We get it: You don’t always want to do crunches or planks or even use gym equipment to work your abs. Luckily, you don’t have to. If you’ve never thought about working your core while standing, you should. It may even be more effective because your core muscles aren’t just the ones you see in the mirror: They wrap all the way around your body—from your “six-pack” abs to your obliques (which hug the sides of your trunk) to the muscles that stabilize and support your spine.
With that in mind, we tapped Rachel Nicks, trainer at Boutique Fitness Xperience, to come up with the best standing abs moves that target your entire core. As you do them, focus on form over reps, Nicks says. For instance, use your abs to lift your leg each time, not your quads or glutes.
How it works: Pick 2 or 3 moves from the list and add them to a cardio or strength routine. Do each move for the designated number of reps or time and do 2 rounds total. The nice thing about abs: It’s hard to overdo them, so feel free to try 2 or 3 moves one day and 2 or 3 different moves the next time you work out.
1. March With Twist
Think of this move as slow high knees with an added twist. Stand with feet hip width, shoulders down, arms overhead, and core braced. Bring right elbow to left knee as you twist through waist, then return to starting position and repeat on the opposite side. Focus on using core, not quads, to lift knee and squeeze obliques throughout. Continue to alternate sides for 60 seconds.
2. Wide Second Side Crunch
Stand with feet wider than hip width and hold a dumbbell in each hand. Turn toes outward and lower into a wide squat (sometimes called a wide second squat) by squeezing glutes, bending knees, and keeping hips in line with torso (don’t stick your butt out). Raise arms into goalpost position (elbows bent to 90 degrees), engage core, and bend to the right, trying to tap elbow to thigh. Do 10 reps to the right and 10 to the left. Then alternate sides for 20 reps.
3. Standing Stabilization
Stand with feet hip width, holding medicine ball or dumbbell in both hands, and extend arms in front of chest. Keeping arms straight and shoulders pressed down, rotate upper body to right and then return to center. Do 10 reps to the right and 10 to the left. Then alternate sides for 10.
4. Reverse Chop
Hold medicine ball with both hands at chest height and stand with feet hip width. Lower ball to outside of right foot, allowing knees to naturally bend and feet to pivot. Now bring ball across torso and overhead to left, feeling core engage. Increasing speed will create more of a challenge. Do 10 reps then switch sides.
5. Standing Side Bends With Dumbbells at Side
Hold a heavy dumbbell in one hand (or two dumbbells in one hand as shown). Stand with feet hip width and bend from waist to the right. Engage core to pull torso upright. Do right side only for 60 seconds, then left side only for 60 seconds. Then alternate sides for 60 seconds.
6. Standing Side Bends With Dumbbells Overhead
Start in the same position, holding either a heavy weight in both hands or two weights (as shown). Hold weights overhead with arms extended and bend at the waist to the right, keeping arms straight. Use core to pull torso back to center. Do 60 seconds to the right only then switch sides.
7. Standing Side Crunch
Stand with feet a few inches wider than hip width, a dumbbell in each hand, and arms in goalpost position. Engage core and bring left elbow to left thigh by bending at the waist and performing a side crunch. Rather than moving elbow down, try to keep arms and shoulders in the same place throughout so you’re forced to use obliques to perform the move. Do left side only for 60 seconds, then right side only for 60 seconds. Then alternate sides for 60 seconds.
8. Standing Crossover Toe Touches
Stand with feet wider than hip width and extend arms to a T. Engage core, rotate torso to left, and tap right hand to outside of left foot. Do left side only for 60 seconds, then right side only for 60 seconds. Then alternate sides for 60 seconds.
9. Single-Leg Sprint
Stand in a low lunge with left knee bent, right leg straight behind you, and arms extended overhead. Hinge forward slightly from hip so chest is over left thigh. Use core to lift right knee toward chest and allow arms to come in at sides. Replace leg on ground and, as quickly as possible, drive forward again. Do 20 reps then switch sides.Make it harder: For more of a challenge, add a twist, pulling right knee in to touch left elbow each time.
10. Chair Pose Twist
Start in a modified chair pose by placing feet hip width, engaging core, sending hips back, bending knees, and placing hands behind head. Rotate upper body to right side, hooking left elbow to outside of right knee. Don’t allow hips to twist to right, instead think about bringing left ribcage to right hip bone. Rotate to the other side to complete 1 rep. Do 20 reps.
11. Side Leg Raise With Side Bend
Stand with feet hip width and hold dumbbell in each hand. With core engaged, bend from waist to the right and simultaneously allow right foot to rise off floor, maintaining a straight arm and leg. Engage obliques to feel a side crunch. As you return to start, tap right foot to ground and immediately begin next rep (don’t put weight on right foot). Do right side only for 60 seconds, then left side only for 60 seconds. Then alternate sides for 60 seconds.
12. Standing Twist
Start with feet hip width, knees slightly bent, a dumbbell in each hand, and arms in a goalpost position. Rotate to the right, keeping hips level and using upper body only to twist. Next, rotate to the other side. Maintain open chest and level shoulders throughout. Rotate from side to side for 60 seconds.
13. Overhead Circles
Stand with feet hip width and hold medicine ball with both hands straight overhead. Use the ball to “draw” a large circle on the ceiling. Engage core throughout and keep hips level and straight. Do 30 seconds in one direction, then switch directions and do another 30 seconds.
Special thanks to Rachel Nicks, trainer at Boutique Fitness Xperience (a studio brand of New York Sports Clubs), who modeled these moves and designed them for us. Nicks wears her own Nike gear. You can follow her on Instagram and Twitter.