If you really want six-pack abs, planks aren’t going to give you the results you want. But that doesn’t mean you should abandon all bodyweight workouts in favor of gym equipment, which also doesn’t always work the way you think it will.
Whether you don’t have time to go to the gym, don’t want to pay for a membership, or would simply rather work out in the comfort and judgment-free safety of your living room, at-home ab workouts can be effective. If you choose the right ones, that is. Here are a few you can try.
The side crunch
You’ve probably heard crunches don’t work — and you’ve heard right. Not the classic flat-on-your-back crunches, anyway. This take on an otherwise ineffective ab workout turns it into an exercise that’s actually worth adding to your routine.
How to do it: Kneel on the floor and lean all the way to your right with your palm flat on the floor. Extend your left leg, pointing your toes, and put your left arm behind your head so your elbow faces up toward the ceiling.
Slowly lift your leg up to hip height. Extend your left arm above your leg and face your palm forward as you bring the left side of your rib cage toward your hip. Return to your starting position and repeat all this at least 6 times, then switch sides.
The ballet twist
This move engages your ab muscles better than a traditional crunch because it doesn’t let you use your back or legs for leverage. With your back at an angle and your heels constantly on the floor, you’re forced to rely on your core to both twist around and hold your weight up.
How to do it: Sitting on the floor, extend your legs outward and press them together flat on the floor. Lean back from your hips at a 45-degree angle and keep your abs tight as you lift your hands over your head (like a ballerina!).
Slowly twist your torso to the right and bring your right arm down to the floor while keeping your left arm over your head. Count to three slowly, then do the same thing with your other side, always making sure to keep your heels and butt flat on the floor. Repeat this on both sides (alternating) for a few sets of at least 6 reps.
The abdominal hold
You’ll need a chair for this one, but that’s all you’ll need in terms of equipment. This exercise forces you to rely on your core to keep you balanced on little more than your toes.
How to do it: Sit on the edge of the chair with your back straight, feet flat on the floor, and your hands holding the edge, fingers pointed toward your knees. Tighten your abs, lift your toes four inches off the floor, and lift your butt off the chair.
Hold that position for 5 to 10 seconds, then lower yourself to your starting position. Do this exercise for no more than a minute.
Pilates may not be the best physical activity of choice if you’re trying to lose weight (you won’t burn many calories). But it’s full of ab exercises that actually work — including the famous (or infamous, depending on how you feel about it) Hundred.
How to do it: Sit up straight on the floor with your knees bent to your chest and your hands at your sides. Face your palms down and lie flat on your back with your knees still bent. Exhale while raising your head and shoulders off the floor.
Pump your arms 6 inches up and down, extending your fingertips. Curl your chin to your chest as you inhale for 5 pumps, then exhale for 5 more. Do this for 100 total pumps. Throughout, you should keep your abs tight and your spine to the floor.