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Ab Exercises for Women

Jan/13/2022 / by KT Hall
Image credits: Shutterstock

We’ve crunched the numbers, and if you really want to flatten your stomach, lose belly fat or firm up your physique, you’re ab-solutely going to love these workouts! Not only will you see results, but you’ll feel better, too!

Because your core is defined by what you eat, how much you exercise and how you handle stress, your stomach can tell a lot about you. If your core is weak, you might be prone to developing more injuries, illnesses. and diseases. Your other muscle groups might also have to overcompensate. Hence, abdominal workouts can increase your stability, reduce back pain and even lower your stress level, heart rate and blood pressure (whew!).

Core workouts for women can improve balance, posture and eating habits. Regular exercise can also reduce stress. However, ensure you use consistent breathing and correct form with each of the exercises below. Recommended by personal trainers for the world’s best athletes to compete, these exercises come in beginner, intermediate and advanced levels.

As with any fitness regimen, speak to a physician before you begin. Don’t exercise if you are recovering from surgery, have suffered a recent injury or feel pain. You should also consult a physician if you are pregnant, as you want to avoid putting stress on your baby.

The Best Ab Exercises for Women

To get started, pick 3-5 from the list, and work on these at home or at the gym. Generally, for each exercise, you will need a towel or mat.

Space each exercise out and practice them for 30 seconds and then take 15-second breaks. Repeat that for 3-5 sets and ensure you exercise both sides of your body evenly. Rest 60 seconds between your sets and then change to a new exercise. Every title listed below also links to a video of the exercise.

The Best Stomach Exercises:

The Bike Crunch

While it looks like you’re coasting along, when done correctly, you can feel a serious burn in your core abs.

  • Lie on the floor with your head back and your hands locked behind your head. Your legs should be straight.
  • As you lift your head up, keep your neck long (not slouched) and bring your shoulder blades up.
  • Touch your left elbow to your right knee. Then switch and do the right elbow to the left knee.
  • Each time you touch your knee, the other leg should be straight and slightly above the floor. Do 12-15 reps on both sides and complete 3 sets.

Floor Reach and Crunch

Similar to a standard crunch, this version adds an extra lift at the end to burn more calories.

  • Lie on your back in a traditional crunch or sit-up position. Your knees should be bent and both feet flat on the ground.
  • Extend your arms in front of you as you start your crunch and bring your head up as you do. Keep your neck long and bring your shoulder blades up.
  • At the top part of your crunch, extend your arms between both legs and hold that position for a few extra seconds before lowering back into the starting position.
  • Do 12-15 reps for 3 sets.

Flutter Kicks

When you look for abs workout for ladies at home, you might come across flutter kicks. These are similar to hollow holds and will tighten your core and make your legs long and lean.

  • Lie on your back and lift your legs straight up at a 90-degree angle.
  • Engage your core abs and slowly bring your legs down.
  • Keep your lower back on the floor and when you find the spot where your back starts to arch, bring your feet up about one inch.
  • Make small kicks with your left and right leg and inhale and exhale through your nose. Do this 12-15 times for 3 sets.

Pro Tip: The challenge is keeping your lower back flat. Try lifting your feet up a little higher while still engaging your core muscles.

Hip Lifts

Squeeze your lower abs with this lifting exercise. The trick? Keeping your hips from dropping.

  • Lie on your back and bring your legs up to a 90-degree angle.
  • Lift your hips straight up a few inches from the ground. Then, bring them back down and repeat this motion.
  • Your arms should stay at your sides with your hands facing down. Keep your feet flexed toward you, not up or pointed.
  • For an added burn, do each rep but don’t let your hips come all the way down to the floor.

Hip Dips (Side Planks with a Dip)

Hip and dip but don’t let your form slip… Always included among the best core workouts for women are side planks, which work the obliques.

  • Get into a side plank position by lying on your side in an even plane. Then raise yourself up on your hand as you lift your hip. Work on staying in a line with your hip bones, knees and feet stacked where your body resembles a “T” or cross.
  • Your head should stay level with your body. Don’t slouch, lean forward, lean back or let your hips or butt sag. The elbow that’s down should be in line with your shoulder. You can use your other arm to reach up to the sky, let it rest on your hip or wave your ab fat goodbye!
  • Lower your body and bring your hips back down to the floor. That counts as one rep. Do 12-15 for 3 sets on both sides.
  • Up for a test? Try this 60-second hip dip challenge.

Hollow Holds (Hollow Body Holds)

Hollow holds are SUPER hard to hold. But use the link above to expertly help you push your low back down for more hip control.

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat. Keep your arms at your sides or up to the sky. Stretch your legs out as far as possible without arching your back.
  • As soon as you feel your back arch, stop. This is your sweet spot so be sure to breathe through as you do your reps.
  • Beginners: Hold this pose for 30-seconds and bend your knees if you need to. As you gain more strength, you can do these with your legs straight. Pros: Hold it for 2-3 minutes.
  • Pro Tip: If you can extend your legs fully, then slowly bring your arms back down.

Jackknifes (Alternate Straight Leg)

A great oblique workout, this exercise engages your core abdominals.

  • Lie on your back with your hands and feet stretched out.
  • Take one breath and when you let it out, squeeze your abdominals and at the same time bring up your left leg to the sky and use your right hand to touch your left foot.
  • Slowly lower yourself back down and do the other side.
  • Repeat this 12-15 times for 3 sets.

Leg Lifts

Like the similar military workout, leg lifts will define your abs (and give you a good quadricep workout). Ten-hut!

  • Lie down with your legs stretched out in front of you.
  • Pull your stomach muscles back down toward the floor and lift your legs up to the sky. Try to keep your low back glued to the floor. Your feet can come up about a foot from the ground.
  • Lower your legs back down and repeat 12-15 times for 3 sets.

Pro Tip: If your low back starts to arch, bring your feet up a little higher to help you keep your core muscles engaged.

One Leg Planks

Among the most popular women ab exercises are planks, because they engage every muscle group. To add resistance to this exercise, use a therapy or resistance band.

  • Get into a forearm plank position. Lift your left foot up about 5-7 inches off the floor.
  • Hold that pose for up to 10 seconds.
  • Bring your leg back down and do the other side.
  • To intensify the workout, add a therapy band to your thighs, just above your knees.

Pilates 100

This pose is ideal for those who can do hollow holds. It’s also a great unwinding floor exercise after your cardio workout.

  • Lie back and bend your knees to 90-degrees with your feet flat on the floor.
  • Start straightening your legs out and point your toes. Keep your arms outstretched by your sides and bring your neck, head and shoulders up.
  • Bring your arms up and down in a patting-like motion and breathe in through your nose for 5-seconds and then breathe out for 5-seconds.
  • Do this 10-times for one set. Do 10 sets, or 100 Pilates pumps.

Plank Mountain Climbers

Go at a slower pace in the correct form to feel a good ab burn with this. You can also use gliders for a more challenging workout.

  • Get into a plank position with your hands on the ground. Your arms and wrists should be in alignment with your shoulders.
  • Keep your body completely horizontal/straight with the floor and your feet/toes pressed into the floor.
  • Engage your abs and glutes. Bring your left knee to your chest and then the right knee. Do 12-15 reps for 3 sets.
  • Other variations include using gliders or crossing each knee over to reach the opposite elbow.

Reverse Crunches with Heel Touches / Vertical Leg Crunch

Reverse crunches are a great way to engage your lower abs. Remember to squeeze your center as you draw your legs to your chest.

  • Lie back and lock both hands behind your head. Bend your knees until they’re at 90-degrees and then bring your upper body up into a crunch.
  • Push to bring your heels down to the ground while keeping that 90-degree angle (static crunches). Avoid arching your back as you bring your legs down.
  • Bring your legs back to the starting position and breathe out. For a real kicker, add weights to your ankles.
  • A modified version of this is the vertical leg crunch. With your legs straight up (perpendicular), pull your upper body up like you’re doing a sit-up (crunch) toward the sky. Flex your toes to exercise your lower abdominals. Then get into the original position. Avoid curling your neck as you come up. Let the emphasis be on your chest and shoulders, while your head stays straight, and you look up. Repeat 12-15 times for 3 sets.

Russian Twists

The twist to this workout is using a dumbbell or medicine ball to target your obliques.

  • Sit up with your knees bent at 90-degrees. Lean slightly back to where your core is engaged and keep your spine straight.
  • Hold the medicine ball or dumbbell with both hands. If you do it without holding anything, grasp your hands together.
  • Start twisting your upper body from left to right. If you have the medicine ball or dumbbell it should turn as you turn. If you’re using your hands, keep them centered just below your chest. Your feet/heels should be off the floor a few inches as you do this position.
  • Complete 12-15 and do 3 sets.

Santanas (Rotating Planks or Plank Rolls)

Rotating planks target all your core muscle groups, so give this one a try. Newbies, don’t give up. It takes time to build up your abs. Target the other core exercises for women and come back to this one. Or, try this beginner ab video.

  • Start in a standard plank pose on your hands. Keep your body stiff, abs and butt tight and turn on your side to get into a side plank pose.
  • As you turn, your feet and hips will rotate.
  • Once you are in a side plank, hold it for a few seconds and go back into a standard plank position.
  • Remember to maintain your posture with each rotation.

Scissor Kicks

Step lively with Scissor Kicks! These are similar to Bike Crunches in intensity and burn.

  • Lie back on a mat or towel and pull your ab muscles in tightly.
  • Lift your legs up a few inches but keep your low back on the floor. In a back and forth motion, bring your left leg over the right and then vice versa.
  • Ensure your toes stay pointed and keep that lower back flat on the floor.
  • If it’s uncomfortable or you feel like you’re shaking, raise your legs up a little higher. Do this 12-15 times for 3 sets.

Side Planks

As one of the best oblique exercises, side plank variations can spice up your workout. Give both versions a try and plank us later!

  • Get into a side plank position where you lie on your side and prop your body up on your forearm.
  • Ensure you don’t drop your hips or sag, and keep your head in line with your body.
  • For the first variation, do 10 leg lifts. If you’re on your right side, lift your left leg up and down 12-15 times. Then do the right leg.
  • With the second variation, do hip dips. Bring your hips down to just above the floor and then get back in position. Remember to keep the correct form and go slow. Do this 12-15 times in a row.

Sit-Ups With a Towel

Using a towel with sit-ups can alleviate back pain and fully engage your core.

  • Sit on a towel or mat butterfly-style with your heels touching. Next, lie back as you inhale. When you exhale, bring your body up and tighten your abs.
  • Let your hands touch your toes and then go back to the starting position. Repeat 12-15 times for 3 sets.
  • To help you do this correctly, try to keep your feet together at all times with the soles of your feet touching.
  • Use an extra towel and place it rolled up under your low back. That helps you engage your abs more and use your back muscles less.

Starfish Crunches and Dead Bug Crunches

Starfish Crunches will exercise every ab. Work to maintain the correct form and keep your core tight. Try the Dead Bug variation for an extra burn. And, try not to laugh when you see yourself in the mirror with your arms and legs up and think “Oh, that’s why they call it Dead Bug!”

  • Lie on your back with your arms and legs spread out like a starfish. With only your abdominals, pull your body up and draw in your arms and legs until you’re in a tight ball.
  • Release and slowly lower yourself back into the starting position. Repeat 12-15 times for 3 sets.
  • For the Dead Bug variation, keep your legs and arms straight up. Squeeze your abs and drop your left arm and left leg down to the floor. Then, pull them back up and do the other side. Your non-working side should always point up.

Pro Tip: If you are struggling with this move, slow down and focus on not arching your back. If the arching starts again, try dropping your arms and legs lower. Don’t worry. You’ll squash Dead Bug (pun intended).

Swiss Exercise Ball Planks

Up for a tough challenge? Exercise balls are unstable. Hence, you have to fight to maintain balance. Keep a straight line and don’t let your lower body stick out or sag.

  • Start by leaning on an exercise ball with your elbows.
  • Keep your feet on the floor and get into a plank pose.
  • Very slowly, let the ball move back and forth as you work to stay in position.
  • Use your core to stay level and don’t stick your butt out or let your hips drop.

Tabletop Crunches

Instead of hoisting your legs in the air, this exercise lets you rest them on a tabletop.

  • Lie back and put your knees up at a 90-degree angle.
  • With a dumbbell in both hands, do a crunch and bring the weights up past your knees to your ankles.
  • When you come back down, bring your arms up above your head and extend your legs fully. Then, return to the starting position with your legs back on the table.
  • Do 12-15 and then repeat for 3 sets.

Toe Touches

As a familiar ab exercise, remember to maintain your posture and use the correct form.

  • Lie back on the floor and raise your legs up at a 90-degree angle.
  • Lift your upper body toward your feet but make the emphasis only on your shoulders and chest.
  • To fully engage your abs and to avoid injury, avoid curling your neck, which can cause stiffness later on.
  • Reach your hands out and touch your toes. Then lower yourself back to the original position and repeat 12-15 times for 3 sets.

V-Ups or Air Crunches

Try this spin on crunches and see the modification.

  • Lie back with your arms above your head. Take a breath and pull in your belly.
  • When you let the breath out, start to sit up and draw your legs up in the air so your hands can touch your toes.
  • Get back into the original position. That counts as one rep. Do 12-15 for 3 sets.

Pro Tip: A modified version is to prop yourself up on your elbows and bend your knees until they are at 90-degrees. Then, lie back as you straighten your legs out fully before doing a crunch up and bending your knees. That would count as one rep.

Walkout Forearm Planks

A mock version of planks, this position is hard but will build and stabilize your abdominals over time. Try not to move your hips when you walk your feet out.

  • Get into a forearm plank position, i.e., on the floor like you’re going to do a push-up, but only let your forearms and feet/toes be on the floor. The rest of your body should be completely parallel with the floor. Hence, don’t arch your back or slouch.
  • If you have weak abs and can’t get in this pose, practice it for several weeks and try to get up to 10-seconds, then 20-seconds. As you develop a stronger core, it will become easier.
  • To do the walkout, once you are in plank position, squeeze your abs and glutes and then walk your left foot a few inches away from the right and once stabilized, do the same with your right foot.
  • Bring your feet back in and do 12-15 reps for 3 sets.

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