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Calisthenics Ab Workout Guide: 11 Must-Have Exercises and How to Perform Them

Your core is a complex grouping of muscles that encase your entire midsection. These muscles not only anchor your body, aiding in balance and stability but also play a pivotal role in every movement you make. Strengthening them is crucial for optimized physical performance.

Sit-ups, crunches, and planks are commonly recognized core exercises, easily performed without equipment. Beyond these simple exercises, there is a world of compound core exercises to challenge you further. These target multiple muscle groups simultaneously, leading to comprehensive strength and elevated functionality.

Here’s a detailed guide to 11 must-have calisthenics ab exercises and the steps to perform each one effectively, so you can build a solid and functional core.

Is Calisthenics About Core Strength?

Calisthenics isn’t just about core strength; it’s comprised of full-body workouts that require balance, coordination, and flexibility. However, having a strong core is essential for performing calisthenics exercises safely and effectively. 

A stable midsection enables your body to transfer force from one muscle group to another efficiently, allowing you to perform advanced calisthenics movements with ease.

In addition, working on the core muscles is vital for injury prevention. A weak core can result in muscle imbalances and poor posture, making you prone to injuries during calisthenics or other physical activities (1) (5).

Is Calisthenics Good for Belly Fat?

Calisthenics is good for belly fat in the same way that any calorie-burning exercise is. However, it’s not a targeted fat-loss tool. You can’t spot reduce fat in one particular area of your body by doing specific exercises. 

Fat loss happens through a combination of a healthy diet and regular physical activity that engages the entire body (6).

Nevertheless, calisthenics exercises do engage the core muscles and help strengthen them. This may have a “cinching” effect on your waistline, making it appear more toned and defined.

Additionally, as you build lean muscle mass through calisthenics, your metabolism increases, leading to a higher calorie burn even at rest. This can contribute to overall fat loss in the long run (2).

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Easy Calisthenics Back Workout for Beginners (2024 Guide)

We have discussed this more extensively in a previous blog: Does Calisthenics Burn Fat?

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Can You Get Abs from Calisthenics?

Regular calisthenics ab workouts can certainly help you get strong abs. Some exercises will specifically target the rectus abdominis – commonly referred to as “abs.” By learning to engage and activate these muscles effectively, you can build a stronger and more defined core.

However, it’s not only about the exercises but also your diet and overall lifestyle. You may have heard the saying, “Abs are made in the kitchen,” and this holds true no matter if you are doing calisthenics or another style of exercise.

To achieve visible abs, you need to maintain a lower body fat percentage, which is only possible through a balanced diet, tailored to your individual needs and goals. 

Calisthenics exercises are an excellent addition to this lifestyle, as they build and strengthen the abdominal muscles, making them more defined when body fat is reduced.

In a previous post titled Calisthenics Body Type, we discussed how this type of training is associated with lean and muscular physiques; including a toned midsection.

calisthenics ab workout  

Can I Do Calisthenics If I’m Overweight?

Yes, you can do calisthenics if you’re overweight. In fact, calisthenics is an excellent workout for people of all shapes and sizes because it uses your body weight as resistance and has a low barrier to entry. You don’t need any expensive equipment or gym memberships to get started.

However, if you’re significantly overweight or have any pre-existing health conditions, it’s always a good idea to consult with your doctor before starting any new exercise routine. They can offer tailored advice and ensure that you don’t push yourself too hard too soon.

Read more: The Simplest Lower Back Calisthenics Guide for Beginners

11 Must-Have Calisthenics Ab Exercises

Now that we’ve established the importance of core strength and how calisthenics can help you achieve it, let’s dive into our 11 must-have ab exercises to add to your workout routine. These are all compound exercises that engage multiple muscle groups, making them more challenging and effective.

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Does Calisthenics Burn Fat? - Shape Up With Street Workouts

Hollow Body Crunch

The Hollow Body Crunch targets the rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, and the obliques; muscles foundational to twisting movements, bending, and supporting the spine. Strengthening these muscles improves posture, enhances athletic performance, and supports daily activities.

  1. Lie flat on your back with your arms extended overhead.
  2. Engage your core, tuck your chin slightly, and lift your shoulder blades and legs off the floor.
  3. Keep your arms straight and close to your ears.
  4. Squeeze your legs together and point your toes.
  5. Hold the position briefly, then return to the starting position.
  6. Repeat for reps, maintaining form throughout.

Bent Knee Hollow Body Hold

The Kneeling Hollow Body Hold primarily engages the core muscles like the rectus abdominis and the hip flexors. These muscles are used to maintain stability and provide power for movements involving the lower body and torso.

  1. Lie flat on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor, and arms extended overhead.
  2. Engage your core, tuck your chin slightly, and lift your shoulder blades and arms off the floor while also lifting your feet off the floor and bringing your knees towards your chest. 
  3. Hold this position as long as you are able to aim for anywhere from 10 to 30 seconds.

Push-Up Position Hollow Body Hold

This exercise targets the same core group as the basic Hollow Body Hold but also engages the chest, shoulders, and triceps. Strong core muscles are used to stabilize the torso in movements requiring upper body strength.

  1. Get into a standard push-up position with your hands shoulder-width apart.
  2. Maintain a straight line from your head to your heels.
  3. Engage your core by pulling your belly button to your spine.
  4. Make sure your lower back is not arching and your hips don’t sag.
  5. Hold this position for a time while breathing normally.
  6. Rest and repeat for desired reps or time.
See also
Calisthenics Equipment for Home: Your Ultimate Guide to Building the Perfect Gym

calisthenics ab workout  

Wall Hollow Body Hold

The Wall Hollow Body Hold focuses on the core muscles, particularly the transverse abdominis, which provides stability for virtually all movement and strength in lifting tasks.

  1. Stand facing a wall and walk your feet out away from the wall.
  2. Position your feet hip-width apart.
  3. Lean forward to place your hands overhead against the wall.
  4. Engage your abs, pulling your belly button towards your spine.
  5. Hold for a time, focusing on keeping your core engaged while continuing to breathe.
  6. Relax and repeat for reps.

Reverse Crunches

Reverse crunches primarily work the rectus abdominis and the obliques, aiding in the stability of the pelvis and lower spine, and are critical for transferring power from the lower to the upper body in complex movements.

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and hands placed beside you or under your lower back for support.
  2. Lift your feet off the floor and bring your knees toward your chest.
  3. Use your core to curl your hips toward your ribcage and slightly lift your hips and lower back off the floor.
  4. Slowly lower your legs back to the starting position without letting your feet touch the ground.
  5. Repeat for reps, keeping the movement controlled.

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Dragon Flag

The Dragon Flag, made famous by martial artist Bruce Lee, is an advanced calisthenic exercise that intensely targets the entire core, with a particular focus on the rectus abdominis and the obliques. 

These muscles are critical for maintaining proper posture and providing torso stability, which is essential for both athletic performance and daily activities. Strengthening them improves your body’s central support structure and can enhance your ability to lift heavy objects.

  1. Lie on the floor or mat, and grab something sturdy behind your head with both hands.
  2. Keep your body in a straight line as you lift your legs and hips up, only your shoulders should rest on the floor.
  3. Lower your body back down in a controlled motion while keeping it as straight as possible.
  4. Stop just before your body touches the bench and repeat for reps.
See also
Full Body Calisthenics Workout For Beginners


The Superman focuses on a sometimes forgotten part of the core, the back. Superman focuses on strengthening the muscles of the lower back including erector spinae and glutes. These muscles help stabilize the spines and strengthening them can reduce low back pain and allow you to lift heavier objects.

  1. Lie on your stomach with arms extended overhead, body in a straight line.
  2. Engage your lower back and lift your arms, chest, and legs off the floor. 
  3. Pause in this position before releasing and lowering to the starting position. 
  4. Repeat for reps.

Heel Taps

An ideal calisthenics workout for beginners should have this exercise. 

Heel taps specifically target the oblique muscles, aiding in rotational and bending movements while also working toward a trimmer waistline. These muscles are important for tasks that involve twisting the torso and for maintaining balance and stability.

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  2. Extend your arms along your sides and lift your shoulders slightly off the floor.
  3. While maintaining core engagement and keeping your lower back pressed to the floor, reach with one hand to tap the heel on the same side, then alternate.
  4. Continue alternating sides for reps, focusing on the oblique contraction with each tap.

Floor V-Sit

The Floor V-Sit primarily engages the rectus abdominis and the hip flexors, while also challenging the obliques.

This exercise enhances core muscular endurance, and balance, and helps with muscle coordination needed in various sports and functional movements.

V-sits are a must for calisthenics and workouts at home since they don’t require any equipment.

  1. Sit on the floor with your knees bent and feet lifted off the ground.
  2. Lean back slightly to find your balance on your sit bones and to engage your core.
  3. Extend your arms forward .
  4. Hold this position as long as you are able.
See also
Calisthenics Workout Plan For Beginners

Windshield Wipers

Windshield Wipers are a dynamic core exercise that particularly targets the obliques and rectus abdominis. They also improve the flexibility and strength of the lower back. 

Strengthening these areas is beneficial for any rotational sports or activities and helps protect the spine during quick or twisting motions.

  1. Lie on your back and raise your legs until they’re perpendicular to the floor.
  2. Stretch your arms out to the sides for support.
  3. Lower your legs to one side while keeping them straight, then bring them back up and over to the opposite side.
  4. Continue this side-to-side motion for reps, imitating the movement of windshield wipers.

Bicycle Crunch

The Bicycle Crunch works on the rectus abdominis and the obliques, mimicking the pedaling motion of cycling. This exercise is excellent for improving coordination, posture, and rotational strength, while also strengthening the core muscles that are engaged during real biking and other activities.

  1. Lie flat on the floor with your lower back pressed to the ground and your hands behind your head.
  2. Bring your knees in towards your chest and lift your shoulders off the floor.
  3. Twist your body so your right elbow comes towards your left knee as the right leg straightens.
  4. Switch sides, bringing the left elbow towards the right knee, while the left leg straightens.
  5. Continue alternating in a ‘cycling’ motion for reps.

Read more: Calisthenics Shoulder Exercises: Techniques and Workouts

calisthenics ab workout  


  • How Long Does It Take To Get Abs With Calisthenics?

Consistent calisthenic ab workouts may get you visible results within 2-3 months, depending on your fitness level and diet. However, getting defined abs requires a low body fat percentage, which can take longer to achieve depending on your starting point.

  • Is Calisthenics Good for Belly Fat?

Calisthenics can help lower your overall body fat mass, including belly fat (4). 

Regular calisthenic workouts increase muscle mass and boost metabolism (3), leading to a higher calorie burn even while at rest (2). 

Combining this with a healthy, calorie-restricted diet can effectively reduce belly fat.

  • Does Calisthenics Build Core?

Calisthenics does an excellent job of building core strength, as it involves various bodyweight exercises that target different core muscles. 

The constant engagement and stability required in calisthenics movements help develop overall core strength, leading to better posture, balance, and spinal support.

  • Can You Get In Shape With Just Calisthenics?

Calisthenics can help you get in shape, especially if you are a beginner or an intermediate-level athlete. It improves strength, flexibility, and endurance using your body weight alone. 

As you progress to advanced levels, adding weights or resistance can further enhance the effectiveness of calisthenics for overall fitness.

  • Is Calisthenics Better Than Gym?

Calisthenics is better than gym for some purposes; it offers a more holistic approach to fitness by including bodyweight exercises, stretching, and balance work.

Calisthenics also helps you develop functional strength and mobility, while gym workouts may focus more on isolated muscle groups and bulkier muscles.

However, the gym (or weighted workouts) may be better for those looking to build muscle mass quickly or training for specific sports. It also offers a wider variety of equipment and training options.

The Bottom Line

Calisthenics ab workouts are an excellent way to strengthen your core muscles, improve posture and balance, and get rid of excess belly fat. By regularly incorporating these exercises into your workout routine, you can achieve a trimmer waistline and enhanced core strength.


This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!


  1. Effects of core strength training on core stability (2018,
  2. Increasing muscle mass to improve metabolism (2013,
  3. Protocol for Minute Calisthenics: a randomized controlled study of a daily, habit-based, bodyweight resistance training program (2020,
  4. The effects of a calisthenics training intervention on posture, strength and body composition (2017,
  5. The real-world benefits of strengthening your core – Harvard Health (2012,
  6. Weight loss – a healthy approach (2022,
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