Stuck at home without access to a gym? Travelling and relegated to the hotel's crappy little fitness center? No worries, you can still hit your abs hard with resistance. All you need is a band.

These exercises work well and don't require much MacGyver-ing to set up. If you choose to do them in a gym, just throw your band over a pull-up bar or loop it around a rack or the machine in the corner that no one uses.

If you're at home or in a hotel room and don't have a chin-up bar, then a suspension trainer door anchor is usually best. Providing the door is sturdy enough, an anchor (something like a TRX door anchor) can be placed at any height and will allow you to do a bunch of different exercises, including these.

1. Standing Band Crunch

First set the resistance band directly over your head using something like a pull-up bar. Then place your head inside the band and allow the band to rest over your shoulders.

  1. Keeping your feet about shoulder-width apart, contract your abs to flex your spine.
  2. Imagine "closing the space between your ribs and pelvis" to fully shorten your rectus abs (the six pack).
  3. Exhale fully as you come down into full spinal flexion.

Why It Works

Don't be a wimp about spinal flexion; it won't eat away at your disks if you do too much of it. In fact, when done correctly, spinal flexion exercises can help you build a more resilient spine and an awesome set of abs.

True, these won't do anything about the layer of fat covering them. But for more deeply etched abs, include some loaded spinal flexion. Because of the ascending resistance of the band, these crunches load your rectus abs even more in their fully shortened position at the bottom of the movement.

2. Standing Band Crunch, Staggered Stance

Set the band directly over your head using a pull-up bar or whatever works. Then get in a staggered stance and place your head inside the band, keeping it close to your shoulders throughout.

  1. Contract your abs to flex your spine.
  2. Think about closing the space between your ribs and pelvis to take your rectus abs into a fully shortened range of motion.
  3. Exhale fully at the bottom before coming back up, stretching your abs as much as you can without losing tension.

Why It Works

This offers some extra benefits when compared to using a parallel stance. Many find they can use a heavier resistance band since they can better lean in and control the motion in both directions.

3. Seated Band Crunch (Band Behind)

First set the resistance band directly overhead. Then place a chair or bench directly underneath.

  1. Keeping the band close and over your shoulders, contract your abs to flex your spine towards the gap between you legs.
  2. Do NOT use your arms to pull. Instead allow your shoulders to act somewhat like a cam for the band to pivot over.
  3. Come into as much spinal flexion as you're comfortable with, flexing hard before returning to a stretch at the top.

Why It Works

Progressive overload is just as important for your abs as it is your chest or biceps. That doesn't mean throwing a bunch of weight on and performing half-assed reps, though. Putting yourself in positions where you can add resistance while still feeling your abs working is key.

From experience, seated ab crunch variations do just that. While you can indeed use some respectable resistance over time, because of the position you can really feel your abs working hard at the bottom of the movement. A medium to heavy band works great here, arguably just as well as a cable.

4. Seated Band Crunch (Band In Front)

Put the band directly overhead or slightly in front. Then place a chair or bench directly underneath and hold the band close to your forehead while in a seated position.

  1. Use your abs to flex your spine against the increasing resistance of the band. It should not move from its original position near your forehead.
  2. Exhale fully as your spine flexes and your abs fully shorten. Squeeze hard at the bottom.
  3. Return back to the start position trying to stretch your abs as much as you can before repeating.

Why It Works

Seated band crunches put you in a perfect position to feel your abs being pummeled every rep. Holding a band in front somewhat makes it harder on your abdominals since you're increasing the lever arm. Having the band in front allows you to focus on the stretching of the band as it loads your abs more the deeper you go into flexion.

Use the first version if you find yourself pulling the band too much with your arms, otherwise this variation will allow you to get more out of a lighter band.

5. Standing Band Oblique Crunch

Set the band directly over your head using something like a pull-up bar. Clench the band together using both hands, then place it over one shoulder.

  1. Keeping your feet about shoulder-width apart, contract your abs and obliques to flex (and laterally flex) your spine.
  2. Imagine pulling your elbow down towards your side pocket.
  3. Resist the temptation to speed through your reps and fight the band from pulling you back up too fast.

Why It Works

For 3D abs you want a good set of obliques. To achieve this, cover a bunch of different movements including spinal rotation and lateral flexion. This is on top of the "anti" movement list that you should also be including for spinal stability (core exercises). Standing band oblique crunches move you in a way that places more emphasis on your obliques when compared to regular band crunches.

6. Band Tate Side Bend

Set a strong band up high on a pull-up bar. Using BOTH hands, pull it down by your side where only one arm will keep it in place.

  1. Keep the band close to your arm as it's kept straight and by your side.
  2. Press the band down your thigh by contracting your obliques and laterally flexing your spine.
  3. Only laterally flex as far as comfortable before returning back to the neutral starting point.

Why It Works

Lateral flexion exercises are a forgotten component of core training. When using a good choice of exercise, they can work to load you into lateral flexion and according to one of the designed functions of your external obliques.

Cable side bends were popularized by Dave Tate and you can use some respectable weight while really focusing on your obliques. If you've got a band strong enough, then use these to pummel your obliques at the end of your ab work. High reps work best.

7. Low-to-High Band Chop

Set the resistance band around knee height or lower. Then start in a side-facing position (in relation to the band) with a double overhand grip.

  1. Keeping your elbows soft but at a fixed angle, chop the band in a low-to-high action.
  2. Punch your back hip through and allow your back foot to pivot.
  3. Keep your core engaged as you accelerate through the increasing band resistance.

Why It Works

This trains power transference from your lower to upper body, arguably even better than doing the same exercise using cables. This is because of the increasing resistance of the band which forces you to accelerate through it. It's a good option as an oblique-builder, for athletes, or before your workout to prime your nervous system.

8. Horizontal Band Chop

Set the resistance band around chest height. Then start in a side-facing position with a double overhand grip.

  1. Keeping your elbows soft but at a fixed angle, chop the band horizontally, keeping it close to your elbow.
  2. Pivot your back foot as your hip extends and spine rotates.
  3. Keep your core engaged throughout. Imagine 360 degrees of air around your spine with abs, obliques, and low back engaged.

Why It Works

This is a staple oblique exercise that's good for building power and athleticism. Using a band fits perfectly with the explosiveness and "punch" of the back hips you often see folks forget about when using cables. Use these to chisel your obliques and build power from your legs and hips through your core.

9. High-to-Low Band Chop

Set the band around head height or ideally even higher. Then start in a side-facing position (in relation to the band) with a double overhand grip.

  1. Chop the band from a high-to-low angle aiming towards the knee of your opposite side leg.
  2. Rotate your shoulders while also allowing a little spinal flexion as you rotate fully.
  3. Allow your back foot to pivot so your hip is coming through and you knee doesn't buckle inward.

Why It Works

Low-to-high chops allow you to use more weight as your whole body works together to pull the cable downward. In this case, the band resistance gradually increases as you pull it down, making the exercise even harder at the bottom than at the top.

Compared to horizontal or low-to-high chops, these involve some spinal flexion alongside rotation. For many this means they feel this more like an ab exercise.

Programming

To build your abs using heavy bands or otherwise, include a mixture of spinal flexion, rotation, and lateral flexion exercises.

Exercises that involve a flexion of your spine and a posterior tilt of your pelvis (like leg raises) are also useful. From the above exercises you might select a band chop, a band crunch, and a side-bending exercise for best results.

Related: 5 Heavy Band Exercises for Legs and Glutes

Related: Bodybuilder Abs, Athlete Core