg raise is an excellent core exercise to hit the lower abs without putting much stress on your erector spine. It is more effective than traditional crunches when it comes to improving abs definition.

How to do a leg raise:

  1. Lying straight on the mat, keep your arms straight at your sides or under your glutes.
  2. Raise your legs straight and together until your hips are fully flexed.
  3. Pause for a couple of seconds, lower your legs back to the floor, and aim for 10-15 repetitions.

9. V-ups

The V up is an advanced calisthenics workout for abs that help you increase strength, stability, balance, and endurance.

I love doing V-ups as I feel my core work considerably during this exercise. It helps me improve my overall core fitness.

Whether you want to strengthen your core or thicken your six-pack abs, you can add it to your routine.

How to do V up

  1. Lying on the floor, keep your arms extended overhead and legs straight in front of you.
  2. Contracting your abdominal muscles, raise your legs and trunk simultaneously until your fingertips touch your toes.
  3. Keep your lower body also engaged during the movement.
  4. Do two sets of as many repetitions as possible.

10. Dragon Flag

The dragon flag is one of the most efficient, effective, and challenging calisthenics exercises for abs.

It strengthens the entire body, including the core. However, you need to have good strength, balance, and mobility to perform this movement efficiently.

Here’s how you can also perform dragon flag:

  1. Lie on the floor against a standing solid object.
  2. Take your arms behind your head and grab the object firmly with your hands.
  3. Brace your core and lift your legs, hips, and lower back off the floor until your heels face up.
  4. Slowly return them to the starting position.
  5. Do as many reps as possible.

11. Kneeling Ab Wheel Rollout

The ab wheel rollout is an excellent exercise for core development. It stretches abdominal muscles well and helps build a sturdy core.4 Electromyographic analysis of traditional and nontraditional abdominal exercises: implications for rehabilitation and training – Physical Therapy Article on NIH

You can do several wheel roll-out variations, such as kneeling roll-out, oblique wheel roll-out, rollout on toes, etc.

Let’s see how to do a kneeling wheel rollout:

  1. Sit on your knees, grab the wheel, and position it on the floor underneath your chest.
  2. Keeping the abdominal muscles tight, roll the wheel forward until your arms are extended in front of you, and lift your feet off the ground as you move forward.
  3. Hold a moment in the extended position, then reverse the movement to return to the starting position.
  4. Keep your back as straight as you can throughout the entire movement.
  5. Perform two sets of 5 to 10 reps each.

12. Situps

calisthenic ab workout

Sit-up is one of the most common core stability exercises. It works on abdominal muscles and engages the hip flexors and lower back.

Sit-ups help burn more calories, build a strong core, and improve endurance.

How to do it stepwise:

  1. Start with lying on the floor with your knees bent in front of you and feet flat on the ground.
  2. Keep your elbows bent and fingertips behind your ears. That’s the start.
  3. Raise your trunk toward your knees; you’ll feel the contraction in your abdominal muscles.
  4. Breathe out, pause for a couple of seconds, and then return to the start.
  5. Do as many sets and reps as possible.

13. Bird Dog Pose

Bird Dog Plank
Bird Dog Plank

The bird dog is a popular strength and mobility exercise. It reinforces abdominal muscles, lower back, hips, and posterior chains and helps improve posture.

Steps to do it:

  1. Sit on all fours with your hips under your knees and arms below your shoulders.
  2. Brace your core and maintain a flat back. That’s the setup.
  3. Lift your right arm and left leg off the floor until they parallel to the ground.
  4. Pause for five to ten seconds, then return to the start and repeat on the opposite side.

Examples of Calisthenics Ab Workout Routine

10-minute (Beginner)

  • Situps – 10 reps, 30-sec rest
  • Bird Dog Pose -5 reps on each side (spent five seconds on each rep), 30-sec rest
  • Leg Lifts – 10 reps, 30-sec rest
  • Front Plank – 45-sec, 30-sec rest
  • Reverse Crunches – 20 reps, 45-sec rest
  • Side Plank – 20-sec/side
  • Repeat twice.

20-minute (Intermediate)

  • Mountain Climber – 15 seconds activity, 15 secs rest.
  • Situps – 20 reps, 30 secs rest
  • Leg Lifts – 20 reps, 30 secs rest
  • Bird Dog Pose -5 reps, five seconds each/side
  • The hollow body – 15 seconds hold, 30 secs rest
  • Reverse Crunches – 20 reps, 30 secs rest
  • Side Plank – 20-sec/side
  • Hanging Knee Raise – 20 reps, 30 secs rest
  • Ab Wheel Rollout – 10 reps
  • Repeat twice.

30-minute (Advanced)

Perform three rounds.

ExerciseActivityRest
Mountain Climber15-sec
Hanging Knee Raise15 reps
Situps15 reps
Dragon Flag5 reps
Bird Dog Plank5 reps
Ab Wheel Rolling10 reps
Single-Leg Tuck-up5 reps
Hollow Body15-sec
Front Plank60-sec
Side Plank30-sec
  • Perform bird dog and single leg tuck-up five reps, 5 seconds each on both sides.

Do Calisthenics Workouts Help Build Six-Pack Abs?

Yes, calisthenics core exercises can help you build six-pack abs. Hollow body, hanging knee raises, reverse crunches, front and side plank, and V-ups are some of the best calisthenics workouts for abs that increase core strength, stability, and endurance and help you build six-packs.

However, as I mention at the start, you need to maintain your diet to reveal your abs. So if you have fats around your abs, follow a diet to shed those fats and perform the above exercises.

How Often Should You Do Calisthenics Core Workout?

You can do calisthenics core exercises two to three times a week, depending on your fitness level and goal.

For example, If you’re a beginner, you can train your abs once a week, and if you’re an intermediate or advanced, you can train your abs twice or thrice weekly.

References

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Author
Murshid Akram
I'm a certified personal trainer, fitness blogger, and nature lover. I always learn more about exercise science and human anatomy so that I can provide the best information possible. I share science-based, practical, and logical information that can help you achieve your desired fitness goal.

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