Getting a flat mid section and that ever-so desirable six pack requires a great workout programme and employment of the right exercises.

Let WatchFit take you on your journey to flat and defined abs heaven with these abdominal muscle exercises.

Let’s start by understanding how your abs (and core) work, so that you realise how important it is to target all this area with a variety of different exercises. Your core acts as your body’s transmission.


When you twist and turn and even stand still its muscles will be working hard to stabilise, control and power your movements. When core training it’s important to work your muscles through all planes of movement, so that your core develops balance, symmetry and reciprocal strength.

Many trainers perform hundreds of crunches in the belief that these flexion and anti-flexion exercises (see below) will develop a great core.

Well, these exercises will assist your ab development but perform too many and you could end up with a lack of core balance and a pulled forward posture as these muscles shorten and pull your torso forwards.

And this can even lead to the development of a pot belly look which is obviously totally contrary to what you are after.

We explain the 4 movements associated with your core and provide some sample of abdominal muscle exercises:

1. Flexion and anti-flexion exercises

This group of exercises emphasises the rectus abdominus muscle located on the front of your trunk – the crunch is perhaps the most typical exercise in this category, however isometric (held) exercises, such as the plank are also a part.

Running from the front of your pelvis to your sternum, the rectus abdominus is mainly associated with bending your spine forwards (flexion).

Contrary to popular belief, there is no such a thing as the upper and lower abdominals (it’s all one muscle) but it is possible to use your rectus abdominus to pull your shoulders towards your hips or your hips towards your shoulders. These contrasting movements would stimulate different parts of the rectus abdominus.

Press up plank

How to perform: Adopt a press up position with your arms straight and your hands shoulder-width apart. Place your feet a little wider than normal. Keep a straight line through your heels, bottom, shoulders and back of the head. Hold for the designated time.

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Tips and adaptations: Lift one arm forwards or sideways from the ground.

Swiss ball squat thrust

How to perform: Assume a press up style position on the Swiss ball with your shins on its apex. Keeping your arms straight and controlling your movement pull your knees in toward your chest to roll the ball in. Complete the movement by extending your legs.

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Tips and adaptations: perform one leg at a time for an advanced option.

2. Extension and anti-extension exercises

Extension exercises are all about your erector spinae or back muscles. The erector spinae is actually a long chain of shorter muscles which overlap and run up both sides of your spine from its base to the bottom of your skull.

These muscles pull your spine into extension and also prevent you from leaning forwards – especially when your centre of gravity is moved to the front of your body, for example when performing the deadlift.

Strong erector spinae muscles are essential for spine health as forced flexion (where your back is pulled forwards and into a curved shape) places an inordinate amount of stress on the passive structures of your spine, specifically the discs and ligaments that hold your spine together.

Swiss ball back Extension

How to perform: Lie across a Swiss ball – your hips should be on the apex, with your legs outstretched behind you. Have a partner hold you in position by gripping your ankles or by placing your feet against a wall. Place your hands by your temples with your elbows up. Contract your back muscles to lift your torso off the ball and lower under control back to the starting position.

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3. Lateral Flexion and anti-lateral flexion exercises

Lateral flexion uses both the erector spinae and rectus abdominus muscles to pull you over to the side. As these muscles are arraigned in opposing pairs, one side can work independently of the other which results in a side bend-type movement.

In addition, your obliques also get in on the lateral flexion action. If you are short on time and can only perform a limited number of ab exercises, movements involving lateral flexion are very efficient and effective.

Swiss ball side Plank

How to perform: Position your self sideways onto a Swiss ball. Place your elbow on the ball, with supporting forearm facing forward. Your other hand should be on your hips and your body in alignment with your feet stacked on top of each other.

Brace your core and then slowly lower your hips toward the ball, ensuring the alignment of your body. Lift your hips to return to the start position. Complete all your reps on one side, then repeat on the other.

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Tips and adaptations: Progress to this exercise by performing floor based side plank.

4. Rotation and anti-rotation exercises

Rotational movements primarily focus on your obliques. Located across and below your ribs, you have two sets of oblique muscles; internal and external which simply means they are arranged in layers, one being above to the other.

These muscles are essential in throwing, jumping, kicking and punching type movements.

Swiss ball russian twists

How to perform: Position yourself so that your upper back is on the Swiss ball and your feet are firmly on the floor. Hold this bridge position. Hold a dumbbell in clasped hands. Extend your arms so they are vertical.

Keeping your torso angle the same, rotate your upper body as far as comfortable to the left and then over to the right. Do not allow your torso to fall back or lift up.

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Tips and adaptations: Those new to this exercise should perform using no weight. It’s also a great butt strengthener as well!

Windscreen Wipers

How to perform: Lie on your back with your arms outstretched in a sort of crucifix position. Squeeze a light medicine ball between your feet. Lift your legs and then rotate them left to centre and then to the right under control.

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Tips and adaptations: Keep your shoulders down and your core braced. If new to this exercise, perform with no weight.

Exercise Photography:


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