Tone and strengthen your tummy anywhere with these easy standing ab exercises! The added benefits? Improved balance, better posture, and no workout mat needed.
Having a strong core is non-negotiable if you take your physical health seriously.
The core muscles support the spine, brace the organs, improve posture, and (when properly conditioned) enable safe, efficient movement for the entire body. Think of the core as your body’s central engine (the pilot behind functional movement).
There are many ways to strengthen your core. (We talked about some here, here, and here.) But there may be one technique you haven’t tried: standing ab exercises!
How Can You Tone Your Abs while Standing?
Traditionally, abdominal exercises are done from a supine position (lying on your back), or on the hands and knees. But working your core from standing can be more functional and effective.
Standing ab work increases the challenge of traditional abdominal exercises by adding gravity and balance into the mix. The core will have to work harder to maintain a neutral position. The spine’s happy place is neutral—where the core is gently activated, and the body as a whole stays comfortably aligned. These exercises also resemble the way you move your body throughout the day.
Consider that you spend more time standing, walking, and sitting with an erect spine than you do lying down. So it makes sense to strengthen the abs and stabilize the core from a standing position. This method is a functional, effective way to improve strength and mobility for everyday activities.
The Benefits of Standing Ab Exercises
In addition to the points above, standing ab exercises get a gold star for a couple of other reasons:
Strengthens the Psoas Muscle
The psoas (hip flexor muscles) link the core to the pelvis and legs. Our modern lifestyles (read: sitting or being sedentary for too long) have led to these muscles being underused and weak. As you’ll see in the standing ab exercises below, lifting your knee past 90º will strengthen the psoas, which can improve core activation and reduce lower back pain.
Activates the Entire Core
Imagine that your core is a cylinder with a lid and a base. You’ve got abs at the front (rectus abdominis) and sides (internal & external obliques), core back muscles (erector spinae), a “lid” (the diaphragm), a “base” (pelvic floor), and the deepest muscles in the center (transversis abdominis and quadratus lumborum).
Doing traditional ab exercises on your back (such as crunches) makes it challenging to engage all of these muscles. However, training your abs from a standing position gives you more space and range of motion to feel the entire trunk working together.
Reduces Neck and Back Tension
Standing ab work may be better-suited for anyone who has neck or upper back tension—as you won’t be pulling your head up against gravity.Finally, it’s nice to know that you can complete a great ab workout without needing an exercise mat, or having to get down onto the floor! You can literally do these standing ab exercises anywhere (including your office or a hotel room).
11 Standing Ab Exercises to Tone Your Tummy
To get the most out of this workout, try the following exercises in order. Light weights are optional, and they’ll increase the challenge of this workout.
Don’t forget to have fun!
Standing Side Bend | 5 Reps Per Side
Start by standing with your feet together. Hold a light dumbbell in each hand. INHALE and bend your waist to the right side. EXHALE and return to an upright position. Repeat on the left side. Do 5 repetitions per side.
Tip: Keep your shoulders and hips square to the front as you laterally bend. Imagine that your torso is stuck between two panes of glass at the front and back.
The Windmill | 10 Reps Per Side
Start by standing with the feet wide and the arms reaching straight down in front of the pelvis. Hold a pair of light dumbbells in your hands. EXHALE and bend both knees to 90º. Sweep the right arm forward (straight overhead) and look up. INHALE and return to the starting position. Alternate sides for a total of 10 repetitions on either side.
Spine Twist | 10 Reps
Start by standing with the feet together. Take the arms straight out to the side in a letter ‘T’. Keep the hips and knees still as you INHALE. Rotate the spine to the right side and look to the right. EXHALE and return to center. INHALE and rotate to the left side. EXHALE and return to center. That’s one repetition.
Knee Lifts | 10 Reps
Start by standing with your feet together and hands behind your head. Keeping the spine erect, EXHALE and lift one knee to 90º. INHALE and return the foot to the floor. EXHALE and lift the opposite knee to 90º. INHALE and return the foot to the floor. That’s one repetition.
Rotations | 10 Reps Per Side
Start by standing with your feet together and hands behind your head. EXHALE and lift the right knee as you did for Knee Lifts. Then rotate the spine to the right side. INHALE and return to the starting position. Alternate sides for a total of 10 repetitions on either side.
Standing Cat & Cow | 10 Reps
Start by standing with your feet together and arms down by your sides. EXHALE and bend the knees, round the spine, and sweep the arms forward. INHALE, stand up, squeeze the backside, extend the spine, and reach the arms behind the hips. That’s one repetition.
Cross Body Toe Touches | 10 Reps Per Side
Start by standing with the feet together and the arms down by the sides. EXHALE, lift the right leg up to hip height, and reach the left arm across the body (towards the right toes). INHALE and return to the starting position. Alternate sides for a total of 10 repetitions on either side.
Tip: For tight hamstrings, you may need to bend the knee. Don’t try and touch the foot if you have to round the back to do so. Just reach in that general direction.
Chair Pose Twist | 10 Reps
Start with the feet together and the knees deeply bent. The weight is in the heel of the foot, and the palms press together in front of the chest. INHALE and prepare the body. EXHALE, twist to the right side, and reach the left elbow past the right outer thigh. INHALE and return to center. EXHALE and twist to the left side. INHALE and return to center. That’s one repetition.
Wood Chop | 10 Reps Per Side
Start by standing with the feet hip-distance apart. Hold a light weight in either hand, with your arms down by your sides. EXHALE, pivot (the body, arms, legs and feet) to the right, sweep the arms UP over the shoulders, and rotate the spine to the right. INHALE, sweep the arms down, and pivot to the left side (as the arms reach DOWN past the left thigh). That’s one repetition.
Repeat 10 times on this side, then switch directions.
Plie Side Bend | 10 Reps Per Side
Start by standing with the feet wide and the knees bent at 90º. Hold one or two light weights in your right hand, and place the left hand behind the head. INHALE and bend your waist to the right side. EXHALE and return to an upright position. That’s one repetition.
Repeat 10 on this side, then switch to the left.
Tip: Keep your shoulders and hips square to the front as you laterally bend. It’s as if your torso is stuck between two panes of glass at the front and back.
Scoop & Reach | 10 Reps Per Side
Start by standing on the left foot with the right knee lifted to hip height. The elbows are bent into the waist, and the hands are holding a pair of light weights (optional). EXHALE, bend the left knee, round the spine, sweep the arms forward, and extend the right leg straight ahead. INHALE and slowly return to the starting position. That’s one repetition.
Repeat 10 times on this side, then switch to the left.
Tip: To help lift the extended leg and support the low back, scoop your low abs in and up.