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How to Workout Abs at Home – NO Equipment

The abdominals are the most used muscles in Calisthenics. They represent the connecting bridge between our lower and upper body. So even if we’re working out our legs and we’re performing squats for example, or we’re training our back and we’re doing pull-ups, we’re always going to work out our abdominals too.

Even though you are using the abdominals (the ABS) in probably 100% of Calisthenics exercises, you will notice the results much harder than in any other muscle group. I have seen a lot of people performing countless repetitions of abs with almost no results. Why? Because they’re performing the same exercise or only exercises that target the same muscle group. And that’s not going to build that six-pack.

Even if you go to the gym, you should know that the BEST way to work your abdominals is with your own bodyweight; when you are working your abs using machines, those machines are taking over a lot of work that you should be doing. Using only your bodyweight will be a hell lot harder, yes, but the results will be a hell lot greater.

Today I am gonna be walking you through a process of understanding ‘how abdominals work’, I am going to share with you one of my personal Abs Workout and I will give you some tips, so if you have ever wondered how to workout the abs at home, let me tell you that you are exactly where you need to be. You don’t need any equipment in order to train your abdominals. You just need the…floor. So let’s get started, shall we?

Understanding the Muscle Groups

Well, whenever you want to try something new in life, you first need to know what it is, you need to know the benefits, you have to understand its process in order to be able to do it. I think that everyone can agree with the fact that you do something that you understand much easier than something that you don’t, right?

So with this being said, let me show you here the Abdominal muscle groups. You can see in the picture below that the abdominals are NOT only one muscle group. They are divided into multiple groups. So, why would you perform only sit-ups? Or only leg raises? That way you will hit only one muscle group and you won’t achieve that six-pack.

However, when we are going to talk about abs workout, we are going to concentrate on three major groups (see the image that I have created below) because these are the main ones and by hitting them all I can assure you that you will hit every single one of them:

  • Upper Abdominals
  • Obliques
  • Lower Abdominals

You will need to target all of these 3 muscle groups using specific exercises. There are literally tons of workout routines that you can create for ABS. Next, I am going to give you 5 examples of exercises for each group from one of my workout routines, so you can implement as well in yours.

Upper Abdominals

In order to train this section of your abdominals, you will mostly use the exercises that require you to bring your upper body up. In simple terms, the exercises used for this muscle group are those in which you’re using your upper body the most. So here are, in my opinion, 5 of the best exercises for working the upper abdominals:

1. Crunches

You probably know this exercise, since it’s one of the most popular ones in matter of working upper abs. If you do not know it, there isn’t any problem, I have created a simple scheme for you below:

There are some things that I want you to consider while doing this exercise:

  • Make sure you squeeze your abdominals as hard as you can while performing it;
  • Don’t put pressure on your neck trying to complete the reps; do them in a clean form, by squeezing, as I said before;
  • Don’t use explosive moves, it can damage your lower back;
  • Don’t go all the way up, because that way you will perform a sit-up; go 45° as you see in the picture.

2. Chair Sit-Ups

This exercise is similar to a crunch; the difference is that you will keep your legs up, in a 45° angle, and you will put one of the arms on the other one’s shoulder; you will try to reach as high as you can, as you can see in the image below:

Things to consider here:

  • Make sure you squeeze your abdominals as hard as you can while performing it;
  • Try to keep your legs still;
  • Perform the exercise twice: first with your right arm up, then with the left.

3. V-ups

To perform this exercise, you will start in a boat position, then you will want to get your body and your legs up to literally form a V, just like in the image below:

Things to consider here:

  • Make sure you squeeze your abdominals as hard as you can while performing it;
  • Reach as high as you can;
  • Control the movement.

4. Plank

This is one of my favorite ABS exercises, that will hit all of your abdominals; the reason that I’ve chosen to put it here is that it targets your upper abdominals THE MOST. I have heard a lot of negative opinions about the plank, and it really amuses me because this exercise (when it is done correctly) engages all of your abs muscle groups and it builds muscle endurance.

Another reason why you should never skip the plank is that it really builds your motivation as well and as I said a lot of times before, it is not about the body as it is about the mind. Here is the correct position that you should be doing:

Things to consider here:

  • DO NOT move from that position while you’re performing the exercise. Once you took the correct plank position, you need to stand still until the time’s up;
  • Keep your body in a straight line, don’t elevate your glutes and don’t arch your back;
  • Keep your elbows in a straight line with your shoulders; this helps avoiding an overload on the shoulder joints;
  • Make sure you squeeze your abdominals as hard as you can while performing it.

5. Crucifixes

The last exercise that I personally recommend you to implement in your routine for training your upper abs is called crucifixes. If you’ve never heard about this exercise, you can see below how you can correctly perform it. You will start from a boat position and you will get your upper body and your legs (bent) together, so you can touch your ankles.

Things to consider here:

  • Make sure you squeeze your abdominals as hard as you can while performing it;
  • Control the movement, concentrate as much as you can on the form.

So these are, in my opinion, the most effective exercises your your upper abdominals. Now let’s get into the second muscle group, lower abdominals.

Lower Abdominals

In order to train this section of your abdominals, you will mostly perform the exercises that require you to use your legs. I know it doesn’t sound very clear, but you will understand in a moment. Here are 5 of the best exercises for working the lower abdominals.

1. Lying Leg Raises

As crunches is the basic exercise for training the upper abs, this exercise is the basic for training the lower abs. Take a look at the next image to understand the proper form of this exercise:

Things to consider here:

  • Make sure you squeeze your abdominals as hard as you can while performing it;
  • Control the movement, don’t rush it;
  • DO NOT let your legs on the ground after any repetition; you want to bring your legs up and when you let them down, make sure they’re still “in the air” (slightly above the ground); this will keep your core engaged on the whole duration of the exercise;
  • Keep your legs straight on the whole duration of the exercise.

2. Lying Knee Raises (Reverse Crunches)

This exercise is a bit more advanced than the first one; you can see the correct form of it right below:

Things to consider here:

  • Make sure you squeeze your abdominals as hard as you can while performing it;
  • Make sure you’re not only bringing your knees to your chest, but you’re also elevating your lower back as much as you can;
  • DO NOT let your legs on the ground after any repetition; you want to bring your knees up and when you let your legs down, make sure they’re still “in the air” (slightly above the ground); this will keep your core engaged on the whole duration of the exercise;

3. Circular Leg Raises

This exercise is very similar to Lying Leg Raises; the only difference is that you’re not only elevating your legs and letting them down; this time you’re going to form circles in the air with your legs. Remember to keep your legs straight all the time and to engage your core on the whole duration of the exercise.

You will want to perform this exercise in the both directions: forming circles to the right, and then to the left.

4. Boat Hold

As plank is the static movement for working the upper abs, the boat hold is the static movement for working the lower abs. There are several ways of performing the boat hold, depending on your level. I am going to show you here the V boat hold, which is the easiest one.

The lower you’re going to keep your legs and your upper body, the harder this exercise will get.

Things to consider here:

  • Once you got into the boat hold position, make sure you’re not moving for the whole duration of the exercise;
  • Make sure you squeeze your abdominals as hard as you can while performing it;
  • Keep your legs straight.

5. L-sit Kicks

I consider this exercise the hardest one for working the lower abs, because it requires not only a lot of core strength, but a lot of arms strength as well. Here you have the proper form of performing this exercise:

Things to consider here:

  • Keep your whole body elevated while performing it;
  • Make sure you squeeze your abdominals as hard as you can while performing it;
  • VERY IMPORTANT : If you don’t have enough strength to perform this exercise, don’t force yourself; you will risk injuries to your joints.

So these are my 5 best exercises for working your lower abdominals. Now, let’s get into the last section, which is obliques.

Obliques

In order to train this section of your abdominals, you will need to perform those exercises that involve a twisting motion or a movement that will fully engage your obliques. Here are my 5 best exercises for training your obliques. Let’s get right into them.

1. Russian Twists

This exercise will hit all of your abdominals. The reason that I put it here is that it engages the obliques the most, performing that twisting motion that I was talking about.

You can perform this exercise with empty hands, or, to make it more challenging, you can hold something that weighs 2kg (or more – you can choose the weight according to your level).

So, in order to perform this exercise, you will need to adopt a boat position and for the whole duration of the exercise you will touch the floor one side at a time, like in the picture.

Things to consider here:

  • Make sure you squeeze your abdominals as hard as you can while performing it;
  • Try to twist your body as much as you can – that’s how you create the effect that is going to build your obliques
  • You should touch the both sides in one second (or less, but no more than one second) – and that is one repetition
  • Don’t only twist your upper body, make sure that you twist your legs too while performing it.

2. Plank Knees to Elbows

I personally love this exercise, because it’s extremely hard if you perform a lot of repetitions.

To execute it, you simply need to start off from a plank position, and you will get your knees, one by one, to your elbows, like in the image. Make sure you squeeze those obliques while performing this exercise.

Don’t focus only on bringing your knees to your elbows, focus on the quality of your form and on squeezing hard your muscles.

3. Side Plank Raises

Another great exercise for working those obliques out is Side Plank Raises.

To be able to perform it, you will need to start off from a side plank position, as you can see in the image; you will simply need to bring your body up, by squeezing your obliques.

Make sure you perform this exercise on the both sides.

4. Side Boat Crunches

This exercise is very similar to crunches; unlike crunches, this exercise will hit more of your obliques.

To perform this exercise you will need to start off from a side boat hold position; then you will squeeze your obliques, performing a crunch, as you can see in the image.

Make sure you perform this exercise on the both sides.

5. Switching Mountain Climbers (X)

I like to call this exercise X Mountain Climbers instead of switching, but it’s the same thing.

So in order to perform this exercise you will need to start off from a push-up position; then you will need to bring your knees to your elbows (left knee to right elbow and right knee to left elbow), like you can see in the image below.

I want you to be FAST here. You need to perform this exercise fast. As fast as you can. I’ve seen many people performing this exercise with literally no speed and it just doesn’t work like that. You need to be explosive here. That’s the key of this exercise.

My Killer Abs Workout

As I promised in the beginning, here is my personal KILLER abs workout including all of the exercises mentioned above.

  1. 15 Crunches
  2. 16 Chair Sit-Ups (8 each side)
  3. 15 V-ups
  4. 1 min Plank
  5. 15 Crucifixes
  6. 20 Russian twists
  7. 20 Plank knees to elbow
  8. 20 Side Plank Raises (10 each side)
  9. 20 Side Boat Crunches (10 each side)
  10. 20 X Mountain Climbers
  11. 15 Lying Leg Raises
  12. 15 Lying Knee Raises
  13. 16 Circular Leg Raises (8 each side)
  14. 1 min Boat Hold
  15. 10 L-sit Kicks

X3

Notes:

  • 30 seconds break between all the exercises;
  • 2 minutes break between sets;
  • You need to perform this workout 3 times to complete it;
  • If you can not perform the workout with this number of repetitions or if you find it too easy, adjust the number to your current level as you wish. Make sure it’s challenging enough;
  • This is my personal workout, if you consider there are too many exercises, you can split it into two different workouts, but one thing to consider is that you want to hit all of the abdominal muscle groups in both workouts.

As you could notice, I’ve insisted very much on squeezing your abdominals. Well, I want you to remember that it’s very very important to stay mentally focused on performing the exercises, not only performing them. Make sure you put those muscles to work on their highest potential!

Thank you very much for reading this article, I hope you enjoyed it and I hope you consider it helpful.

If you have any question related to this article and not only, please leave them below and I will be more than happy to help you out. I’m Alex and it was a pleasure writing this article for you, guys!

Cheers!

12 Comments

  • Travis

    I had always wondered why I wasn’t able to get those 6-pack abs that you see on TV, until I realized that just doing 100’s of crunches would not work by itself. I have used the Insanity workout in the past, which incorporates a lot of what you have talked about here, especially with core workouts, but I am going to give your workout a go, it looks like it will be very effective! Wish me luck, I will let you know the results!

  • Steve

    This is a great article, Alex. You are 100% correct that abs are one of the hardest things to train and get a six-pack for. However, it is possible and I think your killer ab workout would go a long way toward getting the job done! I love working out and have my own website devoted to it. I can’t wait to try your workout and I know my abs are going to be burning afterwards! I do have a quick question about it. How many days per week do you do this workout and is it done as its own workout or in combination with another? Thanks for the post!

    • Alex Rubio

      Hi there Steve,

      Thank you for reading my post, first. Now, to answer your question…I do this workout 2 days per week. I try to train my abs every single day though (excepting the rest day), so I do this workout twice and in the other days I just do some random exercises for abs, to make sure that I keep training my core continuously.

      When I do this workout I don’t combine it with anything else; try it, you will see that it’s very challenging and you can’t really do anything else after it haha.

      Keep training Steve, cheers!

  • Sam

    I’ve done crunches and russian twists before but I didn’t realize that I wasn’t targeting the lower abdominals. That happens to be my biggest problem area so, I’m glad I now know some exercises to help with that! I also appreciate that your article covers exercises you can do at home because I find the gym very intimating! 

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

  • Mike Adkins

    This is a great post and has some extreme and advanced exercises.
    When I was younger I used to go to the gym, lift weights and do the usual young man grunting thing.

    At the gym there was a serious body builder who had a great 6 pack. He lifted HUGE weights and was lean and ripped.

    I asked him about abs exercises and he told me he never did abs exercises with weights but concentrated on doing squats and body weight movements, many that were similar to those on your post.

    You have some great movements shown and I love the L sit exercise. My only problem with this exercise for my body is that my hamstrings are tight which means I cannot get my legs straight, If you have any recommendations for hamstring loosening movements I would love to hear them,

    Thanks again
    Mike

    • Alex Rubio

      Hello there Mike,
      thank you for reading my content;

      I will let you here an YouTube video that you can follow along; it is a 12 minute flexibility workout that will definitely help you with your problem.
      I would suggest you to perform it everyday in the morning. That way, it will give you a boost of energy to start your day and you will have your first task completed which will give you a boost of motivation. You can do it whenever you want, though.

      If you have any more questions, get back here and I will be happy to help you! 🙂

  • Alex

    After reading your article I realized I kind of always ignored the obliques.
    My thing was usually some crunches, lying leg raises and chair sit-ups. Regarding the chair sit-ups, is it ok if I put my heels on a bench/chair? I never tried to hold them as you indicated 🙂
    Some of the other exercises, like boat hold or plank are included in my yoga sessions (the ones I kind of omitted doing lately).
    Thanks for the plan, I will give it a go, though it will be in 2 sessions. Thanks for pointing out I have to include all 3 groups in each day, as I would have certainly split them by groups.

    • Alex Rubio

      Hi there Alex,
      Thank you for reading my article, I am happy that I could help!
      The chair sit-ups can be performed as you said as well, resting your heels on a bench/chair. The reason I would recommend you to hold them without any assistance is that you will work on your balance and mobility too, things that are very important in Calisthenics.

  • Jamie

    Alex my man! wow you are such an inspiration! Your story and your WHY you are helping others is so admirable. I’m currently recovering from open heart surgery and have a new lease on life. Once I’m recovered I fully intend on following your page and getting my 50 year old body back in shape. Thanks for such a great page!

    • Alex Rubio

      Hi there, Jamie

      I am so glad that everything went well for you and that you’re feeling good right now. Thank you for your kind words, as well. You’re never old enough and you are the living proof of my statement haha! All the best there, buddy!

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