19 best floor abs exercises to help injury-proof your body

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These floor abs exercises will not only help you carve out chiseled abs, but they will help injury-proof your body. No equipment is needed, they’re quiet, and can be done in your living room. If you are looking to develop impressive abs, you will want to focus on strengthening all muscles of your core including the abs (rectus abdominus), obliques, and transverse abdominus (to name a few).

I found that many articles and expert advice lacked the essential ways to incorporate exercise into our busy lives. Ever been given a bunch of exercises that you just never did? I know I have!

I spent 12 hours building this list of exercises based on advice from a physio-therapist and by verifying the points with peer-reviewed scientific research. I have also used all of these exercises and cut out any that do not lead to results.

There are approximately 40 citations from scientific journals integrated in this article.

I made sure to include actionable strategies so that you can fit these floor abs exercises into your life. You might use these exercises as part of an at-home circuit training workout (included below) or as part of an energizing morning routine right after you wake up.

Let’s jump in!

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Why target other muscles of the core if your main goal is to have six-pack abs?

To function properly, many core muscles work with the abs and obliques. As neuro-musculo-skeletal physiotherapist, Dr. Josephine Key, emphasizes:

“There is independent control between the deeply placed transversus and the more superficial abdominals – the obliques and rectus abdominis (p. 5).

Dr. Josephine Key, goes on to describe:

 “It is important that training the [abs] is done in a way that is both safe for the spine and promotes functional capacity (p. 5).” 

As physiotherapist, Gray Cook explains, we want to:

“First move well, then move often.” 

Not only do properly executed floor abs exercises help improve physical appearance, they can also make you more injury-proof (Anderson et al., 2013).

While the videos in this post are super helpful, I recommend getting a second set of eyes from a physiotherapist or certified personal trainer to make sure you are executing the exercises correctly.

How I learned the hard way not to neglect floor abs exercises!

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I was 30 years old, but my knee was in bad shape…in worse condition than my 96-year-old grandpa’s.

I saw my dreams of hiking and adventures with my wife, Mugsy, dashed before my eyes. 

And all from such a stupid opponent!

I found myself on a slippery slope…Literally, a slippery slope!

I was walking with my students, slipped on packed snow, and my knee went out of joint for about the 29th time since I was 12 years old.

After seeing my physiotherapist, my mind was filled with doubt and confusion.

I had been working out, could do plenty of sit-ups, and thought I had strong enough abs

But could a weak core really be the main cause of my knee injury?

That is what my physiotherapist told me.

I didn’t fully digest the benefits of having a strong core until I had implemented various exercises and seen the results.

After a few months of performing basic core strengthening and balance exercises, I noticed that slips that normally could have resulted in the dislocation of my knee were no big deal.

One day in December, I was shoveling the snow off my sidewalk, slipped on the ice, but I noticed my core tightened and prevented the unwanted twist that could have led to yet another knee injury. 

I felt so relieved and instantly messaged my physiotherapist to thank him.

Could a strong core be the recipe for preventing further knee and ankle injuries?

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How could this be when other doctors and physiotherapists had told me I needed to build up the muscles in my already beefy quads?

Months later, I noticed another benefit from my core exercises when the snow had melted and I was on a 2-day hike in the summer.

My ankles no longer rolled like they used to – which was normally about 3 times every 9 miles (15 km).

It was NOT a fluke!

My ankles remained stable for the other 23 days that I hiked that summer!

The same way that my strengthened core was preventing my knee from dislocating also kept my ankles strong.

Additionally, at one point my goal was to do a single-leg pistol squat.

Starting by squatting onto a chair, then to the second stair, then with a book under my foot to gradually get stronger.

I worked at it for months but never made it all the way down.

After my knee knee injury, I was told to hold off on pistol squats until my knee was in better shape

After a few months of focusing strictly on core exercises, I tried the pistol squat and sure enough -I was able to do it! Butt to heels and up again!

Could this all be the result of having a stronger core?

Research-based benefits of floor abs exercises and having a strong core

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It turns out, I’m not the only one who has experienced such benefits of having a strong core!

Research shows that a strong core can help prevent the following:

Other reasons to include floor abs exercises:

Some people say squats, deadlifts, shoulder press, bench press, and pull-ups are enough for developing a strong core. Is this true?

These exercises do help you develop a strong core and abs.

But adding other core and floor abs exercises will help you improve in other ways including in these key lifts.

Additionally, many martial artists and fighters will tell you that ab-specific exercises are key in order to build thicker abs.

Why do fighters want stronger abs? While they might help intimidate opponents, fighters with thicker abs are also much better able to sustain kicks and punches to their midsections.

What are the main muscles of the core and what is their purpose?

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The video below explains some of the important core muscles that are mentioned throughout this article. 

They liken a strong core to a sealed can of soda that can easily sustain plenty of weight.

A weak core is similar to a crumpled soda can which cannot sustain much weight due to little internal pressure.

Are core and floor abs exercises the best way to get a six pack?

If your goal is to develop defined, lean abs and you want to lose some body fat, your primary exercises should be focused on improving your diet.

You might want to include these weight loss tips. I used these tools to lose 40 pounds of fat while getting stronger.

Two key practices that will help you improve your form for the rest of the floor abs exercises

Although these first two exercises may seem basic, they are foundational for creating the strength and internal pressure for the other exercises.

For example, these exercises will help you maintain a stable spine and proper form during most floor abs exercises as well as other essential movements including the squat, deadlift, pull-up, overhead shoulder press, and even bench press.

Bracing

  • Lay on your back and tighten your abs and side abdominals similar to when you laugh or cough.
  • Keep your back as flat on the floor as you can. Hold for at least 10 seconds.
  • While bracing is a core exercise, it is also a motion required for many other ab exercises and core progressions. For example, bracing is a key part of performing the squat.
  • As you brace, you simultaneously contract your rectus abdominus,  transversus abdominis (Kulandaivelan, 2014), and obliques
  • Research has shown that bracing helps stabilize the spine, is key in preventing injuries,  and has also helped reduce lower back pain (McGill, 2001).

Drawing-in maneuver

  • This can be done while laying down, sitting, or standing.
  • Inhale and hold the air in for a few seconds. As you exhale, you want to pull your belly button in towards your spine and hold for at least 10 seconds
  • Make sure you keep your back straight during this exercise.
  • Performing this exercise correctly will help improve your overall posture and can help reduce lower back pain (Boucat et al., 2020)
  • The drawing in maneuver also helps strengthen the transverse abdominus which provides stability to the lower back.

Chatprem et al., (2022), research shows important benefits especially for sedentary desk workers:

“After 5 weeks of training, [participants experienced]: (i) stature recovery and pain intensity significantly improved throughout the 41 min sitting condition; (ii) the bilaterally trunk muscle showed significantly decreased fatigue.”

17 floor abs exercises to help injury proof your body

Mountain Climbers

  • Start by getting in the push-up position with your arms straight, your hands flat on the floor and directly under your shoulders
  • Keep your head up and your back straight, so your body is in line with your heels
  • Climb that mountain by bringing your left knee to your chest.
  • Repeat by bringing your right knee to your chest and keep alternating sides
  • Don’t rush it -keep your abs tight and maintain proper form as you smoothly bring each knee to your chest
  • Mountain climbers are great for mobility, stabilization, and injury prevention (Berzin et al., 2020)
  • Research shows this exercise targets your rectus abdominis, longissimus (mobility) and multifidus and internal obliques (stabilizers) (Berzin et al., 2020)

Forearm Plank

  • Get into a push-up position but bend your elbows so that your forearms are resting on the floor
  • Contract your abs, obliques, and glutes while keeping your body straight
  • Set a timer and hold. Make it a goal to be able to hold this for 1-2 minutes if you are a beginner and longer if you are advanced.
  • The plank will help you improve your posture and lower back pain by strengthening your transversus abdominis (Kulandaivelan, 2014), rectus abdominis, and oblique muscles (Yo & Do, 2015).

Front Plank with Shoulder Touches

  • Get into the push-up position with your hands below your shoulders.
  • Keeping your core tight and your hips as stationary as possible, lift your right hand off the floor, touch your left shoulder, and place it back under your shoulder. 
  • Touch your right shoulder with your left hand.
  • Repeat by alternating between touching your left and right shoulders. A good goal for a beginner would be to do this for 30-60 seconds.
  • This exercise will help you improve spine stability, balance, posture, and lower back pain by strengthening your transversus abdominis (Kulandaivelan, 2014), rectus abdominis, and oblique muscles (Yo & Do, 2015).

Panther Shoulder Tap

  • Get into a push-up position, but then drop your knees so that they are just above the floor. Your flattened back and knees should form a right (90-degree angle)
  • Lift your left hand off the floor, touch your opposite shoulder, and place it back under your shoulder. After placing your hand down, touch your left shoulder with your right hand.
  • Repeat by alternating between touching your left and right shoulders for 30-60 seconds.
  • Make sure you keep your core tight and your hips as stationary as possible throughout the entire exercise 
  • This exercise will help you improve spine stability, balance, posture, and lower back pain by strengthening your transversus abdominis (Kulandaivelan, 2014), rectus abdominis, and oblique muscles (Yo & Do, 2015).

Rolling Side Plank

  • The rolling side plank is more advanced. It integrates the positions of the forearm and side plank.
  • Get into the forearm plank and then roll into the left side plank. Extend your right arm straight above you. This will help put your body in the full side plank position.
  • Repeat with your other side by rolling into the forearm plank, then again to the right side plank. Continue rolling side-to-side  for 30-60 seconds.
  • The rolling plank combines the benefits of the forearm and side planks while incorporating “balance, coordination, endurance, strength and power” (American Council on Exercise, 2020).
  • By rotating and using your core muscles to stop trunk rotation, the rolling side plank  will also help you become more ‘injury-proof’ against unwanted twists and movements of the spine and back.

Hip Dip

  • Another more advanced anti-rotational plank, the hip dip has an extra focus on strengthening your obliques.
  • Unlike the rolling side plank, you will keep both of your forearms on the floor throughout this entire exercise.
  • Start in the forearm plank position and smoothly dip your left hip to the floor or close to it.
  • In a rolling motion, return to the forearm plank and dip your right hip
  • Keep your spine neutral by contracting your core muscles and don’t arch your lower back.
  • This is another great exercise than can help injury-proof your back, decrease lower back pain, and improve your posture with added elements of cardio, agility, and balance. 
  • The hip dip targets the  transversus abdominis (Kulandaivelan, 2014), rectus abdominis, and oblique muscles (Yo & Do, 2015)

Floor Bridge

  • Lie flat on your back with your palms facing up beside your hips
  • Raise your hips off the floor so that your shoulders, hips, and knees form a line.
  • Contract your glutes fully at the top of the motion and hold for 1-2 seconds
  • Maintain the drawing in maneuver explained above through the entire exercise
  • Be sure not to arch or hyperextend the lower back
  • This exercise  will strengthen your abs, transverse abdominus, and glutes

Marching

  • Lie flat on your back, with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor – it should take effort to get a hand under your lower back
  • Maintain the drawing in maneuver (explained above) and contract your abs through the entire exercise
  • Raise your right knee towards your chest. Repeat on the other side.
  • Keep alternating while maintaining great form in a slow, controlled manner.
  • Marching helps strengthen the deeper core muscles such as the transverse abdominus which provides stability to the lower back. It also engages your abs.
  • It is important to be able to properly perform marching before exercises such as the deadbug.

Dead bug

  • Lie flat on your back with your arms extended above your head and  palms facing up
  • Maintain the drawing in maneuver explained above through the entire exercise
  • Lift your right arm so it is pointing straight up while form a 90-degree angle with your left leg so your left knee is pointing straight up from your hips
  • Hold for 1-2 seconds and then repeat this motion with the opposite arm and leg
  • Do not let your lower back arch too much

Bird Dog

  • Get on ‘all fours’ while keeping your spine straight
  • Maintain the drawing in maneuver explained above through the entire exercise
  • Extend your right leg straight back while pointing your left arm straight forward with your thumbs facing up.
  • Hold for 1-2 seconds and then tap your right knee with your left elbow.
  • Repeat this motion with the opposite arm and leg
  • This exercise will strengthen your abs, glutes, transverse abdominus and can help reduce lower back pain

Hollow hold

  • Lie on your back and hug your knees gently bringing them towards your chest
  • Slowly extend your legs forward while raising your arms behind and above your head. 
  • Your feet should be about 12-18 inches off the floor. Your body should be in a v-shape
  • Draw in your abs while keeping your lower back flat on the floor throughout this exercise
  • Hold for 20-60 seconds
  • This will strengthen your abs and transverse abdominus

Hanging knee raise

  • While it’s not a floor exercise, you can do it at home if you have a pull-up bar or a ledge to safely hang from (I often dangled in the stairwell at my last appartment).
  • Hang from a bar while keeping your abs tight and your chest out and head looking up at the bar
  • Bring your knees straight up towards your chest and then lower them back down
  • Do not swing or arch your lower back at the bottom. Focus on using your abs to bring your knees up.
  • This will strengthen your lower abs, hip flexors, and grip

Single Leg Deadlift

  • Stand on your right leg with your left leg raised off the ground behind you
  • Keep your back straight as you hinge at your hips and lower your hands towards the floor.
  • Keep your shoulders and hips square as you move your butt back and arms down.
  • Tighten your core and keep your left foot pointed towards the floor throughout the motion
  • Repeat on one side, then switch sides.
  • This exercise is great for improving balance and for strengthening your core, obliques, hamstrings, glutes, as well as knee and ankle stabilizers.
  • Hold a weight in your left hand to become more injury-proof. This will help develop the core muscles required to resist unwanted back, hip, knee, and ankle rotations

Side Plank

  • Lie on your left side with your feet stacked. Place your left elbow under your shoulder
  • Prop your hips up by pressing into the ground with your left elbow and side of your left foot while you tighten your core muscles.
  • Your side facing the floor should form a straight line from the side of your foot to the side of your head
  • The side plank will help you improve your posture and prevent back injuries by strengthening your obliques, transverse abdominus, and quadratus lumborum
  • This exercise will also help you stabilize your spine and prevent injuries that might occur from unwanted twists or turns

Row Your Boat

  • Sit on the floor and find your balance point by leaning back while gently pulling your knees towards your chest until your feet are a few inches off the floor.
  • Maintaining a straight back, extend your arms straight forward while keeping your chest and eyes up
  • Pull your hands towards your armpits as you kick your legs up. Row your boat!
  • Repeat for 20-30 seconds
  • The row your boat will help strengthen your abs (rectus abdominus) and core and it is also a great balance exercise.

Hand walkouts

  • Start by putting your hands on the floor in front of your feet almost like the downward dog pose
  • Walk your hands forward so that you go into pushup position.
  • Go past push-up position and then walk back to where you started
  • Repeat
  • Hand walkouts will help strengthen your abs (rectus abdominus), core, chest, and anterior delts

Here’s a 30-minute home work out plan with floor abs exercise 

I like to include floor abs exercises in my high-intensity circuit training sessions for the quadruple win of strength training, muscular endurance, stability, and cardio.

For example, you might use the following 30-minute circuit training workout which can easily be done at home:

Choose 4 core/floor abs exercises and 8 other exercises

Put the exercises together into a full body circuit training workout. It might look something like this: 

  • push-ups
  • single leg deadlift
  • pull-ups
  • air squats
  • hollow hold
  • elevated push-ups
  • lunges
  • floor bridge
  • jumping jacks
  • forearm plank
  • burpees (sub in step-ups if you have people living below you!)
  • pike push-ups

What about sets, reps, and rest for this workout?

  • Complete 4 sets of each exercise 
  • Perform each set of 4 exercises for 40 seconds – use a timer and stick to it!
  • Push yourself to do each exercises for the full 40 seconds
  • Rest for 20 seconds between each set
  • Rest for 1 minute between each set of exercises
  • Perform this circuit training workout 3 times a week – that’s 90 minutes per week
  • Switch up the floor abs and core exercises each workout

Doing this with a friend and some good music can really help get you in the flow state. While it may be tough at first – once you get in shape, you will likely find this workout to be highly enjoyable.

The time flies when you set that timer and get to it. My clients and I always feel amazing after this style of workout.

Not a fan of high intensity circuit training? …Try this!

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If you want another way to use floor abs exercises, I have enjoyed starting my morning with 3-5 of them.

If you would like to learn more about the benefits of high intensity interval training, check out this article!

It’s a powerful way to start your day with some quick wins.

To do this, I wrote 5 core exercises on one sticky note, and another 5 on another post-it note.

Then, I put the stickies on the wall where I would see them as soon as I went to my office each morning.

This made me way less likely to procrastinate or to move onto something else with that groggy morning brain.

Seeing the notes instantly triggered me into action so that I no longer neglected my core!

Seeing the specific exercises listed also makes it easy to get started.

The Wrap

Whether you use these floor abs exercises in circuit training or as part of a quick morning routine, I would love to hear your plan for putting floor abs exercises into action.

If you are looking to results even quicker, you might want to include some of these weight loss strategies that I used to lose 40lbs of fat while building muscle.