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The 11 Most Difficult Abs Exercises Ever

Your daily abs workout was going swimmingly until it didn't. To grow stronger and more ripped, abs, like any other muscle, need progressive resistance. Consider this: if you're capable of lifting twice as much, you wouldn't keep benching 135 lbs. to build your pecs. You'll need to add more weight to get stronger and bigger chest muscles.

Abdominals are the same way. You'll reach a point where your midsection has become accustomed to crunches. If you want to see a six-pack, you need to put some pressure on these muscles. Or, if you already have one, to keep it in good shape and improve its appearance.

You'll break through the plateau and get back to building that ripped and torn core with these moves from top trainers.

Be warned: some of these are so difficult that even the most experienced gym rats can not be able to complete many (if any) of them—at least not right away. According to Eric Emig, personal trainer and founder of Evolution Fitness in St. Louis, MO, “many people could slop out a few reps of these and not really get anything out of it.” “Of course, proper form is essential.” To prevent injury, concentrate on doing a few reps of these moves correctly rather than pumping up the volume.

Decline Bench Leg Raise

Lie back on an angled bench with your head up and your feet low, ankle weights in the 2- to 10-pound range strapped around your ankles. Hold the bench behind your head and lift your legs toward the ceiling, holding them pin-straight, until your body is upright and resting on your upper traps. Slowly return to your original position as a single unit. “These are extremely difficult because they need a lot of upper-body strength as well as immense core strength to reach for the ceiling and lower under control,” Emig explains.

Suspended Situps

Grasp the legs of a decline abs table. Lift your body off the bench using your whole core and bending from the hips, so that everything from the knees up is suspended in the air. Personal trainer Victor Adam, owner of Axiom Health and Fitness, says, "You now have maximum range of motion to work your abs however you like." “Do crunches, side crunches, trunk twists, and other exercises while suspended. Alternatively, literally stretch your arms out to do a reverse plank.” If your knees are bothering you, skip this one, and keep your motions fluid, not jerky, to protect your lower back.

Smith Machine V-Ups

Load the Smith bar to about mid-thigh height with, say, 50 pounds. As if you were going to do a bench press, climb under the bar and lie down on your back. Simultaneously press the bar up while raising the legs in a V-up stance by hinging at the waist. Lower slowly and steadily. Want to make things even more difficult? Emig recommends adding weighted ankle braces and/or more weight to the handle.

TRX Oblique Crunch

Switch the daily TRX crunch on its side if you think it's boring. Place your feet in the TRX handles and lie down on your side with one of your forearms lying on the ground. (The TRX will be adjusted so that one foot is higher than the other.) Pull your knees in toward your chest with your free hand behind your head and your free elbow toward your hip. Extend your plank back out with control, never losing its height. “It's difficult because side planks are still difficult, so crunching while doing it stimulates a lot more muscle fibers,” Emig explains. Yes, you must do the same amount of reps on both sides (or as many as you can).

Wrestler Planks

“Planks are common as an isometric abs exercise,” says Robert Herbst, a decorated powerlifter and coach who prefers to train his abs isometrically rather than with crunches and situps. To do wrestler planks, you'll remove your arms from the equation and rely solely on your feet and your forehead to support your body (yes, really). Keep for as long as you can without developing neck pain by bracing down into your core. “Be careful not to roll your head; instead, hold it in one position to avoid stressing the cervical discs,” he advises. You'll also benefit from some beneficial neck-muscle exercise.

Isometric Curl-Ups

This one would necessitate the assistance of a training partner. Lie down on your back with your elbows out and your hands close (but not behind) your head on the floor. Bring your knees up to your nose. Maintain your current status. Have your partner now try to pull your knees away from your chest and then pull you in all directions across the room. Whatever you do, don't surrender (or give out, really, as the case may be). “You can essentially be like a statue, keeping the spot as your partner pushes you around,” Adams explains. It's more difficult than it seems. If you have an old injury, think twice before doing this—external factors you can't manage, such as an overeager girlfriend, can aggravate old strains or sprains.

Yoke or Barbell Walks

Herbst's favorite ways to train the heart are yoke walks and barbell walks, which are both total-body workouts as well as abs exercises. As with high-bar squats, load up a yoke bar or barbell and rest it across your upper back. Then take a walk around the gym. Herbst claims that if you go high, your glutes, quads, and lower back will be sore that you won't know how hard your abs are working.

“Herbst Twists”

Herbst jokes, "I named these after myself because I don't know what they're called and I got kicked out of a gym for doing them when hitting people." To load plates, you'll need a partner (and create a buffer zone). In the high-bar squat position, place a barbell across your body and have your partner add a 25-pound plate to one end, making sure to lock each plate in place. Slowly twist the torso 90 degrees to one side, then back through the middle and twist 90 degrees the other way for 10 reps. Then make your friend add 25 pounds to the opposite end and repeat. Herbst states, "These are fantastic for establishing equilibrium." “Also, when you build a hard-hat zone, people can find out to stay away.

Hanging Dragonflies

Dragonflies, also known as dragon flags, are difficult to catch—and adding a pullup bar to the mix makes them even more difficult. To begin, hang from a pullup bar. Lift your legs as high as you can, trying to get your toes above your shoulders. Then, in a suspended reverse-planche position, stretch your legs and torso out back in front of you with control. Retrace your steps back to the start. “Just make sure you have enough room above you to avoid breaking the ceiling or turning off the lights, and that you have enough grip power to avoid falling on your head,” Adams advises.

Abs Wheel from Your Feet

Emig explains, "Most average humans do these from their knees." “I've only seen one guy who can do these while standing.” (And it isn't him; he insists that if you're big or tall, they're extremely difficult.) Starting from a standing position, put the wheel in front of you on the floor in a pike. Roll out as far as you can (arms out in front of you) toward horizontal, then try to pull it all back in.

Medicine Ball Dribble

“Watch Rocky II or Rocky III, particularly when they're bouncing a medicine ball off his abs,” Herbst advises. “Art imitates life.” Tighten your abs, and then make your lifting partner do the same. If you can stop grimacing, you'll get bonus points. (However, before your pal gives you a ruptured spleen or something, tell him to test the waters.) Even, make sure he doesn't have any grudges against you.)