9 Standing Ab Exercises for a Strong and Stable Core

The standard ab workout usually consists of floor exercises like crunches, bicycles, and planks. While these moves are beneficial for strengthening the core, ab exercises performed while standing up are just as effective and can also be done at home with little to no equipment.

Standing ab exercises target the core with functional movement patterns that are similar to how the body moves through everyday life.

From standing crunches to wood chops to using dumbbells or a medicine ball, the following standing ab exercises work your core off the floor with challenging resistance moves to improve your strength and overall fitness.


Static Lunges with Rotation

Ben Goldstein / Verywell

The static lunge with rotation is a great standing ab exercise for working the abdominals and back muscles while also building lower-body endurance.

The idea with this move is to engage the stabilizer muscles in the legs and hips to hold a lunge while using a weight such as a medicine ball as you twist the torso from one side to the other.

Here are some tips to get you started with this dynamic exercise:

  • To make this exercise easier, you can place your back knee on the ground instead of hovering a few inches. Once you feel steady, lift it a few inches off the ground.
  • Holding the weight closer to your chest is another modification. Each time you rotate, this will help you facilitate the movement using your torso.
  • As you get stronger, straighten your arms out in front of you to increase the intensity.
  • Squeeze the ball with each rotation to engage your pectorals (chest muscles) and make this a whole-body exercise.

Try this standing ab exercise using a medicine ball, dumbbell, resistance band, or even an exercise ball.


Overhead Side Bends

Overhead side bends target the obliques and strengthen the abdominals and lower back muscles. This standing ab exercise works well holding a medicine ball overhead as you tilt the torso from side to side in a functional movement pattern.

Take a sturdy stance with your feet just wider than your hips. As you hold the weight overhead, keep your shoulders extended and biceps framing your face. Bend from side to side using a natural range of motion as you continue to hold the weight overhead.

Be sure to keep your chin parallel to the floor. Lower the weight when you're finished and roll out your shoulders if need be.

You can also change things up in your overhead side bends with these ideas:

  • Try different positions. Perform them standing, sitting, or kneeling, or try standing on one foot, a BOSU, or some other unstable surface to work on your balance.
  • Use different types of resistance. Experiment with your own body weight, or try light dumbbells, cables, bands, or an exercise ball for more variety.

Do overhead side bends with a slow, controlled pace rather than using momentum, which could make the standing ab exercise less effective and lead to injury.


Medicine Ball Circles

Medicine ball circles are a great way to warm up the body, especially the abs and back. As you circle the weight around, the goal is to make the biggest circle you can by utilizing your own body weight.

Stand with your feet hips-distance apart and hold a medicine ball with both hands in front of your pelvis. Keeping your arms straight, lift the medicine ball to your right, then overhead, and then to the left and back down in front of you again.

Engage your glutes and core to move your torso and provide stability. Switch directions after several rounds and circle to the left.

Here are some tips for getting the most out of this standing ab exercise:

  • Move through a full range of motion. When you make your circles, allow your knees to bend slightly as you pivot on your feet, which will allow for a natural rotation of the torso through the movement.
  • Use a lighter weight. Start with a lighter medicine ball or dumbbell to get used to the movement before working with heavier weight.
  • Engage your core to keep your back straight. As you direct the ball toward the floor, maintain an upright torso rather than rounding forward.

Avoid planting your feet in place. This may place unwanted strain on your knees. Allow your feet to pivot naturally instead.


Figure 8 Lunges

Figure 8 lunges emphasize core strength and stability along with lower-body endurance and overall balance and coordination.

You can try figure 8 lunges with a medicine ball, dumbbell, or kettlebell. The key to making this whole-body move an effective standing ab exercise is to perform each move independently first before finding a fluid groove.

Here are a few tips to guide you through figure 8 lunges:

  • Step your right foot forward into a lunge and keep a little bend in your back knee to help with stability as you balance.
  • Make the first half of a figure 8 by taking the weight to your opposite hip, rotating through your torso, and sweeping the weight down.
  • Step the foot back to your starting position as you take the weight overhead.
  • Step the same foot back into a reverse lunge, still holding the weight.
  • Complete the figure 8 as you sweep the weight toward the other hip, continuing to hold the reverse lunge position.
  • Step forward to your starting position as you lift the weight overhead again.
  • Switch legs, this time stepping forward with the left foot into a lunge.
  • Find a rhythm as you practice stepping forward and back, sweeping the weight down and up to continuously trace a figure 8 in a fluid motion.

Use controlled movements with figure 8 lunges, but allow them to feel natural.


Horizontal Wood Chops

Traditionally performed with a cable machine at the gym, horizontal wood chops can be also be done by simply using your own body weight or basic home equipment for added resistance.

This standing ab exercise takes your body through a rotational woodchopping motion as the arms move from one side of your body to the other in a high to low motion.

Try these variations on the classic wood chop:

  • Explore your range of motion. Keep your body facing forward and focus on the rotation of the torso and arms, or pivot on your feet as you rotate to add more sweeping movement.
  • Switch up your stance. If you're a beginner, try doing the move in a staggered stance for more stability. Add variety by kneeling, lying on an exercise ball, or for an advanced variation, try standing on one leg.
  • Use a variety of equipment. Experiment with your own body weight, or try resistance bands, a medicine ball, a dumbbell, or cables for different levels of resistance.

Horizontal wood chops target just about every muscle in your abdominals and back while also promoting core stability.


Reverse Wood Chops

Reverse wood chops are an effective standing ab exercise because they rotate the body by drawing the arms from the hips and across the body to the opposite shoulder.

This dynamic exercise strengthens the back and core by engaging those muscles to stabilize the body throughout the movement.

With a cable machine at the gym, you would reverse the direction of resistance by setting the adjustable mechanism to the bottom, which would allow you to pull the cable from low to high instead of high to low.

Try these tips for adding variety to reverse wood chops:

  • Chop with or without rotation. You can either rotate your entire body through the movement or you can keep your hips, knees, and chest facing forward. Simply move your arms across your body for more core stabilization.
  • Use different types of equipment. You can use resistance bands, a medicine ball, a dumbbell, or a Ballast Ball.
  • Try different positions. Do this move while sitting, kneeling, or even lying on an exercise ball to develop more core strength and stability.

Horizontal and reverse wood chops can be done at the gym with a cable machine or at home with little to no equipment.


Overhead Squat

The overhead squat is an advanced ab exercise that may appear easier than it actually is, especially when you incorporate the added resistance of a barbell or dumbbell.

The abdominals and back muscles work really hard to keep the body in position as you squat and press the arms overhead, making this a dynamic, whole-body exercise.

Use these tips when getting started with the overhead squat:

  • Start with no weight. It's easier to practice good form (squatting with the hips back, core engaged, and arms extended overhead) with little to no weight.
  • Slowly progress to heavier weights. Start off with lighter dumbbells or kettlebells. You can eventually try the heavier weight of a barbell once you've built up your strength.
  • Always look forward (instead of up). Maintain good alignment by keeping your focus forward.

If you have any back, hip, or joint issues, you may want to modify or skip this advanced standing ab exercise.


Standing Side Crunch

The standing side crunch is all about targeting the obliques, with the added challenge of testing your balance since you're standing up. To make sure you're really engaging the obliques, use your full range of motion and keep the movement slow and controlled.

Stand with your feet about hips-distance apart and interlace your palms behind your head. Keeping your elbows wide, shift weight into your left foot and lift your right knee toward your right elbow.

Side-bend to the right to draw the elbow closer to the knee. Step the right foot back down as you return to stand upright, then repeat the side crunch again.

You can perform a set of 10–15 crunches on the same side, then repeat on the other side, or switch from side to side with each crunch for a more dynamic standing ab workout.

Here are some tips to make sure your standing side crunches are effective:

  • Keep your chest open as you bring your knee toward your elbow and side bend with your torso, which will prevent you from rounding forward.
  • Imagine your back is against a wall and you're sliding along the wall as you do the exercise. This will help you maintain good form.
  • Pick up the pace to make the move more cardio intensive. The momentum will take some of the focus away from the core as your blood gets pumping and speeds up your heart rate.

Standing side crunches are a great way to warm up for almost any type of workout.


Standing Crossover Crunch

The standing crossover crunch looks a lot like the traditional bicycle crunch to target the obliques, except that it's performed standing up instead of on the floor.

To get the most out of this standing ab exercise, make sure you go slow in the beginning and focus on bringing the shoulder toward the opposite hip rather than the elbow to the knee. This will put the focus on rotating through the torso and engaging the core, rather than swinging the elbow toward the opposite knee as it lifts.

Begin standing tall with your feet hips-distance apart, and interlace your hands behind your head with wide elbows. Shift your weight to your left foot and lift your right knee to hip height as you cross your left elbow in front of you to tap the right knee. Step the right foot down. Then lift the left knee and cross your right elbow to give it a tap.

Think about turning with your ribcage to facilitate the rotation of your torso. Continue this side-to-side motion for 10–15 reps on each side.

There are couple of ways you can perform this exercise depending on what you want to get out of it:

  • Keep the movement slow and controlled, which will focus your attention on your core as well as balance and stability.
  • Make the movement more dynamic by speeding things up, which will make it more of a cardio exercise.

A Word From Verywell

When performed correctly with good form and posture, standing ab exercises are just as effective as traditional core work that's done on the floor. By moving your body through functional movement patterns, most standing ab exercises are relatively safe.

If you're recovering from injury or have joint or mobility issues, be sure to consult with your doctor before beginning a strength training program.

By Paige Waehner, CPT
Paige Waehner is a certified personal trainer, author of the "Guide to Become a Personal Trainer," and co-author of "The Buzz on Exercise & Fitness."