Have you always wanted to see yourself with a flatter stomach? Maybe you just want to get stronger because you heard having strong abs will relieve back pain. No matter what your motivation might be, you’re not alone. We have listed some of the ab exercises for women below.
Lots of women want to exercise their abs, either for aesthetic purposes or for health reasons. This area of the body is a much-scrutinized feature for women, in general. Many believe this is unfair and detrimental, yet women continue to focus their workout regimens on this area of the body.
If you look on the internet, you’ll find hundreds of websites claiming to have the best ab exercises for women.
But you don’t have time to go through all those websites! And many of them will say the same thing. What should you do?
Luckily, we’ve compiled a list of the top 10 ab exercises for women. Of all the information available online, we hope our list will help you discern the good advice from the bad and mediocre.
Why Ab Exercises Are Good for Women
Are the abs just a cosmetic feature, or are there health benefits to ab exercises for women?
The six pack abs—many people’s goal—are mostly cosmetic and having chiseled abs doesn’t automatically mean you’re healthy. Similarly, not having defined abs doesn’t mean you’re unhealthy.
Why work your abs, if that’s the case?
Well, abs provide support to your spine. They help you maintain good posture when sitting and standing and protect your spine as you move. However, you won’t get the benefits of that spinal support system if you’re only trying to get a six-pack.
If you want to improve your health, you should include a wide variety of exercises using your abdominals to stabilize as well as create movement.
You’ll want to add a brief 15- to 20-minute ab routine to your workout twice a week to see health benefits.
Our Best 10 Ab Exercises for Women
What are the best ab exercises for women? We’ve done the legwork and found them for you. Add some of these exercises to your workouts a couple of times per week to strengthen and define your abs.
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Planks are a great way to strengthen your entire core, back, and shoulders. You can add some variation to the basic prone plank by balancing on a fitness ball, lifting one arm, or lifting one leg.
The basic stationary plank should be done as follows:
- Get into a pushup position, hands under shoulders, body in a straight line, balancing on toes
- Hold this position for as long as you can. Start with 30 seconds.
- Challenge yourself: try lifting one arm or one leg. Balance your arms on a fitness ball.
2. Side Plank
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A common modification of the plank is the side plank. This move will challenge your oblique abs, shoulders, and improve your balance. You can challenge yourself by stacking your feet instead of staggering them or by rotating from side plank on the right to side plank on the left.
The side plank is done like this:
- Position yourself on one side, hand or elbow under shoulder, feet stacked or staggered.
- Raise up and hold in place for as long as you can. Start with 30 seconds.
- Challenge yourself: rotate from one side to the other.
3. Reverse Crunch
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Reverse crunches will challenge your lower ab muscles but be careful that you don’t strain your back. Take care not to let your back arch off the floor when you lower your legs. You can challenge yourself by lowering your legs toward the floor.
The reverse crunch is done as follows:
- Lie on your back, lift your legs up toward the ceiling. You may cross your ankles if you want.
- Using your abs, lift your lower body up. Visualize stepping on a bug on the ceiling.
- Challenge yourself: when you complete a crunch, instead of lowering to your starting position, bring your legs down toward the ground as far as you can.
4. Boat Pose
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Boat pose is a yoga pose that will challenge your abs and your balance. You can challenge yourself in several ways with this move. You can straighten your legs to challenge your lower abs, or you can transition from boat pose into V-ups or Russian twists.
The boat pose is done like this:
- Balance on your tailbone.
- Lift your arms horizontally on either side of your legs.
- Position your legs, knees bent, keeping your feet parallel with the floor. Hold as long as you can.
- Challenge yourself: straighten your legs. Alternatively, transition into a dynamic move, like Russian twists or V-ups.
5. Diagonal Plank
The diagonal plank is an advanced variation on the regular plank. If you practice Pilates, it will look like the “bird-dog” move, except it’s done while in plank position rather than on your hands and knees.
The diagonal plank is done as follows:
- Get into a pushup position, hands underneath shoulders, body in a straight line.
- Lift one leg and the opposite arm. Hold for a couple of seconds and then switch arms and legs.
6. Nose to Knee Crunch
The nose to knee crunch doesn’t look like any other crunch you’ve seen before. You’ll be in plank position again, but instead of lifting your legs out, you’ll bring your knee in. If you want to challenge yourself, you can try to perform this move while balancing on a fitness ball.
The nose to knee crunch is done like this:
- Begin in pushup position, hands under shoulders, body in a straight line.
- Bring your right knee toward your left elbow. Hold for a few seconds, then switch.
- Challenge yourself: Balance your arms on a fitness ball and perform this move.
7. Crunch Clap
The crunch clap will look more like a traditional crunch than the nose to knee crunch. This move works your upper and lower abs. Take care to not let your back arch off the floor when you lower your leg.
The crunch clap is performed like this:
- Lie on your back. Use your abs to lift your legs off the ground, keeping your back flat. Lift your head, neck, and shoulders.
- Bend one knee toward your chest. Clap your hands under your knee. Bring your leg back to the starting position and alternate with the other leg. Repeat.
L-sits can be done on a chair or on parallel bars at the gym. This move challenges your abs, quads, and shoulders.
L-sits can be done in the following ways:
- If you’re at home, you can use a chair. Hold on to the seat of the chair with both hands and use your abs to pull your legs up toward your chest so that your body is supported entirely on your hands. Hold for at least 30 seconds.
- If you’re at the gym, use the parallel bars. Support yourself on the bars and use your abs to lift your legs up toward your chest.
- Modifications: if you’re not able to hold your legs out straight, you can bend your knees.
9. Hollow Body Hold
The hollow body hold may remind you of the Hundred if you do Pilates. It will challenge your upper and lower abs. Be sure not to arch your back.
The hollow body hold is done as follows:
- Lie on your back with your arms overhead.
- Lift your arms, shoulders, and legs up, keeping your back on the mat. Hold for at least 30 seconds.
- Modification: if you’re having trouble keeping your back on the floor, bend your knees.
10. Bicycle Crunches
Bicycle crunches are a classic move, but they’re effective. You probably did them in gym class at school.
Bicycle crunches are done like this:
- Lie on your back. Lift your head, shoulders, and knees.
- Bring the opposite knee toward the opposite elbow as you straighten the other leg. Switch.
Which Muscle Groups Are the Abs?
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It’s important to know what muscle groups you’re working on with each exercise. If you notice an area where you’re lacking, it’s useful to know what muscles you need to work on.
You can search for exercises to target that specific muscle group. Additionally, it’s sometimes helpful to know the names of the muscle groups as you work them, so you can visualize the movement.
The muscle groups of the abs are:
- Rectus Abdominus: This muscle group comprises the surface abs that form the six pack.
- External Abdominal Obliques: These muscles are located on either side of the rectus abdominus muscles. They go from your underarm area, over your ribs, and to your hip on either side.
- Internal Abdominal Obliques: This muscle group is underneath the external abdominal obliques.
- Transversus Abdominus: These muscles go horizontally around your body like a cinch belt.
Other muscle groups such as the latissimus dorsi and gluteal muscles often work alongside the abdominal muscles. Many common ab exercises will work these muscles as well.
Will You Get a Six Pack?
Well, the answer is – maybe. While it’s not possible to reduce fat deposits only in certain areas of your body, building muscle anywhere on your body will help increase your fat-burning potential.
The best way to make those surface-level muscles stand out is to reduce overall body fat. A consistent workout regimen and reduction of overall calorie consumption will help achieve this goal.
If you’re more concerned with developing muscle and improving your overall health, you may not get a visible six-pack, but you will be healthy and strong.