If you’ve ever spent time around CrossFit athletes or are one yourself, you’ll know that a lot of them have crazy ab muscles.

What separates them from those who don’t have quite as defined midsections? While diet plays a big role, it could be that they haven’t targeted their core enough.

If you’re looking to increase your core strength and get those abs popping, then don’t go anywhere. In this article, I'm going to reveal the perfect routine for you to make your abs pop. 

If you want to get CrossFit abs, you need to do CrossFit workouts for abs, and I have some of the most effective right here.

WOD No. 1

12 minutes of AMRAP (as many reps as possible):

  • 10 sit-ups
  • 10 v-ups
  • 16 Russian twists with no weight
  • 10 seated knee tucks

WOD No. 2

4 rounds of 45 seconds each movement:

  • Toes-To-Bar
  • L-Sit
  • Anti-Rotation Planks
  • Rest

WOD No. 3

10 minutes of AMRAP

  • 15 reps glute-ham sit up
  • 10 hanging knee raises
  • Russian twist until failure
  • 10 L-sits

WOD No. 4

4 rounds of 45 seconds of each movement:

  • Seated knee tucks
  • ABmat sit up
  • Russian twists
  • Rest

WOD No. 5

10 minutes of AMRAP:

  • Jumping knee tucks
  • Back extensions
  • Hanging knee raises

WOD No. 6

10 rounds of:

  • 10 v-sit-ups
  • 20 Russian twists
  • 20 hanging leg raises
  • Anti-rotation plank hold until failure

WOD No. 7

3 rounds for time:

  • 30 v-ups
  • 30 toes-to-bar
  • 30 jumping knee tucks
  • Break

12 Best CrossFit Ab Exercises For A Strong Core

While there are tons of CrossFit movements for developing strong abdominals, these are the 12 most effective, in my experience.

The core is the central part of your body, and the stronger it is, the better your overall tone, strength, and stability.[1]

Here are 12 of the best CrossFit ab exercises I've come across. 

1. Glute-Ham Developer Sit Up

Target: Hamstrings, glutes, calves, abdominals/obliques, erector spinae
Man Doing Glute-Ham Developer Sit Ups

Usually seen just with CrossFitters, the glute-ham developer (GHD) sit-up is amazing for working the entire core and legs.

GHD situps are so popular because they really stretch your hip flexors and allow for a full range of motion in the core that a regular situp does not allow for.

When I perform GHD situps, I can feel every single part of my abs and core stretching and contracting. And, the first few times I performed this movement left me with the strongest DOMS I've had in years. 

During this movement you'll be activating the core through static contraction, while recruiting the hip flexors and glutes, which are responsible for some of the power used.

However, in my opinion, the torso is the star of the show. Overall, this ab exercise has helped me develop excellent core strength, and I'm sure it'll do the same for you.


  • Uses a large range of motion. 
  • Carries over to other lifts.
  • Ideal for more advanced gym-goers.

How To Do It:

  1. Adjust the big pad and foot holders so your hips just rise off the pad.
  2. Keep your back flat with raised arms straight above the head
  3. Lower your body back until your fingers touch the ground or you can no longer keep your back straight
  4. When lowering, you should keep your knees bent a little bit
  5. Once at the bottom of the movement, extend your legs, bringing yourself back up

Tips From A Trainer!

If you're struggling to perform this movement, you can place a resistance band around your shoulders to help you develop your base strength.  

2. Hanging Knee Raises

Target: Abdominals/obliques, hip flexors, deltoids, rhomboids, latissimus dorsi
Man Doing Hanging Knee Raises

If you're looking to progress to the "toes to bar" exercise, this is the perfect starting point.

It's practically the same movement, but you'll be bringing your knees to your chest instead of keeping your legs out.

Not only that, but it is efficient in improving grip strength, making it a full-body engager. 

From my experience, this is the perfect stepping stone to the toes to bar movement. I've had many of my clients perform this movement and they find it's super-helpful, developing their core strength and grip strength.


  • Develops your core & grip strength.
  • Suitable for most abilities. 

How To Do It:

  1. Grab onto and hang from a bar with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart
  2. Keep your abs tight, flexing them to lift your knees up toward your chest
  3. Keep things slow and controlled, doing as many reps as you can

Tips From A Trainer!

Make sure to curl your hips at the top of the movement for maximum burn. 

3. ABmat Sit Up

Target: Abdominals/obliques
Woman Doing ABmat Sit Ups

The ABmat is a fantastically simple piece of equipment that helps "fill in" the space between your lumbar spine and the floor when doing a regular sit-up.

I've found they're fantastic for any CrossFit ab workout for beginners, as the technique is one of the easiest to master.

They're just like "regular" sit-ups, except you'll keep your knees bent and out to the sides in a butterfly position. This is to kind of "bypass" the hip flexors and recruit the core muscles more.

Use these alone or incorporate them in a CrossFit ab WOD - you'll love how well they work to get your abs burning.

I performed this movement several nights ago, and I can still feel the DOMS in my abs now.


  • Minimal space required.
  • Suitable for all abilities.

How To Do It:

  1. Place the ABmat on the floor, sitting right in front of it. Make sure the wedge is supporting the lumbar spine
  2. Place legs in a butterfly position
  3. Lay back with arms stretched out
  4. Flex abs, bringing your body up as you would a regular sit-up until you touch the floor in front of your toes
  5. Make sure each rep is controlled

Tips From A Trainer!

Don't perform this movement too quickly. You want to ensure that you're using your core muscles and aren't relying on momentum. 

4. Russian Twist

Target: Abdominals/Obliques
Woman Doing Russian Twists

Russian Twists are one of my favorite rotational core exercises. I've found that adding Russian twists to your workout help you improve performance during other exercises like the lunge, squat, and most CrossFit workouts.

In my opinion, it's one of the best exercises for developing your obliques! This accessory work is a must if you find yourself twisting your body a lot at work, sports, and so on.

The obliques are notoriously difficult to bring out, so if you want to develop them, get to twisting! You can also check out our guide to the best Russian twist alternative exercises.


  • Develops your obliques.
  • Minimal space required.

How To Do It:

  1. Grab your weight of choice (medicine ball or kettlebell, ideally)
  2. Sit on a mat with bent knees, holding the ball or kettlebell at your chest
  3. Keep hands in a neutral position, holding the ball/kettlebell just slightly away from your chest
  4. Lean back just a bit to engage the abs, rotating the entire core and upper body while keeping your shoulder straight
  5. Rotate until your shoulder is facing one direction, touching the ball/kettlebell to the floor
  6. Repeat, rotating the other way

Tips From A Trainer!

If you'd really like to ramp up your ab workouts, try lifting one foot up off the ground as you rotate. For example, when you rotate your torso towards the left, raise your right foot and extend it out a bit for an increased burn. Repeat on the other side.

5. L Sit

Target: Abs, obliques, hip flexors, quads, deltoids, latissimus dorsi
Woman Doing L-Sits In The Gym

If you have a gymnastics background, you're probably already well-acquainted with this one. If you want to be able to pull it off, you'll have to really strengthen your core before attempting it.

It's a difficult CrossFit core exercise - maybe one of the hardest. I only recommend this core exercise to more advanced gym-goers who have a strong core. If you're a beginner, I recommend that you build up your core strength before attempting this one. 


  • Ideal for more advanced lifters. 
  • Uses your entire body. 

How To Do It:

  1. Place paralette bars on the floor a bit wider than shoulder-width apart. If you don't have these, you can use a box or try with no equipment, but that will be much more challenging.
  2. Place feet on the ground, extended
  3. Keep elbows locked straight, back straight, raising legs and feet off the floor
  4. Try to keep straight legs if you can, creating an “L” shape with your body

Tips From A Trainer!

If you can’t quite achieve the L shape, try keeping one leg or foot on the floor at a time until you can lift them both simultaneously. Just make sure to keep the belly button pulled in and abs flexed to protect the spine.[2]

6. V-Sit Ups

Target: Rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, obliques, hip flexors, latissimus dorsi
Woman Doing V-Sit Ups

Often referred to as "Jackknife sit-ups," v sit-ups are named this way as they require you to make a kind of V with your body.

Focusing on strength and balance and incorporating them into any of your CrossFit workouts is a smart idea. I've found that by improving your balance and core strength all other lifts will start to benefit.

When I added V-sit ups to my workout, I found my deadlifts and cleans became easier. This is likely because of my improved core stability.

With the raising of both arms and legs simultaneously, you'll engage the entire rectus abdominus.

This not only helps to chisel the midsection but improves posture and coordination more than regular sit-ups.

However, if you can't perform this exercise, you can try V up alternatives.


  • Strength carries over to other lifts.
  • Minimal space required.
  • Suitable for most abilities.

How To Do It:

  1. Lay flat on your back on a mat, with arms and legs stretched straight out
  2. Maintain your legs and arms both straight while flexing your core
  3. Pull your toes and hands towards the center until they meet
  4. The body should form a “v” shape
  5. In a slow and controlled motion, lower arms and legs back towards the starting point until they meet the floor

Tips From A Trainer!

If you want to take this exercise up a level, you can hold a medicine ball or small dumbbell in your hands throughout the exercise.  

7. Back Extensions

Target: Erector spinae, hamstrings, quadratus lumborum, gluteus maximus (entire posterior chain)
Woman Doing Back Extensions

I've often found that most people neglect their lower backs.

When this happens, you won't be able to lift as much weight during other exercises. After all, you're only as strong as your weakest link, and if your weakest link is your lower back, you're in trouble.  

One of my favorite ways to improve your lower back strength is back extensions. They're not one of those big lifts, but they'll certainly help you with them - particularly deadlifts.

Not only that, but they'll really target the lower back, which will help your posture. If you have a sedentary lifestyle, I can't recommend them enough.

If you don't have a back extension bench available in your gym, try back extension alternative exercises.


  • Strengthens your lower back. 
  • Improves torso stability. 
  • Helps improve other lifts.

How To Do It:

  1. Grab a back extension bench and set the pads to a height that sits right on your quads, allowing you to bend forward freely at the waist.
  2. Make sure your feet are completely secure
  3. Bend forward, towards the floor, keeping the back flat
  4. Keep bending until you feel an adequate stretch in the hamstrings
  5. Bring your torso back up to the starting position

Tips From A Trainer!

Keep these movements slow and controlled. You want to feel every single fibre in your lower back working during this exercise. 

8. Seated Knee Tucks

Target: Abdominals, obliques, hip flexors, quadriceps
Woman Doing Seated Knee Tucks

Seated knee tucks are another great way to increase core strength.

I've found they're one of the best “middle-of-the-road” ab exercises as they’re not the most difficult yet still challenging due to the constant tension on the abs. This is one of the reasons why I give my clients new clients this movement. 

Think of them as sitting mountain climbers, in a way. If you’re trying to work your way up to the L-sit or hanging raises, they’re the perfect stepping stone.


  • Suitable for all abilities. 
  • Minimal space required.

How To Do It:

  1. Grab a mat, extending legs in front of you
  2. Lean back a bit, bracing yourself with your hands
  3. Now pull legs up, bringing your knees to your chest
  4. Bring legs back out, touching feet to the ground

Tips From A Trainer!

To make this move more challenging, you can make sure your feet don’t touch the ground between reps, and/or take your arms off the ground. 

9. Jumping Knee Tucks

Target: Abdominals/obliques, hip flexors, hamstrings, quadriceps
Woman Doing Jumping Knee Tucks

Jumping tucks for core?... Ok, hear me out on this one. 

While jumping knee tucks are mainly a leg movement, I've found that your core has to work an incredible amount. They not only work your abdominal muscles, but are more explosive than other movements on this list.

I believe they're fantastic for CrossFit workouts as they help boost your endurance by adding that explosive jump aspect. For super fat-burning, try using it for a Tabata ab workout!


  • Suitable for most gym-goers.
  • No equipment needed. 
  • You can do them anywhere.

How To Do It:

  1. Stand in a natural stance
  2. Now lower yourself a bit towards the floor as if you were going in to do a squat
  3. Jump, exploding through the motion
  4. While in the air, bring knees up as high as you can
  5. Land, keeping knees slightly bent to minimize impact on the joints

Tips From A Trainer!

To make this one more challenging, squat deeper at the beginning part of the movement. You could also use the same movement for double unders, in which you quickly move a jump rope underneath twice during the jump (hence the name double unders).

10. Toes To Bar

Target: Abdominals/obliques, hip flexors, rhomboids, biceps, triceps, deltoids, latissimus dorsi, erector spinae
Woman Doing Strict Toes To Bars

Toes to Bar is a tough one to perform without a strong core, as a lot of stabilization is required to generate the force required to start the movement. So in my opinion, if you're new to training, I recommend giving this one a miss until you're stronger. 

However, if you can perform this movement, you’ll notice a boost in overall strength with exercises like the deadlift, squat, and press.

With this one, you’ll be hanging from a bar, utilizing your core to pull your lower body up to make your feet touch the bar you’re holding on to.

Moving around the weight of your legs and midsection is very effective for muscle hypertrophy that can bring you closer to achieving that coveted six-pack.

If you're a Crossfitter and have a limiting injury you can try doing toes to bar alternative exercises.


  • Uses a large range of motion. 
  • Uses your entire body. 
  • Ideal for advanced lifters.

How To Do It:

  1. Hang from a bar with hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart
  2. Pull your shoulders back with your chest slightly out
  3. Flex your core tight, keeping your back straight as you pull your feet up
  4. Try to keep legs straight with a slight bend in the knee
  5. Curl hips at the top of the movement

Tips From A Trainer!

Hands slipping from the bar? Use some chalk to prevent your grip from slipping, it helps a lot.  

11. Anti-Rotation Planks

Target: Abdominals/obliques
Woman Doing Anti-Rotation Planks

If you’re already a fan of the plank, this one is similar but helps even further in preventing over-rotation.

While you’ll naturally want to rotate or move a bit outside of proper form, you’ll have to keep stable by training your abs.

I've found that this movement is great at increasing your trunk stability which helps with many Olympic lifts such as the snatch, clean and jerk, and others. 


  • Strength carries over to other movements.
  • Ideal for most lifters.
  • Develops trunk stability.

How To Do It:

  1. On a mat, get into a plank position
  2. Keep your back straight, raising one arm off the mat
  3. Flex your abs, keeping straight in a plank hold

Tips From A Trainer!

If you need to make this exercise a little bit easier, place your knees on the floor to remove some of the weight from your upper body.  

12. Hollow Hold

Target: Abdominals/obliques, hip flexors, quadriceps
Woman Doing Hollow Body Holds

The Hollow Hold is a great way to help obtain CrossFit abs. Although they may look simple to do, you'll soon find out there's a lot more than meets the eye.

I remember the first time I performed this exercise, initially I thought it was easy... but then the burn kicked in. I can honestly say this simple-looking exercise caught me off guard. 

Do these back-to-back with a plank, and your core will seriously be on fire!

As they don't require any equipment, they can be done essentially anywhere with a soft surface like carpet or a mat. I've performed these in my hotel rooms and even my office, just don't tell my boss. 


  • You can do them anywhere. 
  • Suitable for most abilities.
  • Strengthens your abdominals.

How To Do It:

  1. Lay on your back on your mat or carpet
  2. Keep arms and legs held straight out, with feet flexed
  3. Pull both arms and legs up slowly to create a kind of concave, bowl shape
  4. Make sure the lower back/lumbar spine is firmly rooted to the ground
  5. Keep arms and legs still for the required amount of time

Tips From A Trainer!

Always lie on a mat of some kind. The floor can feel uncomfortable sometimes during this movement.  

5 Benefits Of CrossFit Style Ab Exercises

1. Strengthens All Muscles

CrossFit works every muscle in your body. If you want better looking (and stronger) abs, CrossFit is definitely worth considering. In my experience CrossFitters have some of the best abs around, and I believe it's because of their training.

2. Suitable For All Abilities

CrossFit workouts are designed for all abilities. Sure, some are harder than others, but there is plenty of room to progress or regress the exercises as needed.

3. Strong Core Is Essential

Every movement I've performed in CrossFit uses your core. By developing a strong core you'll make other workouts and daily activities easier.

4. Efficiency over Quantity

Instead of doing countless sit-ups daily (which is pretty boring), I've found CrossFit style exercises, to yield see faster and more efficient results.

5. Improved Major Lifts Performance

If you're like me and LOVE deadlifts, overhead squats, bench presses, and the like, then performing these CrossFit styled movements can boost your overall lifting performance. As my core has grown stronger, my deadlift has improved along with most other compound exercises.

Common CrossFit Ab Workout Questions

What is the most difficult ab exercise on our list?

The L-Sit is definitely the most challenging of the bunch. The toes-to-bar is also up there in terms of difficulty.

What is the easiest ab exercise on our list?

The Anti-Rotation Plank or the V-Up is probably the easiest, but combine them in a workout, and you'll really feel the burn!

How long does it take to get CrossFit abs?

If you want to get CrossFit abs, it depends on how often you perform a workout, how consistent you are, the intensity of your workouts, your coach, and your diet! You won't be able to see your abs if there's a layer of fat over them. Cardio and keeping your diet healthy and in a bit of a caloric deficit will get results faster. However, you'll see a toner midsection with just a couple of weeks of CrossFit workouts.

Why are CrossFitters' abs so big?

CrossFitters' abs are big because they have developed abs that are highly functional and help protect their spine! Just about every CrossFit workout puts significant stress on the core, from a simple plank to deadlifts. CrossFitters have abs that are very strong and can handle a lot of stress on them. Using resistance training on the abdominal muscles increases muscle hypertrophy, which is where the “big” abs come into play.[4]


Now that you’ve been able to read through all of the best CrossFit abs movements, have you decided which ones you’ll incorporate into your routines or WODs?

I really love this selection of core exercises, as there are options for all abilities. There are some that you can use as stepping stones to the more challenging options, too (as do many of my clients). 

Choose several from the list above and add them to your workout to improve your core strength and ab appearance. 


1. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/core-exercises/art-20044751
2. https://www.premierspineinstitute.com/blog/building-a-strong-core-is-your-best-defense-against-back-pain
3. https://digitalcommons.wku.edu/ijesab/vol2/iss8/14/
4. https://www.mdpi.com/2075-4663/9/2/32

Lee Kirwin

Lee Kirwin

Lee has worked in the fitness industry for over 15 years. He's trained hundreds of clients and knows his way around the gym, including what you need for your garage gym. When he's not testing products, he loves weightlifting, Ju Jitsu, writing, and gaming.