By Nick Nilsson, Author of Muscle Explosion: 28 Days to Maximum Mass

With beach season fast approaching, six-pack abs are in high demand. But here’s a surprise: trying to get them while lying flat on your back is not ideal. You want abs that scream power, and working your midsection while on your feet is the best way to get there. After all, the fittest, most elite athletes don’t train or play flat on their backs, do they? Unless there’s a National Crunch League, no.

Here are four stand-up exercises designed to torch your abs without endless crunches and sit-ups, to give you the rock-hard midsection you want and the performance to match. Do this routine three times a week, and don’t be surprised if a bikini babe “accidentally” lets her football land in front of your towel for a change.


Hold a barbell in the top of the curl position with your feet set just outside shoulder-width apart. Squat down, then back up, holding that top curl position all the way down and all the way up. Sounds simple, sure, but carrying the weight out in front of your body without supporting it on your body is all abs. It will light up the entire front wall of your midsection like nothing else. Perform 2 sets of 4 to 6 reps.

Hold two dumbbells at your sides, then swing one forward and one back as high as you can before reversing direction. To make this even more effective, bend your knees at the bottom of each swing, then pop up as you start to upswing, and use that momentum to swing the dumbbells up even higher. It’s going to look like you’re cross-country skiing with dumbbells, but the torque of the opposing forces goes directly through your core. This will absolutely shred your abs. Perform 2 sets of 10 to 15 swings.

Now we’re going to hit the obliques and tighten up your waist. Load just one side of the barbell in the squat rack with a 25-pound plate. Get under the bar like you’re able to do a regular squat, and be prepared to grip down hard on the side that doesn’t have the weight. Step out into the rack and squat. The load placed on just one side of the body will force tremendous activation in the obliques in a way that tightens them up rather than building them out (as most side bends will), to give you a smaller, tighter waist. Perform 2 sets of 4 to 6 reps each side. (Simply turn around at the end of the first half-set to hit the other side).

Yeah, I realize crawling isn’t standing but this exercise is done on two feet…and two hands. It’s perfect for developing power out of a crouch/athletic “ready” position while running extraordinary tension through your abs. Set two dumbells on the floor, crouch down, and put your hands on the handles. Now, “step” the left dumbell forward while stepping forward with your right foot at the same time. Then step the right dumbell forward while stepping forward with your left foot. Continue crawling for about 10 feet, then go backward, returning to where you started. Each time you step, your bodyweight and the dumbbell weight is supported on opposing limbs and all that tension runs directly through your core, which is a killer on the abs. Perform 2 sets of 2 “there and back” crawls.


(Nick Nilsson, the ‘mad scientist’ of the fitness world, is a renowned personal trainer, bodybuilder and writer. The author of Muscle Explosion: 28 Days to Maximum Mass, Nilsson is recognized as an innovator of ground-breaking methods for building muscle and strength fast. His degree in physical education covers advanced biomechanics, physiology and kinesiology.)