5 moves elite athletes and trainers do for strong, sculpted abs

A woman doing hanging leg-raises.
Hanging leg raises can work all your core muscles and improve ab definition.Getty
  • A good core workout can help you build a strong, stable midsection and prevent injury.

  • Basic moves like hollow holds and bicycle crunches can help use all your core muscles correctly.

  • Exercises like hanging leg raises and goblet squats are great for building core muscle and definition.

Exercises like hollow holds, hanging raises and even squat variations can help you engage every part of your core to take your ab workouts to the next level, according to fitness pros.

Foundational movements using rotation, gravity, and weight to hit your abs from different angles can help you build a strong, stable midsection — and the benefits go beyond working on your six pack. Core exercise can also help prevent injury, ease pain in your back and joints, and allow you to perform better in other exercises, personal trainers told Insider.

These are the go-to moves that elite athletes and trainers swear by.

Hollow body holds are a great ab workout for all fitness levels

One of the most basic core moves, the hollow body hold is a low-impact exercise that involves lying on the ground and pressing your lower back into the floor as you lift your legs and shoulders slightly off the ground.

Simple but surprisingly challenging, the hollow hold is great for all skill levels, since it can teach you how to properly engage your core muscles, and work up to maintaining that stability for other exercises like lifting weights, said Chris Travis, owner and coach at Seattle Strength and Performance.

"It's something people think is easy, but if they hold it for 15 seconds or 20 seconds, they are dead," Travis previously told Insider.

Bicycle crunches work every part of your abs

Bicycle crunches are a safe, versatile option for any core routine, said Cat Kom, trainer and founder of Studio SWEAT onDemand.

Done correctly, bicycle crunches tap into your entire core, from your obliques on the sides of the body to the transverse abdominis or "deep abs," and even your hip flexors.

For best results, avoid rushing through the exercise and focus on careful, controlled movement to really target your core muscles, according to Kom.

"If you just slow it down, you're going to get twice as much out of it and are more likely to avoid injury," she said.

A woman performing bicycle crunches in a studio with lots of natural light from large windows
Bicycles crunches should be a slow, controlled move that taps into your deep core and the sides of your abs.insta_photos/Getty Images

The Pallof press is a full-body stability exercise

Planks are often a go-to core exercise for building stability, but there's a better full-body alternative if you want to build core muscle and prevent injury, personal trainer Noam Tamir told Insider.

The Pallof press involves holding a cable or resistance band in front of your chest and pressing out in front of you, working the muscles of your core, back, arms, and lower body to prevent the band from pulling you around.

"It incorporates the whole body, but you'll really feel it in the core," he said. "You're resisting rotation, so it's very functional."

It also puts less stress on the low back than planks and similar movements, making it great for an ab workout without back pain.

Hanging leg raise use gravity to build better ab definition

One of the all-time best exercises for visible abs is the hanging leg raises, which uses your body weight and gravity to put tension on the muscles, according to former gymnast and six-time CrossFit Games athlete Kari Pearce.

The challenging move works every part of your abs, along with your hips, to stabilize your body and avoid swinging as you hang from a pull-up bar and lift your legs parallel to the floor. For a challenge, keep your legs straight, or add even more intensity by holding a weight like a medicine ball between your feet, Pearce said.

For a more accessible version, you can scale the exercise by performing knee tucks, bending your knees and bringing them up to your chest from a hang.

Do these as part of short, intense workouts you can be consistent with over time to see improvements to your core strength and physique, according to Pearce.

"If you hit it and hit it hard, you'll have great results," she said.

A woman squatting with a kettlebell.
Goblet squats with a dumbbell or kettlebell challenge your core and lower body at the same time.Getty

Goblet squats fire up your core and legs at the same time

One of the best exercises you can do for core strength and muscle isn't focused on your abs at all. The goblet squat is a lower body movement that requires you to hold a weight in front of your chest, instead of on your shoulders.

The front-loaded position means you need to work to control the weight and keep upright, lighting up your midsection as well as your hips and glutes (also part of your core) and your legs, according to former NBA trainer Keke Lyles.

He told Insider he had all his athletes, including Steph Curry, do goblet squats for core stability and injury prevention.

Read the original article on Insider