Do you have what it takes to do the 9 toughest six pack abs exercises? Read and find out.
Want to know what the toughest ab exercises are? Well I’ve put together a list of my top 9 roughest, most brutal ab exercises, completed by my good friend Mike D. – who is a certified bad ass and fitness expert – and if you can make it through 3 rounds and 8-12 (or 30 seconds) reps of these, then you might just be qualified to be the King of Six Pack Abs.
*Something to keep in mind here is that a lot of these ab exercises can also be made EVEN tougher by simply increasing the weight – which is what you SHOULD be doing over time to help the muscle continue to grow stronger and/or bigger.*
Hardest Ab Exercises – #1 – Hanging or Steep Decline Crunches
Why stay on the floor when you can get a much better challenge for your six pack abs in the air? If you have a safe place to try it, find your inner-child and swing your legs over a bar. Squeeze tightly with your legs (so you don’t fall on your head during this or any other hanging ab exercises), and crunch up as far as you can, while very slowly letting yourself down to really rip up those six pack abs on the eccentric (or negative) phase of the movement.
You can also find a lot of decline benches made for a similar movement with pads to lock in your legs, and they can help you develop your six pack abs just as well… but make sure you’re not putting strain on your lower back (and consequently hitting your hip flexors more so than your abs) as many people do.
That being said, with these ab exercises, try to keep your back from being arched throughout the entire movement by contracting your abdominal muscles extremely tightly, so that when you come down to the bottom of the bench, your entire lower back is resting completely against the bench.
As always – Add more weight to these decline or hanging ab exercises if they become too easy or even just place your arms above your head.
Hardest Ab Exercises – #2 – Hanging Leg Raise With Weight/Resistance
Sure, the hanging leg raise might seem like one of the most basic ab exercises to experienced gym-goers… But you will be surprised how difficult it is to throw some resistance on it, which can be done in the form of a dumbbell between the feet, an exercise band, or maybe even some cables.
Want to make one of the hardest ab exercises EVEN tougher? Keep your legs straight. Your quads AND those six pack abs will be begging you for mercy afterward.
Hardest Ab Exercises – #3 – Isometric Upside-Down Plank Hold
You might be surprised, but holding your body perfectly still with your abs contracted to keep you in position qualifies as one of the tougher ab exercises.
You can certainly make this one simpler, though, too. To make it easier, have the pad further up on your lower body – like under your glutes or lower back. It can be tough on the lower back if your abs aren’t strong enough, so if you don’t have a lot of strength there already, start closer to your lower back.
If you think you can make one of the toughest ab exercises even harder, go ahead and either attempt to put your hands above your head or hold a weight on your chest. Hold for 30 seconds, and then let me know how you feel the next day.
Hardest Ab Exercises – #4 – Spider Plank
This one is pretty straightforward, but it will require more than just your abs. You need to have a strength all over to keep your wits about you in the Spider Plank.
You’ll want to get your arms and legs spread as widely as possible, and then raise your body just a few inches off of the ground. As far as ab exercises go, this one might take the cake for most challenging on the rest of your body, too!
Hardest Ab Exercises – #5 – Extended Plank
Similar to the Spider plank, #5 of our toughest ab exercises is another plank variation, but this time it will require more of your general core strength. You will also notice that my buddy Mike’s lat muscles are pretty flexed in this photo, because they play a big role here too.
This position can be hard to get into, but if you can master #5 of our most brutal ab exercises, keep reading – they’re only getting tougher!
Hardest Ab Exercises – #6 – Dragon Flags
Made famous by the one and only Bruce Lee, the dragon flag is possibly one of the more impressive ab exercises to see somebody doing in a gym… And for good reason. It’s tough as nails!
You can start learning how to do it like Mike is in the photo above – but beware: it requires a fair amount of upper body strength too. When I first learned it, I would start at the top (holding onto the bench behind my head for stability), and get comfortable keeping my body vertical in a stiff, straight line. Then I would practice lowering myself down slowly while keeping my body completely straight. It can take a little while, but with practice you will definitely get there.
And by the way, I don’t recommend trying to make this one any more difficult than it already is, because you’re putting some pressure on your neck when your legs are at the top of this ab exercise.
Hardest Ab Exercises – #7 – Hanging Windshield Wipers
Sure, you could shred your obliques by doing your windshield wipers on the floor, but where’s the fun in that? Challenge your entire core with #7 of my most difficult ab exercises, the hanging windshield wipers.
Just getting into the starting position is tough in itself, and I hate to say it… but if you can’t hang with your hips elevated to the level of your shoulders, then you might want to just work on getting into that position (“toes to bar exercise” is a good start) before risking any injury.
Be careful and keep your composure during this exercise because the twisting motion that will undoubtedly blast your obliques (along with everything else) CAN be detrimental to your spine if done incorrectly or if you lose your form.
And lastly…. Always try to have a spotter with you during these ab exercises… Just in case.
Hardest Ab Exercises – #8 – Front Lever
We’re getting progressively tougher here, and our pick for #8 of the hardest ab exercises is not for the faint of heart… In fact, it could probably match up to #9 depending on certain genetic predispositions and morphology.
The front lever is one of the toughest ab exercises because not only does it require powerful six pack abs, but strong shoulders and back muscles too.
If you’re not quite to this level yet, don’t worry. You can try the tucked variation of this ab exercise, which will still require a fair bit of strength, but be much easier on your body. All that it requires is to lean back with your upper torso/head (much like Mike is doing in this gif) but instead of bringing your legs out straight, tuck your knees toward your chest. This will take a significant load off of your core and shoulders.
(Hint: Getting your hips up in the tucked variation will also help with developing your strength for the hanging windshield wipers from #7)
Hardest Ab Exercises – #9 – Human Flag
Now, there are a few easier variations of this movement that you can do to progress to this final, fully extended position, but we can talk more about that later.
What’s slightly ironic about what I consider one of the most difficult ab exercises is that rather than focusing on strictly your six pack abs, it taxes your obliques and lats a bit more, as well as a few other muscle groups.
Are you noticing a trend here? A lot of these tougher ab exercises require full body (or at least upper body) strength, which should remind you that having a well-rounded training routine is incredibly important because it’s all connected.
What do I mean by that? Well, many of the movements you do for upper body or lower body day will also require activation from your abdominal muscles, and building muscle all over your entire body will help you lose fat, increase your metabolism, and obviously bring the girls (or boys) to the yard.
All in all, we love doing what it takes to get a great set of six pack abs, including the toughest ab exercises we can muster, but I don’t want you to forget about the rest of your body. If you need a starting point, click here to get a 90 day program that is fully customizable to your experience level, has in-depth descriptions and video demonstrations of every exercise, and will teach you what it takes to get ripped six pack abs and the physique you’ve always dreamed of.
That’s all for today, folks. Let me know in the comments how you feel about these ab exercises, and whether or not you were able to make it to the end!