Summer will be here before we know it and we owe it to ourselves to be able to strip down a layer and show off what we’ve been building all winter (and spring) long (hopefully lots of lean muscle).
Now, sure, crunches and planks are decent for working your midsection. But if you want to take your progress up a notch and do something different, we think you should include some barbell exercises for abs training.
The barbell is the ultimate tool for strength training and so it makes sense to utilize it for maximizing your core development.
But before we get to the 10 barbell exercises let’s briefly go over core anatomy…
Core Anatomy and Function
The core is composed of several different muscles with separate functions. By knowing the function of each muscle, you can ensure that your exercise selections will utilize each one for optimal development.
The rectus abdominis is located on the anterior of the midsection which forms the ‘six-pack’. It functions to pull the ribs and pelvis in (curves the back).
This muscle acts as a compressor of core contents. It functions to suck in the belly button and maintain a tight midsection.
The erector spinae muscles are located on the back and are responsible for trunk extension (forward and backward bending).
The external and internal obliques are located lateral to the rectus abdominis on each side with fibers that run over and under the rectus abdominis. The function of the obliques is to flex, rotate, and compress muscles of the trunk.
Try these 10 barbell exercises for abs!
1. Barbell ab rollout
The barbell ab rollout is one of the most challenging and effective core movements you can do. You may be familiar with the ab roller tool which is very popular but the barbell variation is a great alternative.
This exercise primarily works the rectus abdominis but it also engages the erector spinae which is highly involved in the exercise.
To do it:
- Load the barbell with either a 25 or 45lb plate on each side.
- Get into a kneeling position and grip the bar about shoulder-width.
- Keep your core tight and back straight then push the barbell out until you’re in a superman position. Keep your arms completely straight during the entire movement. Don’t drop your hips down.
- Use your core to pull the weight back toward your knees and repeat.
- Make sure to keep your back straight or even slightly rounded as not doing so will limit optimal abdominal activity.
- Do not allow your hips or butt to sink down.
- Use your core to eccentrically control the weight while in the extended, rolled out position and make sure your abs are contracting to pull the weight back in. Using your arms to pull the weight back defeats the purpose of the exercise.
- If you can’t complete the entire range of motion, roll out as far as you can and keep trying to progress further and further.
2. Landmine twists w/ anti-rotation
These are the perfect solution for building up your oblique muscles. You have to fight against rotational forces to maintain stabilization of your trunk and it’s just a great core builder in general.
You can either attach the barbell to a dedicated landmine setup/attachment or place the end of a barbell in a corner to keep it in place.
To do it:
- Grab the end of the barbell in front of you and interlock your fingers or place one hand higher than the other. Hold the barbell near your chest or slightly higher.
- While keeping your torso as rigid as possible, bring the end of the barbell down to hip level while fighting the rotation of your torso. Keep your arms straight but elbows can be slightly bent.
- Repeat on the opposite side.
- Do not rotate your hips and shoulders during this exercise.
- Keep your arms mostly straight but a slight bend is OK.
3. Single-arm push away press
The single-arm push away press is another effective landmine variation as it forces your abs and obliques to engage since you’re using one arm to perform this exercise. It requires stabilization, balance, and strength from your midsection to keep the barbell from veering off to either side.
To do it:
- Take a split or staggered stance for this exercise. So, the left foot should be in front when pressing with the left arm and vice versa. Keep your legs straight and core tight.
- Grip the end of the barbell and hold it by your shoulder.
- Press the bar up and rotate your torso inward at the same time.
- Bring the bar back down and rotate your torso back to the starting position.
- Perform the desired number of reps then switch sides and repeat.
- Control the weight as you push it which requires the core to engage. Do not press the weight wildly as this is not conducive to the benefits we’re trying to achieve with this movement.
- Don’t allow your lower back to arch by leaning slightly forward and avoid using too much weight with this exercise.
4. Barbell overhead carry/walk
You must stabilize your entire body, not only your core to keep the barbell overhead. Although, the core muscles are highly active and super essential for maintaining a neutral trunk. You’ll benefit from improved upward scapular stabilization too.
It’s also great for cardiovascular fitness and mental fortitude.
To do it:
- Press the barbell overhead and keep your arms completely straight.
- Keep your core tight and scapular slightly retracted. Do not let your back arch too much.
- Simply walk for distance and place the barbell down when you feel yourself losing the ability to hold it overhead.
- Use a slightly challenging weight but don’t go too heavy as this can be dangerous for your lower back and in general.
- You can lift the weight into the starting positioning from a squat rack which will be easier to get it overhead.
- Keep your shoulder blades together to better control the barbell overhead and don’t allow your elbows to bend.
5. Landmine side bends
Back to the landmine, we’ll use this setup to target the oblique muscles. This exercise can build some decent muscle size and it’s really effective overall for developing those V lines.
To do it:
- Hold the end of the barbell while the other end is secured.
- Bend your torso laterally to one side and use your obliques to lift the weight back up.
- Repeat on the other side after you’ve completed your reps.
- Use a light to moderate weight for this exercise to protect your spine and back.
- Don’t go too far down here as you just want to bend enough before you naturally can’t go further.
6. Plank lateral rollout
We know how useful planks are for building a stable core. Well, the plank lateral rollout takes this very basic exercise to a whole new level. You have to engage your entire core including the erector spinae to roll the weight to the side and back which makes it a very functional movement as well.
To do it:
- Get into a push-up stance and grip the end of the barbell with one hand.
- Keep your torso straight and roll the bar out to the side by extending your arm then roll in back in.
- Repeat for the desired reps and switch sides or alternate arms to make the movement more challenging.
- Roll the bar out just until your arms are extended. This isn’t a push-up variation so no need to roll all the way out and bend the arms too much.
7. Sit up press
Situps are a classic abdominal exercise and one common way to make them more challenging is to hold some weight in your hands overhead.
To do it:
- Sit on the floor in a sit-up position so knees are bent while holding a barbell with hands about shoulder-width distance apart.
- Lie on your back keeping your knees bent and press the bar above your chest as if you were doing a bench press (or floor press in this instance).
- Keep the bar in this position and perform one sit-up. Keep your back straight and use your abs to lift your torso off the ground. You can
- Lie back down and repeat.
Tuck your feet under something to better stabilize yourself while you do the exercise.
- Don’t allow the bar to move from the starting position throughout the exercise. Although, you may need to move it back a little toward your head to keep it balanced.
- Use your abs to lift your torso off the ground and don’t try to compensate by bending your arms to help.
8. Barbell leg raise
Ok, so this awesome variation actually allows you to emphasize the lower ab muscles. Leg raise variations are some of the best you can do to target this region.
To do it:
- Lie on your back and hold the barbell over your chest as if you were doing a bench press while keeping your arms fully extended.
- With your legs bent or straight, lift them to the bar and lower them back down. Don’t allow your legs to rest on the floor.
- Repeat this and make sure to keep your core tight during the movement.
- Keep the barbell in one position throughout the entire exercise.
- You can bend your knees if you can’t keep them straight.
- Lift your legs as far back as you can. Don’t worry if you can’t bring them to the bar.
9. Suitcase deadlift
The suitcase deadlift is a beastly exercise that works your legs and back muscles. But it’s also hugely beneficial for lateral strength and stability because you must maintain neutral positioning during the exercise.
Too often we focus only on anterior and posterior core movements which are definitely necessary. But if we don’t have all-around core stability which includes laterally as well, we experience energy leaks. As a result, the trunk cannot support certain movements due to a weak link which is a lack of lateral control.
So, the suitcase deadlift is a perfect remedy…
To do it:
- Stand next to the loaded barbell as if you were going to pick it up like a suitcase.
- Bend your hips and knees and grip the barbell in the dead center.
- Keep your upper legs and butt higher than your knees and maintain a straight back with a rigid core.
- Look forward and drive through your midfoot/heel to lift the weight off the floor and don’t allow the weight to bend your torso to the side. Make sure your shoulders are as level as possible the entire time.
- When the bar reaches mid-thigh, hinge your hips forward to finish into a standing position.
- Lower your hips and bend your knees to bring the weight back down so it touches the floor then repeat.
- If the bar is unbalanced, stop and reset your grip. You should grab the center of the barbell.
- Focus on keeping your shoulders level which will ensure you’re doing the exercise correctly.
- Use a mirror if you can to make sure you’re not bending to one side.
10. Sitting landmine Russian twist
Alright so for the last barbell exercise for abs, we’ll do the landmine Russian twist whole sitting on the floor. It’ll work the oblique muscles really well and is a neat alternative to use a free weight or medicine ball.
To do it:
- Sit on the floor and grip the end of the barbell by your upper chest or clavicle and hold it there.
- Bring the barbell down to one side and stop when the bar is level with your lower chest. You can bend your arms slightly.
- Bring the bar back to the center and repeat on the other side.
- Don’t bring the end of the bar too far down as this can place a lot of stress on the lower back due to the fixed position of the exercise. Down to mid-lower chest level is sufficient.
- Feel free to bend your arms slightly and if using a heavier weight.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is a barbell an effective tool for ab training?
Oh yes! There are so many awesome ab exercises you can do with a barbell and it adds extra weight so you can gain muscle and strength.
Check out our 10 barbell exercises for abs and you’ll have plenty of super-effective exercise ideas.
What are the most effective barbell ab exercises?
There are many awesome barbell ab exercises. But we’ve listed what we believe to be the absolute best and most commonly used.
Our best barbell ab exercises include:
- Barbell ab rollout
- Landmine twists
- Single-arm push away press
- Barbell overhead carry
- Landmine side bends
- Plank lateral rollout
- Sit up press
- Barbell leg raise
- Suitcase deadlift
- Sitting landmine Russian twist
Are barbell ab exercises good for building muscle and strength?
Weighted ab exercises are essential for building core muscle and strength. Utilizing a barbell adds a good amount of additional weight and is an excellent ab training tool for making optimal gains.
You really don’t need any other barbell exercises for abs then the ones that have made our list. They’re effective but shouldn’t be too difficult for most people to do. Although, you’ll ultimately have to choose which ones work best for your experience level.
The added weight from the barbell makes these exercise great muscle and strength builders but you’re also improving stability, balance, and overall function. So now that you have several great ideas, it’s time to try them out!