"My strength comes from the abdomen. It's the centre of gravity and the source of real power." - Bruce Lee

These have not been listed in order of difficulty but in muscles worked. All the abdominal region is worked by these exercises to some extent but some are more specific than others.

Upper abs.

  1. Straight arm;
    • Lie on your back with your knees raised into an upside down 'v' shape, feet on the floor.
    • Put the palm of your hands midway up your thighs, keep your arms straight.
    • Raise your upper body and, keeping your arms straight, move your palms up so your finger tips go over your knee to touch the top of your shin.
    • Come back down but keep your head and shoulders of the floor.

  2. Straight arm through leg.
    • Basically the same as 1. However, open your legs slightly and push your arms through them to try and touch your ankles.

  3. Knees up;
    • Lie on your back with your knees raised so your legs are parallel to the floor.
    • Hold your hands to your face in a 'close guard' position.
    • Raise your upper body so your elbows come up to meet your knees.
    • Lower down but not so far that your head and shoulders touch the floor.

  4. Straight arm raises;
    • Lie on your back with your legs pointing straight up in the air.
    • Put your hands on your shins with your arms straight.
    • As in no. 1, push up so your hands move from your shins to your feet.
    • Lower but keep H&S off the floor.

  5. 'V' sit ups;
    • Lie on your back with your hands extended above your head.
    • Simultaneously raise both your legs and body (inc. arms) to form a 'V' shape. Lower and repeat.
    • A variation on this is to 'split' the V.
    • Ie do one leg and opposite arm, repeat with other opposite limbs then do both together.

  6. Foetal crunch;
    • Lie on your back with your hands in close guard position.
    • Simultaneously pull your legs up and body up so you end in a foetal position. Extend and repeat.

  7. Resistance;
    • Lie on your back with your legs bent, feet on the floor.
    • Sit half way up and resist as someone pushes down on your chest or arms.
    • Hold for as long as is comfortable then release and do it again!

Lower abs.

  1. Leg raises;
    • Lie on your back with legs straight up in the air.
    • Lower your legs by 6 inches (keeping them straight, towards the floor).
    • Pull your legs back up to their starting position and then push them up by 6 inches so your bum is raised off the floor.
    • Lower and repeat.

  2. Floor raises;
    • Lie on your back with your legs out straight.
    • Raise your legs by 6 inches off the floor.
    • From there your can do many things:
      ¨ Hold
      ¨ Raise and lower alternate legs by 6 inches.
      ¨ Raise and lower both legs by 6 inches.
      ¨ Scissor your legs towards and away from each other.
      ¨ Cross your legs over each other (similar to scissors but a longer movement.)
      ¨ Separate your legs even further to make a large 'V' shape, move them in and out by 6 inches.
    • Take care with this one if you have lower back problems, it places a lot of strain on the lumbar region.

  3. Raised body leg raises;
    • Similar to No. 2 except with your body raised to about 45' off the floor. Support your weight with your arms behind you.
    • Bend your legs to a 'V' shape but keep your feet on the floor.
    • Raise one leg so it runs parallel to the other but the foot is in the air.
    • Hold the position and/or move it up and down by 2 inches.
    • Repeat with the other leg.
    • Repeat with both legs.
    • A variation of this is to do this or No. 2 off the end of a bench. This gives you the opportunity to cover a greater distance in your movements.

  4. Leg pump;
    • Similar body position to No. 3.
    • Instead or raising your legs, pull your knees in to your chest and then pump them out so your legs are fully extended (don't lock your knees!) about 6 inches off the floor.
    • Repeat.

  5. Hanging raise;
    • Hang from a bar.
    • Raise your legs so they are at right angles to your body.
    • Either hold the position or lower and repeat.


  1. Straight arm twists;
    • As with straight arm crunches except place your hands on opposite knees.
    • Crunch so your hands cross the top of the opposite knee diagonally.
    • Repeat.

  2. Knees up twist;
    • Same body position as with knees raised crunch.
    • Raise body so one elbow touches the other knee.
    • To make the crunch harder put your arms at right angles to each other. Ie the non-crunching arm points straight out in front of your face, the arm that is to make contact with the knee should start parallel to the floor, so it has more distance to travel.

  3. Side to side;
    • Raise your body off the floor arms also raised at the side of your body.
    • Holding your body above the floor twist from side to side so your fingertips touch your ankles.
    • Repeat.

  4. Straight arm raises with twist;
    • As with straight arm raises but take your hands to the opposite feet.

  5. Side raises;
    • Lie on one side with your legs bent at right angles to your body. You should look as if you are sitting in a chair.
    • Hold your hands to your face in the close guard position.
    • Raise your body as far as you can.
    • Repeat.
    • Alternatively you can raise your body, hold and crunch from there.
    • DO BOTH SIDES!!!!

  6. Cycling;
    • Lie on your back, hands in close guard position.
    • Raise your back and legs and pretend to cycle.
    • As one knee comes up, twist your body so the opposite elbow comes to meet it.
    • Repeat.

  7. Hanging side raise;
    • Hang from a bar, legs bent.
    • Raise you legs as high as you can to one side.
    • Lower and lift the other side.

  8. Dumbbell side bends;
    • Stand up holding a dumbbell in each hand.
    • Keeping your legs still rock your body laterally so the dumbbell travels down and up the outside of your thigh.

  9. Elbow twists;
    • Lie on your back, legs bent, feet on the floor. Hold your ears, arms extending out from your head to the sides.
    • Raise your body to 45'.
    • Twist one way so one elbow reaches a point just in front of your face twist the other way so the other elbow replaces it.
    • Your body stays raised for the duration of the set.
    • It is good to do this with a partner. They can hold your feet down and also give you a target for your elbows.

  10. Punching;
    • Lie on your back, legs bent, feet on the floor.
    • Lift up and punch across your body at a target diagonally beyond your knees.
    • Lower but don't put your back on the floor.
    • Raise and repeat.
    • This exercise can be varied by using straight punches, hook punches or upper cuts. You can vary the amount of punches, eg 1 2 or 1 2 3 4 or even multiples from the same side eg 2 lefts followed by 2 rights.
    • Again this is good with a partner. They can hold your feet down and give you something to aim at.

Variations on a theme

  1. Slowly;
    • Very slowly and smoothly!!!

  2. Crunch and hold;
    • Do this at any part of the crunch, high, medium or low.

  3. Combination crunches;
    • Try and roll one exercise into the next.

  4. Incline;
    • On an incline bench.

  5. Hanging;
    • Hang upside down.
    • Make sure your legs are secured.
    • Raise your body, straight up or at an angle.


  • Each exercise slowly and smoothly.
  • Remember…
    quality not quantity…
    you get better results and don't mess your back up in the process.
  • Do the exercises on something padded, eg a gym mat.
  • Look after your spine, it's expensive to replace.
  • Work both sides evenly.
  • Breathe in on the way up out as you go down.
  • Have fun.


  • Hold onto your head as your crunch.
  • You can strain your neck this way.
  • Over do it.
  • Be miserable.