11 Best CrossFit Abs Exercises

If you want to get fit, lose fat, and get strong, there are lots of workouts to choose from. However, one of the most popular and effective is CrossFit.

CrossFit started about 20 years ago. For any workout to last 20 years suggests it really does work. The premise of CrossFit is simple; it’s a workout designed to develop a high level of all-around fitness. Where a lot of workouts focus on cardio, strength, core, or endurance, CrossFit does it all.

Popular with the military, law enforcement, and emergency services, CrossFit combines training methods from numerous sports, including powerlifting, weightlifting, gymnastics, and athletics. Workouts are often done against the clock, which adds an element of competition, and CrossFitters are actively encouraged to beat their previous performances.

The workouts themselves vary enormously and use a range of training equipment, including:

As such, while most CrossFitters work out in gyms called boxes. However, as calisthenic or bodyweight exercises are also a big part of CrossFit, you can also do some of the workouts at home.

CrossFit workouts typically work all the major muscles, including the abs. In this article, we reveal the 11 best CrossFit abs exercises.

Abs Muscles 101

When most people talk about their abs, what they really mean is their core. The core is the collective term for the muscles of the midsection.

These muscles work together to control the movements of your spine. When they contract inward, they also stabilize your spine by increasing intra-abdominal pressure or IAP for short. IAP helps take the stress off your intervertebral discs and ligaments.

The abs muscles that make up the core are:

absRectus abdominis: Located on the front of your abdomen, the rectus abdominis is responsible for the flexion of your spine.

It also plays a part in lateral flexion, i.e., leaning sideways. If you are lean enough, this is the muscle that gives you a six-pack.

Obliques: There are two sets of oblique muscles; internal and external, with the external obliques being outermost.

The obliques are basically your waist muscles and are responsible for laterally flexing and rotating your spine.

Transverse abdominis: Known as the TVA for short, this muscle encircles your abdomen like a weightlifting belt. While it is not responsible for any movements, it is crucial for the generation of IAP.

Erector spinae: While not technically an abdominal muscle, the erector spinae is still an important core muscle.

It runs up either side of your spine to help stabilize and extend your lower back. It’s involved directly or indirectly in almost every CrossFit abs exercise.

11 Best CrossFit Abs Exercises

Build a bulletproof core with the 11 best CrossFit Abs exercises!

1. Planks

Planks are a staple abs and core exercise in CrossFit. Master this exercise before progressing to the more demanding movements listed below. Planks teach you to use your abs statically, which is how they work to stabilize your spine.

How to do it:

  1. Lie on your front and rest on your elbows, forearms extended in front of you.
  2. Contract your abs and lift your hips off the floor, so your body forms a straight line.
  3. Maintain this position for the prescribed duration or as long as possible.

2. Bent-leg sit-ups

While some fitness professionals choose to avoid bent-leg sit-ups, this exercise is alive and well in many CrossFit workouts. Working your abs and hip flexors together, this exercise can be hard on your neck, so don’t pull on your head as your abs start to fatigue.

How to do it:

  1. Lie on the floor with your legs bent and feet flat. Place your hands on your temples and not behind your head.
  2. Engage your abs and sit up, touching your elbows to your bent knees.
  3. Lie back down and repeat.
  4. Increase oblique activation by taking your elbow across to your opposite knee.

3. Hollow Holds

If you’ve mastered planks, this is the next exercise you should try. Like planks, it’s a static exercise, but your abs will need to lift and support more weight. Start off with short holds and increase gradually as you get stronger.

How to do it:

  1. Lie on the floor with your legs straight, and arms extended overhead. Engage your abs.
  2. Lift your feet, head, shoulders, and arms a few inches off the floor, pressing your lower back into the floor.
  3. Maintain this position for the prescribed duration or as long as possible.
  4. Stop your set if you feel your lower back starting to lift off the floor.

4. L-sit

L-sits often feature in CrossFit workouts. This is a gymnastic exercise that will really test and develop your abs. You’ll also need good flexibility to do this move correctly.

How to do it:

  1. Sit on the floor with your legs extended out in front of you. Place your hands next to your hips, fingers pointing forward. Engage your abs and contract your thighs.
  2. Keeping your legs parallel to the floor, extend your arms and lift your legs and butt off the floor.
  3. Maintain this position for the prescribed duration or as long as you can.

5. L pull-ups

l pull ups in the ringsThis exercise builds on the strength developed by L-sits. Working your arms and lower back together with your abs, this is a challenging and time-efficient exercise. However, you’ll need a pull-up bar to do it.

How to do it:

  1. Hang from a pull-up bar using an overhand or underhand grip. Engage your abs and lift your legs, so they are parallel to the floor.
  2. Bend your arms and pull your chin up to the bar. Keep your legs up.
  3. Extend your arms and repeat.
  4. You can keep your legs up the entire time or lower and lift them between reps to take pressure off your abs.

6. Toes to bar

Like L pull-ups, you’ll need a pull-up bar for this exercise. Toes to bar work your abs using your legs for resistance. It’s a challenging exercise and not for beginners. However, there are easier variations mentioned below.

How to do it:

  1. Hang from a pull-up bar using an overhand or underhand grip. Engage your abs.
  2. Moving from your hips, raise your legs and pull your toes up to touch the bar. Keep your legs as straight as possible.
  3. Lower your legs and, without swinging, repeat.
  4. You can also do this exercise with bent legs, which shortens the lever and makes things much less challenging. Alternatively, keep your legs straight but only lift them part way up.

7. V-ups

V-ups are a handy exercise for home CrossFitters because you don’t need any equipment to do them. However, it’s still an effective abs workout and pretty challenging. It’s also a good regression from toes to bar (#6).

How to do it:

  1. Lie on the floor with your legs straight, and arms extended overhead. Engage your abs.
  2. Lift your legs, sit up, and reach up toward your toes. You should now be balancing on your butt, and your body should resemble a V.
  3. Lie back down and repeat.
  4. Too tough? Do this exercise with bent knees to shorten the lever. This is called a W-sit.

8. Arch holds

Arch holds are basically the opposite of hollow holds. They emphasize your erector spinae muscles, which oppose your rectus abdominis. A strong lower back can help reduce your risk of injury and improve your posture.

How to do it:

  1. Lie on your front with your legs straight, and arms extended.
  2. Keeping your legs and arms straight, lift them off the floor, and arch your lower back.
  3. Maintain this position for the prescribed duration or as long as you can.

9. Hollow rocks

If you’ve been doing hollow holds for a while (#3), you are probably ready for a new challenge. Hollow rocks add an element of instability to your CrossFit abs workout, making them much more demanding than the basic stationary version.

How to do it:

  1. Lie on the floor with your legs straight, and arms extended overhead. Engage your abs.
  2. Lift your feet, head, and arms a few inches off the floor, pressing your lower back into the floor.
  3. Maintaining this position, rock your weight up and down your back, keeping your abs braced throughout.
  4. Continue for as long as you can and stop your set if you feel your lower back starting to arch.

10. Russian twists

russian twistsWhile this exercise doesn’t really have anything to do with Russia, it’s still a popular CrossFit abs exercise that works your rectus abdominis and obliques at the same time. You can do Russian twists with or without weights.

How to do it:

  1. Sit on the floor with your legs bent and feet flat. Anchor your feet if necessary. Sit up, so your upper body is angled to around 45-degrees. Extend your arms in front of you.
  2. Without lowering your torso, rotate your upper body as far as you can to the left and to the right.
  3. Continue for the prescribed number of reps or until you can no longer keep your torso at 45-degrees.

11. Single-arm farmer’s walk

Farmer’s walks are an excellent grip and conditioning exercise. However, done with just one dumbbell or kettlebell, it’s a tremendous CrossFit abs exercise.

How to do it:

  1. Hold a heavy dumbbell or kettlebell down by your side, arm straight. Brace your abs and keep your torso perfectly upright.
  2. Without leaning sideways, take a walk around your training area.
  3. Put the weight down as you feel your core and forearm starting to fatigue. Swap sides and repeat.
  4. You can also do this exercise with the weight held overhead. This is called a waiter’s walk.

Bottom Line

If you want to be strong like a weightlifter, fit like a distance runner, and agile like a gymnast, CrossFit is the workout for you.

With lots of different exercises and programs to try, CrossFit training is never repetitive or dull, and most of the workouts are scalable, so they’re suitable for beginner, intermediate, and advanced participants.

You don’t even have to join a gym to do CrossFit, as many of the workouts require very little equipment, so you can do them at home.

That said, CrossFit boxes have all the equipment you need to fully embrace this varied type of training, including climbing ropes, plyo boxes, oversized tires, and other types of equipment not usually found in commercial fitness gyms.

While many CrossFit workouts involve an element of competition, you can also pit your fitness against other CrossFitters.

The CrossFit Games is now one of the most widely viewed sports events, and there are local, regional, national, and international CrossFit competitions.

CrossFit can help you get fit for things like military life, working as a firefighter, MMA, or just general fitness and weight loss. It’s a very versatile training system.

That said, some CrossFit workouts and exercises are very challenging, so make sure you don’t try and do too much too soon. There’s the reason that the unofficial CrossFit mascot is a clown called Pukie! Visit the Fitness Equipment Reviews homepage for more expert information!

Patrick

Patrick

Patrick Dale is an ex-British Royal Marine and owner and lecturer for a fitness qualifications company. In addition to training prospective personal trainers, Patrick has also authored three fitness and exercise books, dozens of e-books, thousands of articles, and several fitness videos.

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