12 Bench Ab Exercises to Train Your Core (Plus a Workout)

Ami McMullen

Building a strong core can have numerous physical and aesthetic benefits. It helps improve posture, balance, and stability, and can also help with back pain. Exercising your abs on a bench can add a different level of difficulty to your workout routine and target your core muscles at new angles.

There are also plenty of benefits working your abs on a bench that you wouldn’t get from a regular ab workout. Let’s take a look at some of the best bench ab exercises you can do today! 

Are Benches Good for Ab Exercises?

Benches can be a great tool for ab exercises. They provide a stable, padded surface to perform exercises on, and can also challenge your body by elevating your legs and changing your angle of incline. Benches also allow you to perform exercises that might not be possible on the floor, such as decline twists. Having knowledge of bench exercises is especially helpful when traveling. Hotel gyms don’t always have a ton of equipment, but they usually have a bench!

Benefits of Abs Exercises

Ab exercises help to strengthen the muscles in your torso, including the rectus abdominis, internal and external obliques, and transverse abdominis. Strong core muscles help to support the spine from every direction and can improve posture, reduce back pain, and increase balance and stability.

Incorporating ab exercises into your fitness routine (along with avoiding a ton of junk food and alcohol) can also help sculpt your waistline and create a toned, defined midsection. The best part is you don’t need to do an extensive core workout either. If you set aside 15 minutes to exercise your abs, you’ll see the results as long as you stay consistent!

The Best Bench Ab Exercises

Now that we’ve looked at why you should do bench ab exercises, here are some exercises you can try during your next core workout.

12. Reverse Crunch

When you use the bench to do a reverse crunch, you can target the abs without putting too much stress on your spine and neck. Here’s how to do a reverse crunch: 

Adjustment: Flat Bench

Position: On your back, arms grabbing the bench behind or next to your head

Start: Knees tucked toward chest

Movement: Lift the hips off the bench, tucking knees further into chest

Return: Lower hips back down slowly. Repeat to the desired number.

11. Bench Crunch

The bench crunch is a modified version of the traditional. The exercise is designed to be less challenging because it doesn’t require lifting your legs in the air. With the bench acting as your support, you can concentrate solely on your abdominal muscles through controlled movements.

Adjustment: Flat Bench

Position: On your back, feet on the bench or in the air

Start: Hands behind head or across chest

Movement: Curl head and shoulders off the bench

Return: Lower head and shoulders back down with control

10. Copenhagen Slide Plank

The Copenhagen side plank is a slightly more challenging side plank variation. With this bench variation, you’re mainly targeting the groin and hip muscles. If you don’t have a bench, you can use our TRX Suspension Trainer to complete this exercise. 

Adjustment: Flat Bench

Position: Lie sideways on the ground, perpendicular to the bench

Start: Put your bottom elbow underneath your shoulder. Put your top leg on the bench

Movement: Lift hips off ground, lift bottom leg up to meet the bottom of the bench. Hold.

Return: Lower leg and hips back to the floor with control.

9. Decline Twisting Sit Up

The decline sit-up with trunk rotation is a little more difficult because it involves twisting the torso. This rotational movement targets the transverse abdominis and oblique muscles as you move through the transverse plane of motion. Incorporating rotational exercises into your workout routine is essential for developing a strong core, yet many people tend to neglect this aspect. However, you should not do this workout if you have disc issues. 

Adjustment: Decline Bench

Position: Lie on back with legs in leg holder (if bench has one)

Start: Cross arms over chest or reach them forward

Movement: Sit up lifting torso off bench, twisting your shoulder towards the opposite knee

Return: Lower back down with control. Repeat on other side

8. Decline Mountain Climber

Mountain climbers are essential for cardio endurance and sculpting muscle groups. The best part about this exercise is that you also incorporate shoulders, triceps, and your chest. Here’s how to do a decline mountain climber: 

Adjustment: Flat Bench

Position: On all fours with body perpendicular to the bench. 

Start: Weight on hands, step feet up onto the bench. Continue in plank position.

Movement: Bring one knee forward toward chest and keep the rest of the body in plank position. 

Return: Return the leg to the bench and repeat with the other leg. Make sure to keep slow, controlled movement.

7. Elevated Side Plank

Here’s another variation of the side plank that you can try. This exercise focuses on engaging the shoulders and hips so that you can maintain a straight alignment. Furthermore, elevated side planks don’t put any strain on your back while stabilizing your lower body.

Adjustment: Flat Bench

Position: Stand to the side of the bench.

Start: Place elbow or hand on the bench and position your shoulder right on top of it. Extend your legs out to side plank position, perpendicular to the bench.

Movement: Hold for desired time.

Return: Place other hand on bench to stand up. Repeat on other side.

6. Jackknife

The jackknife is one of the most challenging bench ab exercises on this list. To make sure you’re getting the most out of this exercise, make sure your movements are slow and thorough. Your arms should also be fully extended and parallel to your legs at the top. 

Adjustment: Flat Bench

Position: Lie on your back with your legs in the air. 

Weight Position: If using a weight, have it in your hands. 

Start: Reach your hands towards your feet while lifting shoulders off the bench

Movement: Lower the legs down toward bench while lowering hands back overhead. During this movement, make sure to stay flat

Return: Crunch back up bringing hands and feet back up towards each other.

5. Decline Russian Twist 

Russian twists are one of the most popular ab exercises due to its ability to burn the excess flab on the side of your waists. On top of this, the exercise promotes stability since you’ll exert a lot of energy towards balancing your body. However, this is also another exercise we don’t recommend doing if you have disc issues. 

Adjustment: Decline Bench

Position: Lie back, feet in foot holder if bench has one. 

Start: Hands crossed over chest, lean your torso back so that it’s halfway off the bench.

Movement: Twist your torso slowly right to left, keeping the torso the same angle off bench. 

Return: Lie back or sit up to rest.

4. Leg Raises

Leg raises engage multiple muscle groups such as the abs, hamstrings, quads, hip flexors, and lower back muscles. Although leg raises mainly target the hip flexors, it also works the lower abdominal muscles. Here’s how to do leg raises on the bench:

Adjustment: Flat Bench

Position: Lie on back with hands holding the bench at the sides, or overhead. 

Start: Lift legs toward the ceiling, knees can be bent (easier) or straight (harder)

Movement: Lower legs slowly toward bench, keeping back flat and stable

Return: Raise legs back up toward the ceiling and repeat.

To do leg raises correctly, you need to keep your legs straight throughout the movement and avoid any swinging or jerking motions. Instead, focus on a slow and controlled lifting and lowering of the legs.

3. Bicycle Crunches

Like Russian twists, bicycle crunches are very effective for slimming your waist. Bicycle crunches use more leg movements than most bench ab exercises. This helps stabilize your core and even increase flexibility in your legs. Here’s how to do bicycle crunches: 

Adjustment: Flat Bench

Position: Lie on back

Start: Hands behind head

Movement: Pull one knee in towards the chest, lift shoulders off bench in a crunch position and twist towards that knee, kick the other leg straight out ahead of you.

Return: Switch by bringing the other knee toward the chest, twisting the shoulders toward that knee, and kicking the other one straight out ahead. Continue for desired reps.

2. Flutter Kicks

If you target lower abdominal muscles, then add flutter kicks to your routine. This exercise also engages the glutes, hip flexors, and quads because you raise each leg individually. Compared to doing flutter kicks on the ground, this bench variation is more challenging due to the increased angle of your upper body. This places constant tension on the abdominal muscles throughout the exercise.

Adjustment: Flat Bench

Position: Lie on back

Start: You can be lying flat on the bench or holding a crunch position with your shoulders lifted off the bench. Arms down by sides (easier) or behind head (harder)

Movement: Straighten legs out and hover them a foot off the bench. Flutter them slowly brining one higher while dropping the other one lower and switching back and forth

Return: Flutter kick for the desired amount of reps/time

1. Knee to Chest Crunches

Adjustment: Flat Bench

Position: Lie on back. 

Start: Bend knees so feet are flat on bench. Hands behind the head. 

Movement: Crunch up by lifting the shoulders off the bench while also bring both knees to the chest. 

Return: Slowly lower the shoulders and legs back down to meet the bench at the same time. Repeat for desired reps/time. 

Sample Ab Bench Workout

Using the twelve exercises above, here’s a circuit workout you can try out. See how it feels for you. Remember to move slowly, with control. A smaller range of motion at first is a good way to test the exercise. You can go bigger/faster if you’re comfortable and pain-free. 


Reps/ Time

Rest Time


Bench Crunch

15 Reps or 30 Seconds

15 Seconds

Lift your head and shoulders at the same pace

Reverse Crunch

15 Reps or 30 Seconds

15 Seconds

Avoid momentum

Elevated Side Plank

30 Seconds per Side

15 Seconds

Feet can be staggered or stacked. 

Knee to Chest Crunches

15 Reps or 30 Seconds

15 Seconds

A more beginner option is to lift one leg at a time.

Bicycle Crunches

30 – 60 Seconds

15 Seconds

Try kicking the straight leg out to the same spot every rep.

Leg Raises

30 – 60 Seconds

15 Seconds

Slower is harder on this one. Control it!

Decline Russian Twists

30 – 60 Seconds

30 Seconds


Decline Twisting Sit Up

30 – 60 Seconds

30 Seconds

Start with a small range of motion

Flutter Kicks

15 Reps or 30 Seconds

15 Seconds

The lower the legs, the harder it is

Decline Mountain Climber

30 Seconds per Side

30 Seconds

Slower is harder on this one. Control it!

Jackknife Crunch

15 Reps or 30 Seconds

30 Seconds

Add weight to hands to make harder

Copenhagen Side Plank

3 Sets of 10 Second Holds Per Side

30-60 Seconds

Keep bottom knee on ground to make this easier

Incorporating bench ab exercises into your workout routine can provide a new challenge to target your core. With a wide range of exercises to choose from, you can find the perfect routine to suit your fitness level and goals. Remember to warm up properly before starting any exercise, and listen to your body so you don’t injury yourself. With some repetition, these exercises will help you build a strong and toned core.

Train Your Core the Right Way

There are plenty of different ways to train your core. You can do traditional exercises–like sit ups, butterfly kicks, and leg raises. You can also incorporate equipment like kettlebells into your ab workout. 

However, adding a bench for your ab exercises will let you train your core at angles you’ve never done before. While kettlebells and medicine balls can add extra weight, the bench creates variations that force your core to move in new ways. Next time you’re in the gym, try our bench ab workout and let us know how it feels!


Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2022, September 22). Why your core muscles matter. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved February 17, 2023, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/core-exercises/art-20044751