No matter what your goal is, lower ab workouts are likely the missing link in your training arsenal. Most abs movements only activate the upper section of the rectus abdominis muscle, leaving the lower part underdeveloped in comparison.
It is extremely difficult to target the lower abs and even more difficult to show them off. Your body is designed to store excess fat in this area. Losing weight and getting toned abs requires a lot of dedication and focus on diet. There is more to it than just having a six-pack.
Although taking care of your body is important, it can be difficult to find the motivation to do so. If you have weak core muscles, your body will have to compensate for this by using other muscles to do the work, which can cause problems and pain later on. Focusing on strengthening your lower abs can help to avoid these issues.
“Because of how we live today, a lot of people have an anterior pelvic tilt; that’s when your pelvis is tilted forward, making your spine curve,” says Tom Donaldson, head coach at Orangetheory Fitness Wandsworth. He says that strengthening your core muscles can help bring your pelvis back into a neutral position, which also improves your posture. This is important because how you hold yourself while you’re moving (your dynamic posture) affects your athletic ability.
According to Donaldson, to generate maximum power with both the upper and lower body, the pelvis and spine need to be stable. This stability results from strong, functional core muscles and glutes. This is especially important for athletes, as it allows them to lift heavier weights, run faster, and change direction more quickly.
Although you are now motivated to do lower ab workouts, there are some gut-strengthening exercises below that you will have to do. In order to get the most out of each exercise, you should breathe in during the ‘eccentric’ part of the exercise – the lowering phase – and breathe out during the ‘concentric’ part (as you return to the starting position), suggests Emily Juniper, trainer at F45 Central London, which has locations at London Bridge, Leadenhall Market, and Cannon Street.
Heel Tap Crunch
- Lie on your back with your heels near your glutes.
- Brace your core, lift your shoulders off the floor and reach down to touch your right heel with your right hand, then your left heel with your other hand. That’s one rep.
This exercise is most effective for targeting the lower abs, obliques, and hip flexors, Juniper explains. You can make the exercise harder or easier by adjusting the distance between your heels and glutes. Don’t worry about how fast you are going. Controlling the movement is more important than how it looks.
Mountain Climbers on a Medicine Ball
Doing mountain climbers is a good lower ab exercise for men because it gives you a cardio workout while also working your abs, glutes, legs, and shoulders. You can make it more challenging by putting your hands on a medicine ball instead of the ground. This makes it harder because you have a smaller base of support and you have to engage your core and shoulders more. Remember to keep your hips in line with your body.
Equipment Needed: None
Reps: 60 seconds
- Get into a push-up position with your core and glutes engaged and your hands placed on either side of the top of the medicine ball, which should be centered under your chest, or you can put them on the floor if you are less confident in your core strength.
- Pressing your weight into your hands, alternate bending each knee and bringing the leg up under your chest between your arms and then returning it to the starting position.
- Move as fast and hard as you can for 60 seconds.
- Lie on your left side with your knees straight and prop your upper body up to take its weight on your forearm.
- Brace your core and raise your hips until your body forms a straight line. Hold this position while breathing deeply. Then roll over and repeat on the other side.
Juniper says that a side plank targets not just the transverse abdominal muscles and obliques, but also the glutes, quads, and hamstrings. To make the exercise more challenging, try raising your upper leg or arm.
- Lie on your back with your arms on the floor at your sides, palms facing down.
- Bend your knees and bring them towards your chest by contracting your abs. As they rise, roll your pelvis to lift your hips off the floor.
- Squeeze at the top then slowly lower until your thighs are perpendicular to the floor.
If you want to work your rectus abdominis, Juniper says this exercise is perfect. She suggests adding resistance bands or using a cable machine to make it even more effective.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Put your right hand behind your head, your elbow flared out, and your left palm down perpendicular to your torso.
- Contract your abs to lift your shoulders off the floor and rotate your body to bring your right elbow towards your left knee. Slowly lower and repeat all your reps before swapping sides.
Juniper says that this exercise is good for strengthening your obliques and the muscles around your core. To make the exercise more difficult, try lifting your legs a few centimeters off the ground while you do it.
Low Plank With Alternating Leg Lifts
Passing a medicine ball back and forth while in a forearm plank position will work your deep abdominal muscles, as well as your obliques.
- Get in a push-up position except place your forearms on the ground with your elbows under your shoulders instead of weight-bearing through your hands. Make sure your body is in a straight line from your head to your heels.
- Breathe, drawing your abdomen in and pulling your belly button toward your spine.
- Lift one foot slightly off the ground, bend the knee, and draw your knee up and out to the side like a frog.
- Alternate legs, moving slowly.
Double crunches are a mix of regular crunches and reverse crunches, so they are great for working your lower abs.
Equipment Needed: None
- Lie on your back with your knees and hips flexed to 90 degrees so that your shins are parallel to the floor up in the air.
- Place your fingertips at your temples or just behind your ears with your elbows out to the sides.
- Inhale, drawing your belly button to your spine.
- Crunch up to raise your shoulder blades off the floor while simultaneously bringing your knees up to your elbows by squeezing your lower abs.
- Slowly return to the starting position.
Alternating Toe Touch
The alternating toe touch targets the entire abdominal wall in a single, dynamic motion. It is a great core exercise because it trains the abs to work together across several planes of motion.
Equipment Needed: None
Reps: 12 per leg
- Lie on your back with your legs straight up in the air and arms straight overhead on the floor above your head.
- Engage your core to crunch up and toward one side, reaching across your body to touch the opposite foot. Make sure you keep your shoulders pulled down away from your ears.
- Return to the starting position without fully touching your arms back down to the floor (just hover for added difficulty).
- Alternate sides with each rep.
Stability Ball Push-Ups and Tucks
This lower-abs targeting push-up variation requires engagement of the abs to stabilize the body and balance on the stability ball. Progressing the tuck motion to a pike motion by keeping the knees straight will further utilize the core muscles.
Equipment Needed: Stability ball
Reps: 15 per leg
- Get in a push-up position with your arms slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and your feet behind you on a stability ball with the laces part of the shoe in contact with the ball.
- Keeping your glutes and abs engaged, perform a push-up while using good form and bring your chest as low as you can go without touching the floor.
- When you’re back in the starting position, before moving into the second rep, engage your glutes, hip flexors, and abs to pull your knees forward toward your chest, rolling the ball forward toward your hands.
- Untuck your legs and straighten them back out to the starting position.
- Complete another push-up.
- Alternate between push-ups and tucks. Progress to pikes (knees straight) as you get stronger.
Medicine Ball Jackknife
This exercises targets your upper and lower abs by adding a medicine ball to also engage your shoulder and rhomboids.
Equipment Needed: None
- Lie on your back with your legs extended straight out in front of you and your arms extended straight back above your head holding a moderately heavy medicine ball.
- Keeping your knees straight, engage your abs to simultaneously lift your entire lower body and your entire upper body to meet upright in a folded “V” position. Your knees should be straight and your arms should remain straight, holding the medicine ball above your head.
- Lower your body back down, using control by engaging your abs and shoulders.
- Do not allow your feet or upper body to come to a full rest on the floor; rather, hover just above the floor in the extended position and then lift back up into a “V.”
- Complete 15 reps.
Boat Pose to Toe Touch
This lower ab exercise may look easy, but it will give you a good workout. The boat pose, which is a modified yoga move, builds core strength and balance while also encouraging good posture and synergistic support and control from the lower abs and lower back.
Equipment Needed: None
- Sit on the floor with your knees bent, resting on your tailbone. Extend your arms in front of your body.
- Gently lean back and lift your feet off of the ground, holding your body in a “V” position.
- Hold this position for 3-5 seconds and then reach up towards your feet.
- Return to boat pose.
- Continue moving your upper body from the “V” position to the toe touch position.
Front Leg Raise
- Lie back on the bench with your legs extended in front of you off the end. Use your hands to grip the bench and steady yourself.
- Place your hands either under your glutes with your palms down or by the sides holding on to the bench.
- Keeping your legs straight as possible, exhale and raise them until they make a 90-degree angle with the floor. Slowly lower to the starting position.
If you feel your back arching while doing this exercise, Donaldson says you can slightly take the strain off your lower back by going one leg at a time and keeping the other at a 90-degree angle. To add more resistance, Juniper says you can lift your glutes off the floor at the top of the motion each time or hold a Swiss ball between your ankles.
Bonus Move: TRX Rollout
According to Donaldson, TRX straps are great for working the core and can be easily adjusted to the user’s experience or skill level. To do the move, start by standing upright with shoulders relaxed, belly button in, and glutes squeezed. Hold the TRX straps in front of you at arm’s length and shoulder height. Then, slowly lean forward, lifting your arms up so that your body is in line. Be sure to keep your abs braced the whole time. Finally, lower your arms down to reset. The steeper the angle between your body and the floor, the more challenging the move.
Bonus Move: Dead Bug
Donaldson says to maintain tension and brace abs throughout the following move to avoid straining lower back. The move starts with lying on back on the floor with feet picked up and bent at 90 degrees. Arms are extended in front of shoulders, and the person should suck their belly button into their spine.core is then braced before slowly dropping one leg and opposite arm to the floor. The initial position is then returned to and the process is repeated with the opposite arm and leg.