Home is actually a great place to hone your abs—after all, a six-pack is mostly made in the kitchen. “There’s no such thing as spot reduction and a six-pack is indicative of overall health and whole-body fitness, not just the state of the core muscles,” says Kendra Coppey Fitzgerald, founder of Barefoot Tiger in-home personal training services in NYC and LA. “If there’s too much fat on top of the ab muscles, you’ll never see them, no matter how much core work you do.” That means eating healthily and doing cardio plus heavy weight training to lean down and build muscles to lose weight overall. (Bummer, we know.)

Then, when it comes to sculpting those abs of your dreams, it’s not as simplistic as doing endless crunches. “Developing a six-pack requires more than just working the ‘pretty’ muscles that you can see,” Fitzgerald says. “The deeper, transverse core muscles must be strengthened first to create a strong, solid base—without that, only doing crunches can actually make your belly stick out more. Nobody wants that.” Better news: By doing the types of routines here that strengthen from all angles and focus on function (how your body moves in real life) rather than flexion (crunches), you’ll look good and have a stronger core and less risk of lower back injury. “Not only will you see better gains faster, it’s also the quickest way to take inches off your waistline,” says Fitzgerald.

Begin each of these workouts with a five-minute warmup, or go through the moves after you’ve done your usual cardio or strength training when you’re already warm. Each should also begin with 20 reps of what Fitzgerald calls “transverse pullbacks”—where you pull your navel toward your spine, as if bracing yourself against a sucker punch—as a way to activate the muscles for the work you’re about to ask of them. You’ll also need some dumbbells for some of these moves.

Unilateral Powerhouse

This one is great for targeting the deep core muscles and emphasizes good posture.

5-minute warmup

20 transverse pullbacks

20 dumbbell renegade rows

20 dumbbell overhead press with a twist (hold one weight in both hands by the bells), each side

8 split squats with dumbbell chop (to the hip of the front knee), all to one side then switch

30 suitcase walking lunges, weighted with a dumbbell, each side

8 single-leg squats with dumbbell lateral raise (weight in hand of the working leg), each side

15 single-leg deadlift with upright row, each side

Side plank with 15 dumbbell flys, each side

x3

Stretch

No-crunch workout

There’s so much stabilizing going on here, your entire core will be burning way more than your abs do after a hundred crunches.

5-minute warmup

20 transverse pullbacks

20 lying bicycles with overhead dumbbell (like a pullover position, with weight hovering off the ground)

10 pushups to straight-arm side plank

Side planks with 20 leg pendulums, each side (top leg lifted and moving forward and back from the hip)

20 supermans

Side plank with 15 dumbbell flys, each side

Forearm plank series*

x3

Stretch

*Hold a plank for 15 seconds in each: forearm plank / right leg lifted / left leg lifted / right arm back to hip / left arm back to hip / right arm and left leg lifted / left arm and right leg lifted / forearm plank

Cardio core shred

Get your blood pumping (and the calories burning) with this high-energy workout.

5-minute warmup

20 transverse pullbacks

Without rest:

20 skater lunges

20 mountain climbers

20 Burpees

20 knee to shoulder knee-ins (alternating sides; think slow, controled mountain climbers)

Side planks with 20 leg pendulums, each side

20 knee to opposite shoulder knee-ins

x3, resting for a moment between sets

Stretch

Plank variations

Because holding still in a simple forearm plank for an eternity is both boring and counterproductive, most people lose form after a minute, causing strain on their back. This routine keeps you moving so you keep seeing results sans the back pain. Bonus: No equipment needed.

5-minute warmup

20 transverse pullbacks

Plank series*

15 forearm side plank with “thread the needle” (curl top arm under and back up to T), each side

10 pushups to straight-arm side plank

Side planks with 20 leg pendulums, each side

Forearm planks with 20 toe taps, each side (do all 20 with one foot then switch)

Forearm plank with 20 side-to-side hip dips

20 knee-to-shoulder knee-ins

20 knee-to-opposite-shoulder knee-ins

15 forearm side plank with “thread the needle” (yes, again)

Plank series (yes, again)

Stretch

*Hold a plank for 10 seconds in each: forearm plank / right leg lifted / left leg lifted / right arm back to hip / left arm back to hip / right arm and left leg lifted / left arm and right leg lifted / forearm plank

Standing abs workout

You don’t have to take all your core work lying down.

5-minute warmup

20 transverse pullbacks

20 dumbbell chops, each side

Wall plank with 20 knee-ins (do all on one side, hold last one for 5 breaths, then switch)

8 forward lunges with overhead dumbbell rotation, each side (hold weight from its bells and twist upper body toward forward knee)

8 single-leg squats with dumbbell lateral raise (weight is hand of the working leg), each side

12 dumbbell overhead press with a twist (hold one weight in both hands by the bells), each side

20 dumbbell swings (hold from one bell with both hands; swing like a kettlebell)

x3

Stretch

Bodyweight abs workout

No equipment? No problem.

5-minute warmup

20 transverse pullbacks

20 McGill curlups (slow crunches with hands under lower back)

20 supine leg lowers

20 curl-in with twist (think: curl, twist, hold; alternate sides)

20 Russian twists

20 elbow-to-knee crunches

20 butterfly crunches (soles of feet together, knees out to the side)

20 side-to-side knee drops (on back, knees bent up in a right angle)

20 curl-in with twist (again)

20 supine leg lowers

20 McGill curlups (slow crunches with hands under lower back)

Stretch

Anti-flexion workout

These moves work by forcing your body to resist flexing forward, to make the core muscles more stable.

5-minute warmup

20 transverse pullbacks

20 supermans

Plank series*

20 dumbbell pullovers (lying on back, knees bent)

Forearm planks with 20 toe taps, each side (do all 20 with one foot then switch)

Side planks with 20 leg pendulums, each side

20 prone reverse crunches (face down, place hands behind head and raise chest off the ground, toes stay down)

Side plank with 15 dumbbell flys, each side

Forearm plank with 20 side-to-side hip dips

20 supermans

Stretch

*Hold a plank for 10 seconds in each: forearm plank / right leg lifted / left leg lifted / right arm back to hip / left arm back to hip / right arm and left leg lifted / left arm and right leg lifted / forearm plank

Deep V workout

The aim of this one: to create that deep V definition.

5-minute warmup

20 transverse pullbacks

12 supine alternating leg lifts with curl-in, each side (on back with straight legs, lift one up while curling toward it; do all to one side, then switch)

20 supine reverse crunches with overhead dumbbell (like a pullover position, with weight hovering off the ground, raising hips up and both knees in toward chest)

20 bicycles with full leg extension

10 walkouts (hold briefly in plank position)

20 knee-to-shoulder knee-ins

20 knee-to-opposite-shoulder knee-ins

x3

Stretch

5-minute ab circuit

For when you’re short on time but not on motivation.

10 transverse pullbacks

20 dumbbell pullovers

20 bicycles with full leg extension

Forearm plank with 20 side-to-side hip dips

x3 or 4

Plank series*

Stretch

*Hold a plank for 10 seconds in each: forearm plank / right leg lifted / left leg lifted / right arm back to hip / left arm back to hip / right arm and left leg lifted / left arm and right leg lifted / forearm plank

Rotational power workout

Twisting—or, really, learning to control against a twist—is an advanced technique but essential for improving core power.

5-minute warmup

20 transverse pullbacks

8 forward lunges with dumbbell twist, each side (hold dumbbell from its bells and bring weight across front knee)

 

12 dumbbell overhead press with a twist, each side

20 dumbbell renegade rows

10 pushups to straight-arm side plank

15 forearm side plank with “thread the needle”, each side

20 dumbbell chops, each side

10 side-to-side dumbbell chops (staggered feet, chop, then as you bring weight back up, pivot on feet 180 degrees before chopping again)

x2

Stretch