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The 25 Most Effective Workout Finishers for Your Abs

Super-effective exercises that'll burn everything left in your tank and shred your stomach.
The 25 Most Effective Workout Finishers for Your Abs

You just killed your workout and you're ready to foam roll and hit the shower. Not so fast. Save time for one of these workout finishers that'll torch your abs, helping you get every last ounce of effort out of your tank.

Now, while crunching into oblivion will make you "feel the burn," it won't do much for your physique—or strength for that matter. 

"In order to optimize your abs for aesthetics and function, the key to finishers is to include a conditioning exercise (to remove that top layer of fat with some high-intensity and anaerobic work), use a functional movement pattern (push, pull, squat, walk, carry, hinge, hold), in addition to using exercises that work in multiple planes of motion, like anti-extension, anti-(lateral)flexion, and even anti-rotation," says Joe Holder S10 performance trainer, Nike trainer/run coach, and founder of The Ocho System.

The following 25 workout finishers do all of the above. And if you really want to put your abs into overdrive, work in more "single-arm pressing, pulling, hinging, and squatting exercises after your main lifts to tax your core and even out discrepancies in your movement patterns," Holder recommends. Ready to get after it? Pick any of these finishers to top off your workouts; rotate through a few of 'em and you'll see the results.

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"These first four exercises, when done properly and intensely, will activate your abs, plus they'll burn those extra calories you're looking to get rid of." They're anti-extension, lateral flexion drills that resist side-bending and force your abs to stabilize your body. So, even though moves like sprints and jumping rope don't scream "ab-builders," they will work your entire core. 

How to do it: Complete 15-30 second bouts at max intensity with a 1-2 minute rest in between, decreasing rest and increasing work time depending on your level of fitness. See here for proper prowler form

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How to do it: Complete 15-30 second bouts at max intensity with a 1-2 minute rest in between, decreasing rest and increasing work time depending on your level of fitness. 

You can sprint on the treadmill, on a track, on pavement, even on a resistance bike.

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How to do it: Complete 15-30 second bouts at max intensity with a 1-2 minute rest in between, decreasing rest and increasing work time depending on your level of fitness.

To make this less challenging, ditch the rope if you can't consistently jump rope; to make it more challenging, use weighted jump ropes. 

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How to do it: Complete 15-30 second bouts at max intensity with a 1-2 minute rest in between, decreasing rest and increasing work time depending on your level of fitness. Go here for variations and proper technique

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How to do it: Find a set of parallel bars. From standing, come down and grip the bars, lowering your body to perform an L-sit hold, making sure your shoulders don't hike up and your core stays braced, Holder says. Note: If you don't have parallel bars, you can also stack plates or use two benches.

Perform 3-5x10-15 sec holds. With the last rep, hold as long as you can. For an added challenge, try this dynamic version

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How to do it: Get in a plank position. "Spread your feet slightly wider than normal to create a sturdier base," Holder recommends. Pick up a battle rope in your right hand and perform slams for 15 seconds. Repeat on the other side. Be sure to keep your hips even and spine straight and lengthened. Watch a video demonstration here.

For an added challenge, perform with weight on your back. 

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How to do it: "Lying on your right side and keeping your body long, secure your feet in a glute-ham raise machine," Holder says. Perform 10 side crunches, then 10 punches with 5-20 lb weights in each hand. Watch a video demonstration here. 

Complete 5 rounds, then switch sides; repeat for 1-3 sets. 

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How to do it: Hang from a pullup bar and bring your knees straight up toward your elbows in a controlled manner. "Be sure to not to let your back extend and focus on iniatitng the movement from your abs, not your hips," Holder recommends. Watch a video demonstration here. 

Try to complete 15 reps, working up to 25, for 4-6 sets. 

Try these variations for added difficulty:
     Weighted Ab Raisers (hold dumbbell between feet)
     Opposite Knee to Elbow 
     "Hop The Fence" (draw knees over an imaginary fence)

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How to do it: Sitting in front of a squat rack, place the bar at chest height. Using a pronated grip (hands facing you) pull yourself up in an L-sit. Staying tall, rigid, and controlled, "tick-tock" your legs from left to right. Watch a video demonstration here.

Start with 10 seconds, working your way up to 20. Go for 3-5 rounds. 

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How to do it: Standing parallel to a wall, hold a med ball (8-12lbs) in your hands. "In a controlled yet forceful movement, rotate and throw the ball into the wall," Holder instructs. "But be sure not to let your torso bend laterally," he says. 

Perform 10 reps each side with minute breaks in between each set. Perform 3-5 sets. 

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How to do it: Begin kneeling on your right knee, holding a plate by your opposite hip. In a circular motion, bring the plate up and overhead, then drive down toward your right knee; you'll create an arc. "Move quickly but begin to brace and decelerate as you approach your right knee," Holder says. "This move works on core control, dynamic stability, and deceleration." Return to start by bringing the weight across your body in a straight line. Watch a video demonstration here. 

Perform 15 reps each side. Aim for 3-5 sets. 

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How to do it: Begin by lying on your back on the floor or on a bench. Holding a dumbbell in one hand, bend your knees to make a 90-degree angle. "Be sure to keep your back flat and don't let it arch off the bench/floor," Holder stresses. Press the dumbbell up in a single-arm pressing motion while extending your legs forward and straight. Pause at the top. Return to start.

Perform 10 each side for 3-5 sets. 

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How to do it: Begin by placing a barbell (with plates) in the crook of your elbows. "Lift elbows up slightly to keep pressure off your neck," Holder says. Perform 5 squats and then walk 20 yards.

Repeat 4 times. Rest for 1 minute. Perform 3 sets. 

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How to do it: Begin standing parallel to the cable machine, holding the handle at chest height. (You can also use a resistance band wrapped around a pole.) Keep your hips and shoulders square as you press the cable or band forward. "Resist the urge to rotate your torso and keep your feet firmly planted in the ground," Holder recommends.

Perform 15 reps per side for 3-5 sets.  

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How to do it: Lying on a bench, place your hands behind your head and brace your core. Perform a reverse crunch while keeping your legs straight, bringing your lower back off the bench. Slowly begin to lower down, controlled, while keeping your upper back in contact with the bench. Lower until you're parallel with the bench; then, raise back up in a straight line. "If it's too difficult to raise up after lowering, just perform the reps for the eccentric or lowering-only portion," Holder says. 

Perform 5 reps, 3-5 sets. 

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How to do it: An awesome partner drill, begin seated with an 8-12lb medicine ball in front of you. Keep your feet flat on the ground with knees bent. Perform a situp by raising up explosively and throwing the med ball as you do so; catch the ball and lower down, slowly. Do 10 reps. Then, keeping your legs straight, feet off the floor, and back tall, create a "V" shape with your body. Perform 10 med ball passes to your partner. Next, place your feet back on the floor. Take a med ball and rotate toward your left hip. Touch the med ball to the ground, then explosively rotate toward the right, passing the med ball to your partner. Perform 10 reps each side. 

That is one set. Aim for 3 sets. 

NOTE: This is an advanced drill. If you suffer from back pain or cannot perform a plank properly, don't do this drill. 

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How to do it: Begin in a standing position with a bar in a "landmine" attachment or held sturdy between two corners of the room (you can also pile sandbags and wedge the bar in between). Position your hands toward the top of the bar. "Drive the bus" by performing a controlled rotation from left to right hip, keeping your arms straight as you do. Stay tall and don't bend into the exercise. "Pivot off the opposite foot to take torque off your knee and return to start," Holder says.

Perform 10 each side, eventually working up to 20 for 3-5 sets. 

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How to do it: Begin in a kneeling position with an ab roller or barbell loaded with plate(s) in front of you. Keeping your core braced, begin to roll the barbell or ab roller forward until your arms are straight and you're as close to the ground as possible without an arch in your back. "For added difficulty, roll out at different angles or begin from a standing position," Holder recommends. 

Return to start. Perform 10 reps for 3 sets. 

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How to do it: Start with your feet elevated on a Swiss ball, body facing the ground. Keeping your legs as straight as possible, bend your hips and try to pull your feet toward your chest so the ball rolls forward. Hold at the top for three to four seconds, then slowly roll back to the starting position. Continue rolling the ball back, letting it move down your legs, until your body forms a straight line about 30 degrees to the floor. That's one rep. "This exercise can also be performed with feet placed in TRX straps," Holder says.

Perform two to three sets of 10 repetitions, resting 45-60 seconds between each set.

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How to do it: Begin in a plank position. Drive your right knee toward your right elbow. Return to start but don't let your foot touch the ground. Now, drive your right knee toward your left elbow. Return to the start once again, keeping your foot elevated. Drive your right knee toward your right elbow once again but pause at the top this time. Swivel your knee perpendicular across your body, bringing your right knee toward your left elbow. That's one rep.

Perform 5-10 reps, then switch sides. Do 3-5 sets. 

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How to do it: Lie on your back on the floor and reach your arms overhead while extending your legs in front of you. Point your toes and pull your ankles together so they touch. Engage your abs so your belly hollows and your lower back rounds a bit. Lift your legs off the floor while you raise your shoulders at the same time. Your arms should stay straight above you and next to your ears. Now rock yourself back and forth. Make sure to maintain the hollow-body position, Holder says.  

Perform for 30 seconds, eventually working up to a minute. Complete 5 rounds. 

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How to do it: Begin in a plank position with a weight (10-40lb dumbbell) in your right hand. Perform a row, bringing the dumbbell off the ground, but making sure to engage the motion with your back and not your shoulder. "Keep your hips square," Holder stresses.

Perform 10 reps each side for 3-5 sets. 

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How to do it: Begin in plank position with your elbows on the ground and fingers interlaced. Keep your core braced and don't let your hips sink. Spread your feet so they're  about shoulder width apart. "Hold this position and don't let your shoulders ride up," Holder says. Now perform a "saw" and rock back and forth while keeping your hands and feet in the same position. Add weight to your back to up the difficulty. 

Hold plank for 10 seconds and then perform 10 saws. Do 3 sets of 3-5 rounds. 

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How to do it: Begin in a kneeling position with dumbbells pressed overhead. Staying tall with your torso rigid, stand by driving each leg up individually. Return to start. "This can also be done by holding only a single weight and overloading one side," Holder says. 

Perform 10 reps. 

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How to do it: "An old favorite of Stu McGill, begin with a plank position on a Swiss ball," Holder says. Imagine you're holding a ladle and "stir the pot," performing clockwise rotations for 20 seconds. Then go counter-clockwise. For an added challenge, perform with a weighted vest or plate on your back. 

Work your way up to 30 seconds. Perform 5-10 sets. 

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