Is there any better feeling than ab DOMS? The day after a brutal workout when you can barely sneeze or laugh without wincing? We live for that pain.

If you’re all about aesthetics, we know abs are fundamentally made in the kitchen. But if you want to really build your core strength so your squats are stronger, you can L-sit on parallettes or be the plank champion in your gym, then your six-pack needs these six exercises.

6 Core Exercises for Rock Hard Abs

1. Plank… Then Plank Harder

There are so many ways to diversify a plank, from starting on your knees, to single limb and adding weight. Try this for eight minutes – no rest!

  • 1 minute normal plank on toes and elbows with a weight plate on your back
  • 1 minute controlled alternating leg lifts (squeeze your glutes and don’t raise your leg higher than in line with your head)
  • 1 minute side plank with leg extended (keep your hips up high)
  • 1 minute other side plank
  • 1 minute commando plank (alternating from elbows up to palms)
  • 1 minute hip dips (in a plank, drop your hips from one side to the other, rotating your core but keeping your shoulders square)
  • 1 minute tricep plank (get low and keep torso up)
  • Finish with two sets of 30 seconds right arm and left leg in a high plank position then swap

Too easy? Go grab a weight vest and try again.

2. Tabata Superman to Hollow Hold

Get yourself down on the floor and set your tabata timer (20 seconds work, 10 seconds rest for eight rounds). Your Superman position is belly-down, arms and legs extended off the ground as if you’re flying. Toes pointed, everything engaged (especially your core).

Your hollow hold is almost the exact opposite. Roll onto your back with your arms above your head, shoulders off the floor, core braced, and each vertebrae in contact with the ground (no arch in your lower back). Feet are elevated with your toes pointed to ensure quads and glutes are working hard. You’ll hold your Superman position for 20 seconds, then roll over in the 10 seconds’ rest. Engage your hollow hold position for 20 seconds. Roll back and repeat.

3. Pilates 100s

If you’ve ever been to a Pilates class and managed to get away without your teacher adding these in, you were lucky! Starting in a “boat pose” (on your butt, legs and back off the floor, toes pointed, shoulders back/chest open, with arms extended down by your sides), pulse your arms low for 10 continuous counts of 10. Make it harder by sitting back lower and having your feet closer to the ground. The higher and more like a “V-shape” you are, the easier it will be.

4. Dead Bugs and Bear Shoulder Taps

For a dead bug, you’ll be on your back with your legs up and knees at 90 degrees. Bracing your core and keeping every vertebrae connected to the floor (no arch in your lower back), extend opposite limbs out very slowly. Add a count of at least five seconds to control your movement. As the left arm goes back over head, the right leg extends with the toes pointed. Let neither touch the ground and bring them both back to the starting position before engaging the opposite limbs.

Bear shoulder taps will have you on your hands and knees to start. Then lift your knees off the ground so they’re hovering just an inch or two, but you’re keeping your body still, with your butt down, core switched on and a bit of a rounding through your shoulders.

Very slowly, touch your hand to opposite shoulder and alternate. Again, use a count of four to five seconds to stop yourself from rushing and don’t let your back round or your butt get too high.

Try 10 reps each side (20 total) then switch movements. Aim for five to six sets.

5. Tempo Knees-to-Elbows

Hang from the bar, engage your lats, point your toes, and squeeze your core as you bring your knees to your chest for a count of four and back down for a count of four. Level up with strict toes-to-bar or even windscreen wipers. You could even do it to Sally. The whole track.

6. Back Squats

You heard right. This writer’s favourite way to kill her core is with some heavy back squats, pausing half-way down, then pausing at the bottom for three seconds. 10 reps over five sets. Brace yourself for the squat by breathing into your sides, rather than puffing your stomach out in front. It may take a bit of practise, but once you feel the difference in the way your core activates, you’ll never go back.