Some of the best ab exercises don’t need to be done on a mat.
They can be done standing, and you can use a range of equipment.
There’s nothing wrong with sitting ab exercises, but the standing core exercises you’re about to learn to apply more to situations in everyday life that require functional core strength.
These exercises won’t only sizzle your abs.
They’ll train your entire midsection, improving posture.
Your core is made up not only of your abs (rectus abdominis), but also your obliques and transverse abdominis, which stabilize your spine and trunk.
It’s vital to train the muscles in your entire core, and it also feels good to do it!
Having a well-rounded and strong core will also help you in the big compound lifts like the squat and deadlift.
Here are ten great standing ab exercises to add to your exercise routine today.
How to Use This List
Add two of these great moves to the workouts you do already, even if you already have ab workouts planned.
It’s hard to overdo abs, so you can add these core exercises throughout the week.
They’re also a great addition to your cardio routine and can be performed before or after.
You can also use them to bulk up your abs and side abs as well.
Or do these exercises as part of an entire standing ab workout.
10 Standing Ab Exercises Better Than Planks and Crunches
1. Standing Cable Pallof Press
This is an anti-rotational movement that trains your deep core stabilization muscles.
You can do it before your direct ab workouts to burn them even harder.
Training your core stabilizers is vital to develop optimal movement and core stability.
This is a functional movement pattern because often when we have to lift objects they can be awkward in size and require core stability.
- Find a cable attachment and set it to chest height
- Pull it to the front of your chest
- Keeping your glutes and back tight, feet shoulder-width apart. Push the cable out in front of you, elbows, wrists, and arms straight
- Hold this position for five to ten seconds and then bring the handle back to your chest
- Perform as many reps as you can
- Alternate sides and repeat
To make it harder, hold each rep longer or increase the weight. Your core muscles will get stronger in no time.
2. Standing Cable Crunch
Crunch is one of the most classic abs workouts you can perform not only on the mat but standing.
The benefit of performing this ab exercise standing is that you minimize hip flexor involvement and can add more resistance when training the rectus abdominis.
Beginners often use their hip flexors too much when performing crunches on the floor.
With this exercise, you can just focus on the rectus abdominis.
- Find a cable machine and adjust the cable attachment to a position taller than you
- Find a box or bring a bench to rest your right knee or left knee on
- Facing away from the machine, grab the attachment from behind, above your head
- Place one knee on the box or bench while keeping the other leg straight (a soft bend at the knee is OK)
- Keeping the cable behind your head, bring your torso towards the floor
A common mistake here is using your arms to pull the cable instead of your core.
When you start this motion out with your upper body nice and straight, you will even feel it in your lower abs.
3. Overhead Circles
This movement looks easy, but it is one of the most challenging exercises and builds massive core strength.
The focus of this exercise is strength and stability, whereas other exercises focus more on stability.
It’s one exercise you feel in all your ab muscles including the lower abs and obliques.
Be sure to use your core muscles performing this exercise to prevent straining your back and causing lower back pain.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart grab a medicine ball and lift it over your head
- Keeping your feet planted, engage your core, and hinge your hips slightly. Keep a slight bend in your knees.
- Start to draw a circle in the air with the medicine ball, allowing your torso to rotate with your arms
- Go clockwise for a slightly uncomfortable number of reps, and then repeat counterclockwise
Beginners should start with a lighter medicine ball and stick total rounds less than 10.
As you gain core strength and stability, add an extra challenge by using a heavier medicine ball and increasing the total rounds.
4. Standing Bicycle Crunches
This core exercise is perfect for beginners and does not require any weight or equipment at all.
It hits the rectus abdominis and the side abs too.
This ab exercise adds rotational movements to the traditional crunch, making it more dynamic.
It’s a great lower abdominal activity you can do anywhere.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and bring your hands to your head
- Touch your right elbow to your left knee at the belly button height, twisting your upper body and crunching down
- Return to the starting position. Now perform on the opposite side, touching your left knee to your right elbow
Don’t cheat! Make sure your elbows and knees touch. Do total rounds of 10-15 on both sides.
5. Med Ball Slams
Your next move is the med ball slam.
This core exercise trains your abdominal muscles in an explosive way, as you would need it for throwing, or chopping wood for example.
That makes it a functional movement pattern as well.
To target your abs though, you must use proper form.
An extra challenge with this exercise is that you have to squat down to pick up the ball again, which burns more calories and serves as great cardio.
Keep your upper body upright to let your core and ab work, not your back, to avoid lower back pain.
Do this after your other ab exercises to really feel the fatigue in your core. How to:
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent. Grab a non-bounce medicine ball
- Lift the ball over your head, get on your tip toes, and slam the ball down to the floor right in front of you, making sure to hinge at the hips
- Lift the medicine ball back to the starting position and repeat
The best way to do this exercise is by using a no-bounce medicine ball (a slam ball).
It brings the extra stimulus of picking it up after, and because the ball won’t bounce back up and hit you in the face or someone else
6. Cable Wood-Chop
This exercise trains your transverse abs and obliques.
As a full-body and core exercise, wood chops train your power and balance.
It’s also another one of those functional movement patterns that help with everyday life and prevent injury.
- Set the cable attachment to be higher than you so you have to reach up and to the side for the attachment
- Standing sideways to the cable machine, grab the attachment and pull it down and away from the machine, pivoting the foot closest to the machine and keeping your arms straight
- Bring it back to the starting position and repeat for the desired reps
- Keeping your arms extended, stand up, bringing the dumbbell up and across your body by twisting your torso
- Alternate sides
Concentrate on your side abs here. Work on twisting your torso in order to bring the weight down and away.
If you are a beginner, kneeling wood-chop is an easier way to balance yourself.
7. Oblique Lateral Raise
This side ab exercise effectively isolates the obliques.
- Grab a dumbbell or kettlebell with your right hand and hold it at your side
- Bend to the right, bringing the dumbbell down to the floor in a straight line
- Using your obliques, pull yourself back to the starting position
- Repeat for the desired number of reps, then switch sides
To turn it up a notch, stand with your feet crisscrossed. This will allow you to increase the range of motion.
8. Kettlebell Windmill
This challenging twisting exercise improves core stability and is more advanced.
You can also use a light dumbbell in place of a kettlebell.
It’s also a great way.
- Grab a kettlebell and hold it with your right hand and bring it in between your legs
- Stand with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart
- Turn your leg foot out and bring the kettlebell above your head
- Extend out your left arm to the side
- Lean-to the left and bring your left hand to the floor or down your shin if you don’t have the flexibility
- Return to the starting position and repeat for the desired number of reps
- Alternate sides
9. Barbell Landmine Rotations
Hit your obliques, as well as your arms with the landmine rotation.
Attach a barbell to a landmine attachment. These are often found on squat racks.
- Grab the end of the barbell with both hands overlapping or one hand above the other and feet hip-width apart
- Start with your hands in front of your chest and then extend them forward
- Maintaining a strong stance and a soft bend at the knees, lower the barbell to your right hip and down, with your arms extended and twisting your torso
- Now twist your torso the other way and bring the barbell to your left hip
Do not pivot at the foot for this movement in order to hit your abs the hardest.
This is truly one of the best standing ab exercises out there. As an additional challenge add a light plate on the barbell.
Keep your arms as straight as you can the entire time, but as your abs burn, you can bend them more to add in more reps.
10. Landmine Barbell Isometric Holds
The landmine oblique isometric starts out in the same position as the landmine oblique twist.
The difference is instead of rotating, you will hold the barbell to the side for a few seconds kind of like the cable pallof press or a plank.
- Grab the barbell on the landmine attachment, stand with feet hip-width apart, and hold the barbell at your chest
- Push the barbell forward and then after an inhale, keeping the arms straight, bring the barbell to the right, keeping it at shoulder height, as much as it goes without bringing it down, and hold it for a few seconds
- Bring it back to the center, arms still straight, and then bring the bar to the opposite side as far as the bar goes without bringing it down and hold it for a few seconds
To make this exercise more challenging, add weight to the barbell.
Common Mistakes to Watch Out For
The most important thing to do in a core workout with weights is to start with a light dumbbell or light weights.
You have to be careful because the primary function of the core is to stabilize the trunk, not to contract and flex like your quads, glutes, or arm muscles.
So because of that, you should watch out for any pain in your lower back or spine.
If you’re feeling pain, you either have an imbalance somewhere or are pushing yourself too hard too fast.
Next, you want to really focus on using your core to move the weights, instead of your arms or legs.
Your core must contract first before you can swing a golf club, or sprint up a flight of stairs. So as you do core work, focus on proper form.
It’s always better to use less weight or do fewer reps than do poor quality reps to hit certain numbers.
After you include these standing ab exercises in your workouts, you will find your movements getting more fluid and will feel like you have better posture and athleticism!
More Ab Exercises for Core Stability