Abdominal Workouts for the Obese

Combining cardiovascular exercise with unique ab moves can strengthen your core.
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If you’re struggling to find ab workouts that you can do as you shed the weight of obesity, you’re not alone. A limited range of motion can cause a variety of problems when you’re trying to perform many standard abdominal exercises such as twists and crunches. However, if you know the right moves, you can still get a great ab workout regardless of your shape and size.

Standing Crunches

As moves that don’t require getting up and down off the floor, standing crunches are easier for those who are overweight or obese. Because they can be done either forward or to the sides, they provide you with the ability to work out both the front abs and obliques. To work the front abs, stand with your hands behind your head and lift one knee at a time up toward your chest as high as is comfortable, contracting your upper and lower abs as you raise your knees. For the obliques, keep your hands in the same position and bend to your side, contracting the muscles as you bend. Focus on contracting the muscles as tightly as you can and maintaining a slow, steady pace.

Trunk Rotations

Without involving any bending motions, trunk rotations can be some of the easiest ab moves for those who are obese. Because you maintain an upright posture throughout the exercise, body fat doesn’t hinder your movement or cause improper form. To do trunk rotations, stand with your legs hip-width apart and your arms either at your hips or extended out to the sides and twist from right to left, keeping your abs contracted. As you get stronger, you can also add weights such as medicine balls and weight plates of different sizes.

Modified Bicycle Crunches

By eliminating the upper-ab motion of bicycle crunches, you can turn them into effective exercises for ab development. Standard bicycle crunches involve lying on the floor and bringing opposing knees and elbows together in a crunch. However, if a large midsection prevents you from crunching, focus on the movement of the legs without involving your upper body. With your hands extended to your sides and your back pressed into the floor, bring your knees up to a 90-degree angle and circle them as if you were pedaling a bicycle.


You may not consider cardio to be an ab-targeting exercise, but it’s actually one of the most beneficial workouts you can do for your midsection. Because cardio requires you to stabilize your core muscles, it forces the abs to be engaged in physical activity. And not only does cardio contribute to your muscle strength, it also blasts calories to help you drop pounds faster than simple diet alone. Try walking, elliptical training or cycling on a recumbent bike or raise your heart rate by engaging in fun activities like dancing.


As with any exercise program, it's important to emphasize safety and proper form. Be sure you know how to perform each exercise before you begin, and always clear your workout plans with your doctor. Don't attempt to do too much too soon, as this could result in injuries such as strains, pulls or general inflammation.

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