As we have mentioned on our blog before, sit-ups are great but they're not the hardest ab exercise or the most efficient way to train your abs.
The core's primary function is to create stability in the upper body to protect the organs and the spine. However, aside from that the core is like a spring that needs to be able to move, bend and twist in multiple directions...especially under load.
This is why it is so important to exercise your core from multiple angles and positions using different energy systems in the body; that is, flexion, stability, etc.
The best way to do this is to practice the hardest ab exercises weekly to build massive strength in the core, and then supplement them with various auxiliary exercises that work multiple angles and mobility patterns.
If you're looking to start a core/six-pack training program, start building your program around the hardest ab exercises like the ones below and then choose a few easier exercises from our list of auxiliary exercises.
Examples of Auxiliary Ab Exercises:
- Bicycle Crunches
- Side Crunches
- Leg Raises
- Side Planks
- Regular Planks
- Hallow Body Holds
3 OF THE HARDEST AB EXERCISES TO BUILD YOUR CORE
HARDEST CORE EXERCISE #1 - EXTENSION PRESS UPS
Extension Press Ups are definitely in the top 5 hardest ab exercises of all time. They require an incredible amount of core strength, in addition to strength in the triceps, lats, glutes, and hamstrings.
Jack La Lanne is probably the most famous practitioner of the Extension Press Up, which is why many people often referred to them as, "the Jack La Lanne Push-up".
Obviously, no one expects you to drop to the floor and rifle out 10 of these. Most likely you can't even do one.
The best way to progress with the extension press up is to practice from the elbows and then slowly work your way up week by week, extending your arms a little further overhead each week. It may take a few months, but eventually you should be able to do a full extension press up.
HARDEST AB EXERCISE #2 - AB ROLLOUTS
Ab Rollouts are another exercise that requires time to progress up to full standing rollouts. Like the extension press up, the ab rollout requires full body strength and works your core, lower back, glutes, hamstrings, and more.
When doing the ab rollout it's okay to round the upper back slightly as you would during the cat/cow yoga exercise. This ensures stability and takes the pressure off the arms.
As with the extension press up, always start from your knees and progress up over a period of weeks or months. In the video below Jim Smith from Animal Ability shows you how to progress the standing version after building a solid base level of strength.
HARDEST AB EXERCISE #3 - WALL PLANKS WITH MOUNTAIN CLIMBER COMBOS
The Wall Plank with Mountain Climber combo is an advanced version of the tradition plank. However, when doing this version your feet are elevated and placed against the wall, dramatically increasing the difficulty of the exercise.
When doing wall planks you not only have to engage your core, legs, and upper body, you also have to actively press against the wall, which brings your feet and brain into the exercise.
This is definitely one of the hardest ab exercises you can do; especially when you start adding the mountain climber and other elements. Begin by mastering the basic wall plank first, then start working in mountain climbers and other movement patterns.
CONCLUSION: The exercises listed above are some of the hardest ab exercises you can do and should be the focus of your ab training program. Exercises like sit-ups are great, but they should really be used to augment these harder exercises.
It is important to remember not to jump straight into these exercises. To reduce your risk of injury always progress slowly. Train the basic movement patterns first, even if you have to start from your knees to build the required strength to do each exercise properly.