9 Core Exercises That Get You Closer to Six-Pack Abs

Everybody wants a six-pack—which is great. But FYI, there are actually four key muscle groups you need to tone to get a taut tummy.

“For the best results, both aesthetically and functionally, you need to target all the muscles in your abdomen,” explains NYC-based trainer Joan Pagano, author of Strength Training Exercises for Women.

What are they? Let’s meet all your ab muscles.

On the side of your abs, you have your external abdominal obliques and your internal abdominal obliques. Your external obliques lie on top, and are those muscles you feel in your side, just under your arm. The internal obliques are deeper muscles that lie underneath your external obliques, acting as stabilizers to help you maintain your posture.

Roll Back- 20 reps

Roll Back

Works: Rectus abdominis

Twisting Roll Back — 10 per side

Twisting Roll Back

Works: Internal and external obliques, the rectus abdominis

Sit-Ups with a Medicine Ball — 20 REPS

Medicine Ball Roll Back

Works: Transversus abdominis, rectus abdominis, internal and external obliques

Kneeling Crunch 10 per side

Kneeling Crunch

Works: Rectus abdominis, internal and external obliques
The transversus abdominis are your deepest muscles, running horizontally around your midsection. Pagano says that toning these creates a “natural girdle” to keep your tummy tucked and stabilize your pelvis. Then, of course, there’s the most superficial muscle group in the abdomen: the rectus abdominis (AKA, when toned, the classic “six-pack” abs). This set runs from sternum to pelvis, helping you flex your spine while walking.


Dead Bug — 15 per side

Dead Bug

Works: Transversus abdominis, internal and external obliques

Lunge Split Jacks — 10 per side

Plyo Lunge

Works: Rectus abdominis

Toe Dip — 15 per side

Toe Dip

Works: Transversus abdominis

Bicycle Crunches — 10 per side


Works: Internal and external obliques, transversus abdominis

The “Jean-Zip” — 15 reps

Jean Zip

Works: Transversus abdominis
One move does not tone all your muscles. You’re going to need at least a few weapons in your arsenal to tighten up all over.


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