8 Best Yoga Poses for Building Strong Abs

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  • Yoga has proven benefits for overall mental and physical health, including strength-building.
  • A strong core can produce defined abs, improve your balance, and help you avoid injuries. 
  • Moves like boat pose, side plank, and baby locust effectively target the abdominal muscles.

There are plenty of benefits to practicing yoga — to reduce stress, support heart health, practice mindfulness, prevent and reverse bone loss, manage chronic pain — but one of the best is how well it can help build a strong core (i.e. abs).

“Yoga is great for strengthening muscles but is particularly fantastic for building core stability and developing strong, visible abs since core engagement is present in almost every yoga posture and transition,” says Tamara Teragawa, Master Trainer with YogaSix.

Certain yoga moves, like side plank and boat pose, are especially effective at building a strong core. Plus, almost anyone can do them, whether you’re an older adult looking to improve your balance and avoid injury, or you just want to build and define your core.

Below are the eight best yoga poses for building strong abs, as recommended by professional yoga instructors, and how to do them correctly.

1. Side plank (Vasisthasana)

A person doing the Side Plank yoga pose.

Side plank is an excellent move for working on core endurance.

Tamara Teragawa


Registered yoga instructor, Claire Marie Larson, recommends side plank as a great exercise for core endurance. Julie Granger, a yoga instructor and founder of The Studio Paris, agrees, saying that this position is great for targeting your obliques.

How to do it:

1. To get into position, start in a regular plank and move your supporting hands closer to the center of your mat. 

2. Then, move your feet closer to each other. 

3. Roll your body to the right so you’re resting on the outside edge of your lower foot.

4. Move your left hand off the mat and raise it toward the ceiling.

5. Lower your right forearm to rest on the ground, making sure your shoulder is in line with your wrist. 

6. Turn your neck toward your lifted arm and gaze up at the ceiling.

7. Try to hold the position for a few breath cycles, then repeat on your other side.

2. Triangle pose (Trikonasana)

A person doing the Triangle Pose on a yoga mat.

Triangle pose helps strengthen your core and ab muscles while also stretching you out.

Getty/Mireya Acierto


Triangle pose involves bending your body into a triangle-like position, with both feet and one hand on the floor, legs spread into a wide stance, and your other hand to the ceiling.  

Larson says it’s especially effective for building core strength, “because it involves twisting your spine open and supporting your torso and rib cage against gravity.” 

How to do it: 

1. Start by taking a wide stance lengthwise on your mat, with the toes of your front foot pointing toward one end of the mat and your back foot parallel to the mat’s edge. 

2. Lift your arms into a “T,” then extend the front arm as far forward as you can before lowering it to your foot, or the floor beside your foot, and raise your back arm to the ceiling. 

a. Larson recommends imagining this arm reaching for something on the ceiling, in order to help keep your spine rotation open and your core engaged. 

3. Keep your front knee slightly bent to make sure you’re not hyperextending it, and hold the move here.

a. For an added challenge, progress into Floating Triangle by moving your arms into a “V” shape on either side of your head, fingers pointing toward the front wall.

4. Hold this pose for a few breaths if you’re able, then repeat facing the other side.

5. Hold for a few breaths if you’re able, and repeat facing the other side. 

3. Boat pose (Navasana)

A person doing the Boat Pose on a yoga mat.

Boat pose can be just as effective as doing crunches.

Tamara Teragawa


Boat pose is like the yogic version of abdominal crunches: you sit on the floor and use your lower abs to support your upper body and legs. This move is great for strengthening your entire ab area without putting much pressure on your lower back.

How to do it:

1. Start by sitting on your mat, balanced on your sit bones. 

2. Keep your chest lifted and raise your legs so your whole body is in a V shape. 

3. Reach your arms forward so both hands are on the outside of each leg, around the knee. 

a. Don’t round your spine here — keep your back straight as you hold the pose. 

You can modify the pose by keeping your feet on the floor with your legs bent and hands at your hamstrings. You’ll still work your abs but with much less resistance from your lower body.

4. Revolved crescent lunge (Parivrtta Anjaneyasana)

A person doing the Revolved Crescent Lunge yoga pose.

Revolved crescent lunge is a great move for working on your balance and challenging your oblique muscles.

Getty/dimarik


The revolved crescent lunge, also known as the twisted lunge, tests your balance, gives you a nice stretch, and really works your obliques.

How to do it: 

1. First get into a high lunge position, with one foot in front of you, placed flat on the mat and the other extended behind you with the ball of your foot supporting you and toes pointed forward.

a. Your front knee should be bent at roughly 90 degrees, with the knee directly over or slightly behind your front foot (never in front of it). 

2. Keep your hips squared to the front, lift your arms in a V, and relax your shoulders. 

3. Transition into twisted lunge by pressing your palms together over your head and lowering them to the center of your chest (i.e. heart center).

4. You’ll then twist so one of your elbows is pressed against the outside of your opposite knee. 

5. Lengthen your spine as much as possible and keep your hands at your chest.

6. Hold this position for a few breaths and repeat on the other side.

5. Chair pose (Utkatasana)

A person doing the Chair Pose on a yoga mat.

Chair pose really tests your core strength and is a useful barometer for how strong and balanced it is.

Getty/AzmanL


Larson says this pose helps you develop a “strong sense of core awareness,” meaning you’ll gain an understanding of how strong your core is, as well as your balance and posture. Chair pose is especially effective at toning the legs, stretching your chest, and strengthening your ab muscles. 

How to do it:  

1. Start with your feet together, or hip-width apart for more stability. 

2. Shift your weight to your heels (not your knees) and move your hips back and down like you’re sitting in an invisible chair. 

3. Reach your arms overhead to lengthen your abdominal muscles and increase the load on your lumbar spine.

a. If holding your arms overhead feels too intense, keep them at your hips or pressed together at your heart center.

4. Squeeze your lower belly in and back, toward your spine, and slightly tuck your tailbone. 

5. Hold here as you breathe and keep your core engaged throughout the move. 

6. Yogi Bicycles

A person doing Yogi Bicycles on a dock next to a lake.

Yogi Bicycles are the yoga equivalent to bicycle crunches — and just as effective.

Getty/MilanEXPO


If you’ve ever done bicycle crunches, this move will feel familiar. Smyth recommends yogi bicycles because they not only work your ab muscles, but they’ll improve the flexibility of your spine and strengthen your lower and middle back.

How to do it:

1. Lay on your back on your mat then lift your knees up toward your chest, stacked over your hips so your body forms an “L” shape. 

2. Interlace your fingers behind your head and squeeze your legs together, hugging the thighs inward, and point your toes. 

3. While engaging your core, twist your upper body so one elbow meets the opposite knee while you extend the other leg forward. 

4. Return to center and repeat on the other side. 

 7. Bandha Chargers

A person doing Bandha Chargers on a yoga mat.

Bandha Chargers work your entire body and help improve your balance while strengthening your ab muscles.

Getty/Prasit photo


This position is a variation on the basic plank pose, which Smyth says “challenges your whole body” since it requires you to use your arms to support your weight while also engaging the entirety of your core, which helps strengthen your ab muscles. 

How to do it: 

1. First, find plank position: start on all fours, then extend your legs behind you so you’re balanced on your hands and toes. 

2. Make sure your elbows and shoulders are stacked directly above your hands, and engage your core, glutes, and leg muscles to hold your body in a straight line.

3. Next, bend one knee inward so it’s between your wrists. 

4. Keep your toes pointed, protract your shoulders (round them away from each other), and lift your hips as high as you can. 

5. Hold it here for a few breaths, then return your leg to the floor and repeat on the other side.

8. Baby Locust 

Person doing the Baby Locust pose on a yoga mat.

Baby Locust works your back and spine while also strengthening your glutes and core.

Gina Newton


Baby locust is a great pose for working your glutes, improving spinal mobility, and stretching and strengthening the ab muscles in your core. 

How to do it:

1. Lie face down on your mat with your palms on the floor behind you. 

2. Next, inhale, lift your arms, chest, and legs and hold for 10 seconds (or what feels good in your body)

a. To make this pose easier, you can work just your upper body by putting a yoga block under your breast bone for support. 

b. To add difficulty, you can stretch your arms out to the front (also called Superman pose) which adds increased weight to the pose.

Insider’s takeaway

Yoga is an ancient practice that improves mindfulness, breathwork, body control, and strength, including in your core.

By tightening and engaging your core throughout a yoga practice, many moves can be a core-strengthening exercise, such as side plank, boat pose, and triangle pose. 

Try these poses as standalone exercises, or incorporate them into a complete flow, and you may start to see benefits such as reduced back pain, increased stability, and overall strength in your abs.

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