5 Best Bench Ab Exercises Workout (Light Up Your Core)

Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
Published by Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC | Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Last updated: March 11, 2024
FACT CHECKED by James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
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Many people struggle to make their abs more visible by choosing the wrong ab workout exercises.

I tested over 50 bench ab workout exercises and evaluated the best ones for building your ab musculature. I singled out the ones that showed greater improvement in strength and aesthetics.

After reading the article, you will know the best bench ab exercises to add to your workouts.

Quick Summary

  • To effectively build and strengthen abdominal muscles, incorporate the top five bench ab exercises, including reverse crunches, Copenhagen side planks, decline crunches, decline mountain climbers, and jackknifes.
  • To get the most out of your ab workouts, target multiple trunk movement patterns, such as flexion, lateral flexion, and rotation.
  • Harvard Medical School emphasizes that improved ab conditioning from these exercises is excellent for correcting posture imbalances and lowering injury risks.
  • In my view, while bench ab exercises are crucial for core strengthening, combining them with a proper diet is essential for making abs more visible and increasing core strength.

5 Bench Ab Exercises

A woman doing ab exercises on a bench

After testing over 50 bench ab exercises with my team and clients, I singled out the 5 best ab exercises according to the results.

Both beginner and advanced trainees can perform them.

In addition to these, the recommended ab workouts for men can also be beneficial.

These ab exercises will improve your ab conditioning, which, according to Harvard Medical School, is excellent for correcting your posture imbalances and lowering the risk of injuries [1].

Related: Kari Pearce’s Ab Workout

1. Reverse Crunch

The reverse crunch primarily targets your rectus abdominis muscles, also known as the six-pack muscle.

How to Perform a Reverse Crunch

  1. Assume a lying position on your back on a flat bench with your hands holding its sides.
  2. Lift your hips from the flat bench so the angle between your body and upper leg is 90 degrees. At the same time, your knees are bent to close a 90-degree angle with the hamstrings.
  3. Start the exercise by raising your hips from the weight bench and towards the ceiling without changing the previously mentioned angles.
  4. When you reach the top position, hold for one second and reverse the motion by bringing your hips down to the flat bench.

2. Copenhagen Side Plank

Copenhagen side plank will target muscles such as your obliquus internus, obliquus externus, and adductor muscles.

How to Perform a Copenhagen Side Plank

  1. Assume a lying position on your right side, your right elbow on the floor, and your left leg on the weight bench.
  2. Your head, shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles should all be straight.
  3. Start the exercise by lifting your hips off the ground to transition to a side plank position with your left leg on the weight bench.
  4. Slowly lower your hips towards the ground and stop before they touch the ground.
  5. Hold the bottom position for one second and reverse the motion by raising your hips, so you come to the starting position with your left leg straight on the weight bench.

3. Decline Crunch

A woman doing a decline crunch on a bench for ab exercises

The decline crunch mainly targets your rectus abdominis, and the decline bench position of your adjustable weight bench requires a greater effort than doing it on a flat surface.

How to Perform a Decline Crunch

  1. Adjust the decline position of the bench to around 30 degrees.
  2. Assume a lying position and secure your left knee and ankle pads.
  3. Bring your hands to the side of your head and take a deep breath while your back is against the bench.
  4. Start the exercise by initiating the crunch motion. Engage your ab muscles and lift your torso toward your thighs.
  5. The top position is when your chest comes near your knees.
  6. Hold that position for a second and reverse the motion to go to the starting position.

4. Decline Mountain Climber

The decline mountain climber will target your triceps, chest muscles, shoulder muscles, serratus anterior, leg muscles, and all your abdominal muscles.

How to Perform a Decline Mountain Climber

  1. Assume a push-up starting position on the floor with your legs straight and feet on the weight bench.
  2. Your hands are shoulder-width apart, and all body parts are in the same line.
  3. Start the exercise by lifting your right foot off the weight bench and slowly draw your right knee toward your chest.
  4. Reverse the motion by bringing your right leg into the starting position (both legs straight) and repeat the same process with your opposite knee.
  5. Decline mountain climbers are done on time, and a good place to start is 30 seconds.

5. Jackknife

A person doing jackknife situps

Jackknifes (variation of sit-ups) is an excellent ab exercise targeting both the upper and lower abs.

According to the National Institute of Health, Jackknife will also promote dynamic stretching for your tight hamstring muscles [2].

How to Perform Jackknifes

  1. Assume a lying position on your back with your hands extended above your head and your feet close to each other.
  2. Start the exercise by lifting your upper body and lower body at the same time.
  3. The top position is at 90 degrees to the floor, and that is where your hands and legs are going to meet.
  4. Hold the top position for one second and reverse the motion by bringing your upper and lower bodies to the floor.

"In addition to strengthening the abdominals, a jack knife provides a stretch for the back and shoulders. It requires spinal articulation (carefully rolling the spine up and down), which improves flexibility and posture—essential for the health of your back. Pilates also recommended rolling exercises like this one to improve circulation and even sleep."

- Kristin McGee, Certified Personal Trainer & Teacher of Yoga & Meditation for Peloton

Benefits of Performing the Bench Ab Exercises

  1. Core Strengthening: Bench ab exercises effectively target and strengthen the core muscles, including the rectus abdominis and obliques, enhancing overall stability and improving posture.
  2. Increased Difficulty: Using a bench adds an element of instability and height, increasing the difficulty of traditional floor exercises, leading to more intense muscle engagement and faster strength gains.
  3. Versatility and Variety: Benches offer various angles and positions, allowing for a wide range of exercises that can target different parts of the abdominal muscles, preventing workout monotony.
  4. Improved Balance and Coordination: Performing ab exercises on a bench requires maintaining balance, which engages stabilizing muscles and improves coordination and functional fitness for everyday activities.
  5. Enhanced Muscle Isolation: Bench exercises allow for a greater range of motion compared to floor exercises, enabling more focused and effective isolation of the abdominal muscles for better sculpting and definition.

FAQs

Can Bench Press Get You Abs?

No, bench press can’t get you abs. To get abs, you must do exercises that build your ab musculature and choose a proper diet to support your workout regime.

Which Ab Workout Is the Most Effective?

The most effective ab workout is the combination of ab flexion, anti-flexion, lateral flexion, lateral anti-flexion, rotation, and anti-rotation. Pick some exercises from each category to build well-rounded, visible core muscles.

What Are the Top 3 Exercises for Abs?

The top three exercises for abs are ab crunches, leg raises, and jackknifes. These exercises will build your ab musculature, but you should include anti-flexion exercises like a plank to make your core more functional.


References:

  1. https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/core-conditioning-its-not-just-about-abs
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23412177/
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About The Author

Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC is an ex-National Soccer player turned MMA and Kickboxing champion, with ACE CPT and PN1-NC certifications. His advice is rooted in education and experience, ensuring that readers receive scientific and battle-tested insights. His mission is to empower his clients and readers to realize their potential and become the best versions of themselves.
Learn more about our editorial policy
James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
James Cunningham, BSc, CPT holds a BSc degree in Sport & Exercise Science from University of Hertfordshire. He's a Health & Performance Coach from London that brings a unique blend of academic knowledge of health supplements and practical exercise experience to the table for his readers.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Dr. Harshi Dhingra, MBBS, MD is a published peer-reviewed author and renowned physician from India with over a decade of experience. With her MBBS from Bharati Vidyapeeth and an MD from Rajiv Gandhi University, she actively ensures the accuracy of online dietary supplement and medical information by reviewing and fact-checking health publications.
Learn more about our editorial policy

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