Effective Ab Exercises for Core Strength Instead of Looks

The quest for sculpted abs, inspired by icons from Michelangelo’s David to Fight Club’s Tyler Durden and even the myriad of #FitTok challenges, has been a longstanding pursuit for many.
However, a toned physique doesn’t always imply optimal fitness.

To achieve visible abdominal muscles, your body fat must be approximately 15 per cent. Although experts caution that excessive weight can contribute to numerous health issues, lacking the physique of a professional athlete does not necessarily signify poor health.

The Tactical Athlete training method founder, Farren Morgan, attributes our fascination with abs to what they symbolize – an extreme dedication to fitness. Morgan posits that visible abs are a testament to self-assurance, determination, strong work ethic, resilience, and the capacity for deferred gratification.

Morgan says, “As you strive for toned abs, these valuable traits will permeate other facets of your life, such as professional endeavours or personal relationships.” It’s a pity such merits can’t be listed on a resume.

Therefore, while achieving a six-pack may indicate a passion for fitness rather than actual fitness levels, devoting time to core strengthening exercises is never futile – even if your muscles perpetually stay concealed beneath normal layers of belly fat.

The benefits of training abs

When we think about abs, we often solely focus on the stomach. Still, the abdomen comprises four primary muscle groups: the transversus abdominis, rectus abdominis, external oblique muscles, and internal oblique muscle,” explains Morgan. He further elaborates that these muscles, in conjunction with the erector spinae, encase your organs, offering protection against external harm.

Beyond safeguarding your organs (a significant benefit), strengthening these core muscles promotes a robust torso, essential for various daily activities, from running to desk-bound tasks.

“Strong abdominal muscles translate to reduced risk of injuries, less strain on your spine during daily routines, and improved stability while executing unbalanced movements,” Morgan emphasizes, a claim supported by data from Harvard Health.

Activities like bending, lifting, reaching overhead, carrying, and twisting depend on core strength. Therefore, anyone can benefit from fortifying these muscles, whether to reveal an impressive eight-pack or enhance everyday movements and efficiency.

The Myth of the six pack

As previously mentioned, a chiselled six-pack doesn’t necessarily equate to being healthy. Your abs could result from genetic predisposition, strict dieting, or an emphasis on core workouts, possibly at the cost of other parts of your body or activities.

“The old belief was that a strong core was synonymous with visible abs, but as fitness understanding has evolved, we’ve discovered this isn’t necessarily true,” Morgan states. “Achieving defined abs requires effort, a caloric deficit, and consistency. From an outward appearance perspective, these are aesthetically appealing but are not a prerequisite for core strength.”

Instead of striving for a lean, six-pack look by drastically cutting calories, which can lead to diminished energy and less exercise capacity, Morgan suggests that the focus should be actively working the core muscles to build strength.

Moreover, research has conclusively demonstrated that targeted fat loss, such as eliminating belly fat through sit-ups, is not feasible.

The best ab workout

With this in mind, let’s put caloric concerns aside for now and prioritize developing practical strength over social media-worthy looks. If you develop visible abs along the way, consider it a bonus. To enhance your core performance with functional training, Morgan suggests incorporating his tripartite ab-intensive routine a few times per week, ideally as a finisher to your regular workout.

This regimen, which includes cardio, twists, and hangs, is undeniably challenging. Be prepared for what’s a tough yet one of the most effective ab workouts we’ve ever encountered.

Round One

You’ll complete each round ‘for time’, which means ‘until it’s done’. Let’s begin.

Row 200m

You know this: head to the rowing machine, maintain a straight back, power through the legs, and bear down.

10 Russian Twists

Grab a lightweight kettlebell and hold it against your chest. Sit on your glutes with your feet elevated off the floor and knees slightly bent. Rotate your upper torso from one side to the other, utilizing your core as the driving force. One rep equals a twist to the left and then the right.

30sec L Hang

Grasp an overhead bar with your palms facing forward. Engage your core and lift your legs off the ground. Extend your legs before you to form an ‘L’ shape with your body. If 30 seconds seems daunting initially, try this in multiple rounds rather than giving up halfway.

1 Minute Rest

Collapse on the floor, panting, for 60 seconds. Hydrate and let out a few complaints.

Round Two

Row 200m

Back to the grind.

10 Hanging Knee Tucks

Hold the bar as you did for the L-Holds. Elevate your knees to your upper stomach from a full hang, then slowly lower them without swinging your body.

30sec Max Body Drops or ‘No Jump Burpee.’

Assume a push-up position. Push off the ground to a standing position. Instead of jumping like in a traditional burpee, repeat to the starting position.

1 Minute Rest

Repeat as before, with a bit of light cursing this time.

Round Three

Row 200m

Apologies in advance.

10 Decline Straight Leg Reverse Crunch

Adjust a bench into a decline position. Hold onto the headrest behind you and engage your core as you lift your knees and feet over your head with your knees bent. Be cautious not to hit your nose. Slowly return to the starting position to complete one rep.

30sec Body Feet Raised Plank

Elevate your feet on a bench, and forearms on the ground, maintaining a straight line along your spine. Hold the plank for 30 seconds, checking your timer as infrequently as possible.

And voila! You’ve successfully trained for functional, strong abs. Wasn’t that a breeze?


Building a solid core goes far beyond pursuing a visually appealing six-pack. Our exploration of practical abdominal exercises has demonstrated the value of fostering functional strength and resilience. From enhancing daily activities to reducing the risk of injury, a robust core is crucial for overall fitness and well-being.

Although the allure of a well-defined six-pack is vital, remember that health and functionality should always take precedence. Remember this as you engage in these recommended exercises, aiming not for fleeting aesthetic appeal but sustainable, long-term strength and stability. The road to proper fitness may be challenging, but the rewards are worthwhile.