Science Reveals the Best Ab Exercises To Get a Flat Stomach Fat Fast

The best ab exercises to get a flat stomach

Have you ever wondered which ab exercises will give you the fastest results — like a flat stomach? Well, today is your lucky day. Get ready to learn the exact ab exercises that’ll help you slim down your waistline and get a flat stomach.

In this article, we’ll examine some of the best core exercises which can help active individuals maintain strength, improve performance, and decrease the risk of injury.

These exercises* are based on a list, originally published by The American Council on Exercise in 2001, of the best and worst exercises for strengthening the rectus abdominis muscle. 

The researchers ranked the following exercises, in descending order, by how much rectus abdominis activation was achieved during the movement. 

However, this isn’t the only ab muscle that should be focused on during exercise. Exercisers should also seek out exercises for the obliques and other muscles of the core in order to ensure they are keeping their trunk muscles as strong as possible!

The Best Ab Exercises to Get Flat Stomach

The Best Ab Exercises to Get Flat Stomach

*Note: pictures and descriptions of the exercises from the study were not readily available online. Therefore, some of the exercises may not be exactly as described in the original study.

Ab Exercise #1: Supine Bicycle Crunches

Ab Exercise #1: Supine Bicycle Crunches

Of the exercises studied, the supine bicycle crunch was found to be the most effective move for strengthening the rectus abdominis

This move is also a great choice for active individuals, as it incorporates a rotational movement of the trunk, which is similar to the motion used during many activities.

How to Perform:

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
  • Cross your arms over your chest. Alternatively, you can place your fingertips on your temples. Just be sure not to pull on your head during the movement!
  • Kick your left leg out straight, in line with your body, and a few inches off of the ground.
  • At the same time, bring your right knee up to your chest, twisting your trunk in order to meet your left elbow with your right knee.
  • Then, repeat the motion on the other side.
  • Continue in this manner throughout the duration of the set.

Ab Exercise #2: Captain’s Chair Leg Raises

Captain’s chair leg raises can be completed in a variety of ways. However, this exercise is most commonly performed with a dedicated captain’s chair apparatus. 

These “benches” typically have a back pad and two arms to cushion the elbows during the exercise. 

This movement, in comparison to most of the others studied, was found to be extremely effective, only beaten out by the bicycle crunch.

How to Perform:

  • Place the forearms on the pads so that they are parallel to the floor.
  • Lean back against the back pad.
  • Allow your legs to hang freely.
  • Next, contract your abdominal muscles as you tuck your knees to your chest. Alternatively, you can keep your knees straight as you lift your legs up for a more difficult variation.
  • Then, slowly lower your legs back down to the starting position to complete the rep.

Ab Exercise #3: Swiss Ball Sit Ups

Swiss Ball Sit Ups

The swiss ball, also known as a physioball or simply an exercise ball, is one of the simplest and most effective tools for strengthening the core. 

Performing situps or crunches on a swiss ball adds an element of instability, vastly increasing the contribution of the abdominal muscles.

How to Perform:

  • Safely sit down on the swiss ball, placing your low back as the main point of contact on the ball.
  • Next, place your hands across your chest, keeping your feet flat on the floor.
  • Slowly, crunch upward, contracting your abdominals.
  • Then, slowly lower yourself back down, reversing the crunch motion to complete the rep.

Ab Exercise #4: Toe Touch Crunches

Ab Exercise #4: Toe Touch Crunches

Toe touch crunches have been a commonly prescribed ab exercise for generations. 

This move requires significant hamstring flexibility and core control, so if you can’t master it right away, don’t lose hope!

How to Perform:

  • Lie on your back, with your legs straight, heels pointed directly at the ceiling.
  • Straighten out your arms, reaching toward the ceiling.
  • Next, perform a crunch, attempting to touch your toes with your hands. 
  • Once you’ve reached as far as possible, slowly lower your trunk back to the ground to complete the rep.

Ab Exercise #5: Torso Track

Torso Track

The Torso Track was a popular piece of exercise equipment a few years ago. Promoted by popular celebrity trainers, this tool was designed to improve abdominal strength. 

Based on the study, it fell roughly in the middle of the exercises examined in terms of rectus abdominis activation.

How to Perform:

  • Place a pad or extra towel on the ground for your knees.
  • Grasp the handles, with the machine, arranged lengthwise on the ground in front of you.
  • Push the handles forward, keeping your back straight.
  • Once you’ve reached as far as you can, pull the handles back to the starting position, completing the rep. 

Ab Exercise #6: Straight Arm Crunches

Straight Arm Crunches
Men’s Journal

There are endless variations on the crunch exercise. One popular variation is the straight-arm crunch. 

This movement is used in some common abdominal strength assessments because it is easy to standardize and ensure that the results of the test are reliable and valid.

How to Perform:

  • Lie on your back, with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
  • Next, place your hands down at your sides, with your palms flat on the floor.
  • Perform a crunch, sliding your hands forward on the ground.
  • Once you’ve lifted your shoulder blades off of the ground, return to the starting position.

Ab Exercise #7: Reverse Crunches

Ab Exercise #7: Reverse Crunches

Reverse crunches are a great way to mix up your ab-strengthening routine. 

This move emphasizes the lower portion of the abs, but, like all ab exercises, it works the whole rectus abdominis as well.

How to Perform:

  • Lie on your back with your feet flat on the floor and your knees bent.
  • Place your hands down by your sides.
  • Lift your legs and most of your low back off of the ground as you kick your feet toward the ceiling.
  • Then, slowly lower back down to the starting position to complete the rep.

Ab Exercise #8: Crunch with Bridge

Ab Exercise #8: Crunch with Bridge

Many exercises can be made more efficient by incorporating other muscle groups and movements into the main motion described. 

By combining the crunch with the bridge, you can work your abs and your glutes at the same time!

How to Perform:

  • Lie flat on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
  • Gently push your heels into the ground as you perform a partial crunch. If you find this too difficult to do, you can keep your back flat, perform a bridge by lifting your back off of the ground with your heels, return to the ground, then perform a crunch after.
  • Return to the ground and relax your muscles to complete the rep.

Ab Exercise #9: Core Wheel Rollouts

Ab Exercise #9: Core Wheel Rollouts

The ab wheel (or core wheel) has been used by boxers, wrestlers, and tons of different exercises for many years. 

This exercise is extremely difficult. While it doesn’t make the top of the list for rectus abdominis exercises, it is a great move for the whole body.

How to Perform:

  • Grasp the handles of the wheel with both hands.
  • Place your knees on a padded surface (or your toes, if you’re a very advanced exerciser).
  • Roll the wheel forward, keeping your back as flat as possible.
  • Then, roll it back to the start, completing the rep.

Ab Exercise #10: High Plank

High Plank

Planks have long been touted as great exercises for the core muscles. Again, this study was focused primarily on the rectus abdominis, not the other muscles of the core. 

So, don’t eliminate planks from your routine! Just know that they may not be as effective for this one specific muscle as was previously thought.

How to Perform:

  • Place the hands on the ground, directly below the shoulders. 
  • Then, place the toes on the ground, spaced about hip-width apart.
  • Protract your shoulders and keep your back straight. Maintain this position for the duration of the exercise.

Ab Exercise #11: Crunches


One of the simplest exercises on earth, crunches are still a mainstay of ab exercise programs. 

Again, just because this exercise doesn’t fall at the top of the list, this doesn’t mean it isn’t convenient and effective for increasing core strength. 

How to Perform:

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. 
  • Cross your arms over your chest.
  • Curl upward, aiming to lift your shoulder blades off of the ground.
  • Return to the starting position to complete the rep.

Ab Exercise #12: Resistance Tubing Crunches

This exercise requires a bit more setup and more equipment than some of the others on this list. 

Therefore, if you don’t want to go into the trouble of setting up this movement, don’t worry, as it isn’t one of the best choices anyway.

How to Perform:

  • Attach the band to a firm, stable surface located a few inches off of the ground, if possible.
  • Hold the band/tubing handles at shoulder height as you lie on your back in the starting position for the crunch.
  • Lift your shoulder blades off of the ground, pulling the bands with you.
  • Then return to the starting position to complete the rep.

Ab Exercise #13: Ab Rocker

There have been many iterations of the Ab Rocker over the years. At the time of the study, the Ab Rocker was a fairly simple piece of equipment that looked akin to a bent square. 

This exercise isn’t a bad choice, but it did fall at the bottom of the list of best rectus abdominis exercises.

How to Perform:

  • Place your head on the indicated pad.
  • Grasp the horizontal bars with both hands.
  • Perform a crunch by flexing the abdominal muscles. 
  • Return to the starting position to complete the rep.


Active people are always on the hunt for the best ways to keep themselves strong and healthy. 

Abdominal exercises are key to the health of the active person, and they can also lead to improved performance in your preferred sport or activity.

If you’re looking for new additions to your abdominal strengthening routine, try out some of these moves today!

Works Cited

  1. American Council on Exercise (ace)-sponsored study reveals best and worst abdominal exercises. (2001). Retrieved March 16, 2023, from
  2. Oliva-Lozano, J. M., & Muyor, J. M. (2020). Core Muscle Activity During Physical Fitness Exercises: A Systematic Review. International journal of environmental research and public health17(12), 4306.

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Bennett Richardson, DPT, PT, CSCS

Bennett Richardson is a physical therapist and writer out of Pittsburgh, PA. He has maintained certification as a strength and conditioning coach (CSCS) since 2014. He then went on to earn a BS in exercise science and a doctorate degree in physical therapy, both from Slippery Rock University. In his free time, Bennett likes to read and exercise.

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