7 standing ab exercises that make you ditch the mat to really work your core

Ab workouts have always been a favorite of mine for one simple reason: You get to lie down on the mat while doing them. Even when they’re burning every single muscle in your torso, that makes it feel just a little better. But now that I’ve found out standing ab exercises are a thing, I might have to switch things up.

While you can certainly get in a great ab workout on the mat, there are some prime benefits to doing core exercises in a standing position. First of all, it makes everything more challenging. Since you’re working against gravity, you have to engage your abs on another level in order to do the movements without falling over. (Because of that, your balance can improve!) And according to ACE, standing instead of lying down is also a great way to avoid neck pain that often comes about in floor-based core work.

At this point, I don’t even have to tell you that standing abs are an all-around win. And before you get started, there’s only one rule to getting the most out of them.

“What better way to work your abs than from standing—and not on the dirty floor you’re too lazy to vacuum (or is it just me?),” Kaitlin Heaney Zuloaga, the certified personal trainer behind Trainer Kaitlin, wrote in an Instagram post. “In order to really get the most from these exercises, you need to learn how to engage your core. Think about pulling your belly button in and up, like someone is going to sucker punch you in the gut.”

Ready to try some standing ab exercise for yourself? From bicycles to windmills, one thing’s for sure: You’re going to be sore tomorrow.

Ditch the mat with super effective standing ab exercises

1. Standing bicycle crunch

  1. Stand with your hands behind your head, elbows out to your sides, and your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Twist your body as you bring your right elbow to your left knee, performing a crunch. Perform all your reps on one side before switching to the opposite side.

2. Dumbbell wood chop

  1. Start in a lunge position with both knees bent and a neutral spine.
  2. With a dumbbell in your hands and your chest facing downward, pivot to the opposite side, bringing your chest and arms upward in one swift motion. Return to your starting position and repeat.

3. Windmill abs

  1. With your feet wider than hip-width apart, turn both feet to 45 degrees.
  2. Drop your left hand on the inside of your left leg while raising your right hand.
  3. Slowly lower your left hand for three counts as you look up at your right hand. Bring your left hand back up and repeat.

4. Standing side crunch

  1. Stand with your feet a little wider than shoulder-width apart with your toes pointed forward.
  2. With your hands hovering by the sides of your head and your chest up, crunch as you lower your left shoulder to meet your left knee.
  3. Hold position for two counts, then return to the starting position. Repeat on the opposite side.

5. Medicine ball standing rotations

  1. Stand with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart and your knees slightly bent.
  2. Extend your arms forward, holding the medicine ball in front on your chest.
  3. Keeping your abs and butt tight, twist your torso from side to side, pivoting on your back foot.

6. Dumbbell side bends

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart with your left hand behind your head and your right holding a kettlebell or dumbbell by your side. Make sure your palm is facing you.
  2. Keeping a straight back, bend down to your right side as far as you can go, then return to your starting position and repeat. Perform on the opposite side.

7. Standing crunch

  1. Stand with both feet facing forward and a dumbbell in both hands over your head.
  2. Lift your right knee straight up to your chest as you bring the weight down to meet it.
  3. Return to your starting position and repeat on the other leg, alternating back and forth.

Up for a real challenge? Here’s how to get yourself into crow pose:

This Pilates ring workout will have your abs burning like crazy. But don’t forget about the other muscles in your core, too, with this guide on how to work every muscle in your torso.