Five Of The Hardest Core Exercises


Having chiselled abs is the goal of most aesthetics gym-goer. Although we know that your body fat percentage needs to be low to achieve this, there are a variety of abdominal exercises that can really put your core to the sword.

Crunches are amongst the most common exercises you will see being performed at the gym, or even at home, but what are the most difficult exercises to give variation and really test your abs?

This article takes a look at five of most challenging abdominal exercises for those who would like to place themselves in the elite abs category.

#1 Hanging Leg Raises

This exercise requires upper body strength, as well as being strong in the core. You begin by using a chin-up bar and having your arms extended at arm’s length. Then, you slowly raise your legs, until your torso and legs are at a 90-degree angle. Hold the position, before slowly lowering your legs back down to the starting position. Ensure that you keep your legs straight at all times to really work the abdominals.

Reps: 10
Sets: 4
Rest: 60 seconds

Variation: You can perform the hanging leg raise still, but with a twist at the top to also work the obliques as well as the abs. Perform the exercise as normal, but instead of holding the contraction, twist either side at the top to blast the obliques.

#2 Human Flag

Arguably the most difficult exercise, this vertical plank exercise works both the lats and deltoids to help stabilise your body as well as your obliques. One thing is for sure, you’ll need strong foundations of strength to build on from bodyweight exercises, such as pull-ups and the plank. You’ll need a pole, to begin with. Your top hand needs to be in an overhand grip position at just above head height, while your bottom hand in an underhand grip position, facing the opposite way and just below the pelvis.

Then, push yourself up into a horizontal position, with your legs out straight and hold for as long as you can. Sound simple? Try it.

Reps: Until failure
Sets: 3
Rest: 90 seconds

Variation: Vertical flag. Lift your legs higher than the vertical position into a more horizontal position with your torso and legs creating a 45-degree angle to target different areas of your obliques, deltoids and lats.

#3 L-Sit

This exercise is slightly less demanding than the Human flag, but still a challenge for the abs nonetheless. You will need two benches placed just shy of shoulder width apart from each other parallel to one another too. Get between the benches and lift your torso and legs up so that a 90-degree angle is created. Your legs should be out in front of you, while your torso is perpendicular to the floor, and you should hold the position.

Reps: 20 seconds
Sets: 4
Rest: 90 seconds

Variation: For variation and progression on the L-sit, you can use your gym partner to add weighted plates on top of your quadriceps while you hold the position.

#4 Standing Barbell Rollout

The barbell rollout is an effective exercise to work the abs, but to begin from a standing position is an exercise that requires, even more, core strength.

You’ll need a barbell first and foremost. Then, stand with your legs upright, feet slightly closer than shoulder width apart and arms reaching down to the barbell. While keeping your back slightly arched, push the barbell away from your body until your torso is out straight. You can hold this position for two seconds and slowly return back to your starting position.

Reps: 12
Sets: 4
Rest: 90 seconds

Variation: Increase the weight of the barbell to ensure your abs are progressing in intensity.

#5 Single Side Bird Dog

This exercise is similar to the plank but involves holding a position while working the arm and leg out on one side of the body at a time.

From a plank position, simultaneously hold your left arm and left leg out straight and hold the position for a couple of seconds. After holding the position, bring both your arm and leg back in, and repeat with the other side.

Reps: 20
Sets: 4
Rest: 90 seconds

Variation: Use a light kettlebell to continue progressing and adding intensity to your workout.

Take Home Message

If you’re looking for new and more challenging ways to blast your abs, then look into trying some of these into your training. While a couple is both physically and mentally challenging, they are sure to build core strength and help shape your abs.



Our articles should be used for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to be taken as medical advice. If you’re concerned, consult a health professional before taking dietary supplements or introducing any major changes to your diet.

Andy Griffiths

Andy Griffiths

Writer and expert

Andy's journey in fitness started during his studies at Leeds Becket University in 2003, working in the university campus gym, he got a taste for a life in fitness. In the past 17 years, he has developed through various roles and has built a detailed experience in developing one-to-one clients, fellow team members and group fitness programmes in mainstream and boutique facilities. Training endurance athletes, martial arts athletes and simply those wanting to build a healthier life, he has built some great experiences and is now in a fantastic position to share what he has learnt with you. Being able to engage beginners into exercise regimes he feels is essential but has the ability and experience to adapt training techniques for those more experienced so everyone learns something new. He strongly feels that if you believe you are capable, you commit to achieving your goals that you will be successful!

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