The importance of doing ab exercises is about more than looking good with your shirt off. While ab exercises will help define your abdominal muscles, your diet and overall fitness routine play a bigger role in whether you get those six-pack abs. What these exercises will do is help you building a strong, healthy core and midsection. This in turn will help you stabilize and control your whole body, helping you perform at your peak.

The Top Core and Ab Exercises

Full Crunch: Lie on your back with your hands behind your head, knees bent, and feet on the floor. Contract your abs and at the same time, curl your top, getting your shoulder blades off of the ground, and your bottom, getting your butt off the ground. Try to touch your forehead to your knees or thighs.

V Up: Lie on your back with your legs straight and your hands outstretched over your head. Keeping your arms and legs straight, bend at the waist and bring your both halves up and together. At the top of the V up, your legs and arms will both be straight up in the air, with only your lower back should touching the ground.

Hurdler: Lie on your back with your legs straight and arms at your side, bent at the elbow, forearms raised. Bring your right knee up above your chest. At the same time, sit up and twist to the right, leading with your left elbow. Bring your left elbow across your chest, past your right knee. Return to the starting position and repeat with your left knee and right elbow.

Supine Bicycle: Lie on your back. Place your hands behind your head and extend your feet keeping them six inches off the ground.. Bring your right knee up and over your chest. As same time twist your upper body, bringing your left elbow up and over until it touches your right knee. Return to the starting position and then bring your left knee and right elbow together. Make these movements slow and deliberate.

Bicycles: Sit on the ground. Place your hands on your hips, or for more of a challenge, raise them over your head. Lift your feet off the ground and rotate then as if your were pedaling a bicycle.

In and Outs: Start in the same position as the bicycles. Instead of pedaling, keep your feet together and alternate between extending your legs out straight and bringing your knees into your chest.

Knee Hugs: The leg movements are the same as the In and Outs. After you have extended your feet,  lean back slightly and spread your arms out wide to the sides. As you bring in your knees, lean forward and draw in your arms around your knees, without actually touching them.

Russian Twist: Sit on the ground with your legs up and extended. Clasp your hands together and twist your body to the right until you can touch your hands to the ground on your right side. Twist left and touch your hands on the left side.

Flutter Kicks: Also known as scissor kicks. Lie on the ground with your extended legs six inches off of the ground. Keeping your legs straight, slowly raise one leg until it is straight up. As you lower it, bring your other leg up.

These next ab exercises require a pull up bar to hang from.

Hanging Body Curls: Hang from a pull up bar. This time, curl your lower body up and bring your knees up until they are between your arm. Hold for a moment and slowly lower yourself down.

Hanging Leg Raises: Hang from a pull up bar. Slowly, without using any momentum, raise your legs as high you can while keeping them straight. Hold your legs up for a moment and slowly lower them down.

Plank: Crouch down, supporting yourself on your forearms and toes. Keeping your body flat, your back, hips, and legs should form a generally straight line. Contract your abdominal muscles and hold this position.

Extended Plank: Also known as the Bird Dog. Get into a plank. Lift your right arm and left leg up and extend them out. Hold that position. Alternate the extended arm and leg with each set.

Push Plank: This ab exercise involves you moving from a plank into a push up position and back. Start in a normal plank. Push up and get your right hand on the ground and then your left. Lower yourself back  on your right forearm, and then your left. This completes one repetition. On your next set, lead with your left hand.

Side Plank: Lie on your right side and balance on just your right forearm and foot. Raise your hips so that your body forms a straight line from your feet to your shoulders. Place your left hand on your hips or in the air. Hold this position.

What, no crunches? Sorry, they don’t make the list for best ab exercises. The bottom line is that there are better uses of your time. Crunches are an isolation exercise with a very small range of motion. You are better off focusing on compound ab exercises that engage multiple muscle groups and require more movement.