The Ultimate Ab Workouts for Women from The Ultimate Ab Workouts for Women
The Ultimate Ab Workouts for Women
Use the Pilates trick
Bracing in the belly button helps activate the core, Kelly Gibson, Corrective Exercise Specialist and Certified Sports & Fitness Nutrition Coach, says. “Without bracing in these muscles, it's likely that other muscles will compensate and do the work for the abs, deeming the workout less effective,” she adds.
They are very effective full-body exercises that hit the entire core, Personal Trainer Elizabeth Borge says. Movements that use the whole body engage the core more, she adds. Ideally, though, you’d have to combine isolated exercise that focus on only one area with drills that engage the entire body.
Select focus areas
It's important to activate several muscle groups when trying to lose weight. “I like to do total body workouts or at least hit all the major muscle groups by the end of each week,” Gibson says. If you're focusing on building ab muscles instead of losing weight, select 1-2 focus areas for the day instead of working the entire core, she adds.
Hanging knee raises
This is Gibson’s favorite exercise for the abs. You're not only working on grip strength for this exercise, but you're targeting the entire lower abdominals in an unstable environment, she says. “Working on stability during training is excellent for toning and weight loss. This one is for the advanced client,” she adds.
Straight leg lifts
Straight leg lifts while lying on their back are abs exercises Gibson says she often has her clients do. “This works for all fitness levels because the client can lie down on her back and adjust the height of her legs when she lifts up and down,” she adds.
Seated floor exercises
These are done while the client is on her butt with knees bent and feet flat on the floor, Gibson says. “The further she leans back to do these seated exercises the more her core activates. You can also exercise while sitting; it will help keep your blood flowing and your muscles moving.
There are so many variations of planks and all of them require engaging the core musculature. “One must perfect their posture to fully benefit from planks,” Gibson says. Planks are the kind of exercise that targets every part of the body, even if you don’t feel it immediately, Borge adds. “Work up to five minutes.”
The hanging windshield wiper
This is one of the best and hardest exercises specifically targeting the upper abs, obliques, and lower abs at the same time, Gibson says. “For intermediate clients they can do windshield wipers lying on the floor, and beginner clients can lie on the floor with knees bent for these.”
“I recommend crunches with hands across the chest for targeting the upper abs, obliques, and even for activating the cervical flexors in the neck,” Gibson says. By placing hands behind your head, you are discouraging the neck muscles from strengthening, she adds. “I recommend a 30-second sit up speed test once every 4-6 weeks for assessing core strength.”
Squats are many trainers’ favorite exercise, including Borge’s. They are a great option for younger people and/or those who have no problems with their back, she adds. As soon as you don’t feel a little burn when you do a certain exercise, you have to upgrade. Otherwise, you don’t build muscle. Upgraded versions are the jump squat, plie, Goblet squat, pistol squat, and the Bulgarian Split Squat Prisoner.
This is a basic exercise that targets the abs, Borge says. Lie on your back, feet 6" apart, arms at sides. Raise up the head and shoulders just far enough to see your heels. To make it a bit more difficult, move to a sitting up position. Once you master that, bend the knees towards the chest, and move the elbows to opposite knee.
“I started seeing my abs when I started weight lifting” in addition to doing exercises that engage the core, Borge says. The muscles need to be challenged in order to build more and lifting heavy weights does that. “You have to work every single muscle for a 6-pack; otherwise you’ll just have a beautiful flat stomach.”
In addition to side planks, side bends are also effective for the obliques, Borge says. “Add weights and find variations when it gets easy.” Stand feet shoulders width apart, put one arm up and the other arm on your hip. Reach over to one side of your body, and then repeat on the other side of your body. The side reach targets your latissimus dorsi and teres major muscles. It also stretches your obliques, lower back and rectus abdominis.
This exercises is working the lower abs like few others, Borge says. Abs are used every day for walking and sitting so it’s OK to exercises the midsection every day, she adds. “You can do any of these exercises once a day for five minutes; you don’t have to go crazy to see results.”
“A major weapon to defined abs is in fact cardio,” according to Dr. David Neuman, an orthopedic surgeon, founder of Pop-Doc, and Dr. Karena Wu, owner of ActiveCare Physical Therapy. All four abs muscles need to be worked in order to reach peak abdominal strength, and they are all activated at the same time when you’re running. The transverse abdominis is the deepest of the four, and nothing targets that muscle like running, Dr. Wu says.
Even though this is technically not a workout, what foods you consume plays a major role in your ability to build muscle. Cut sugar, your No. 1 enemy in general, as much as possible, Borge says. Cutting calories is also key to getting the abs peeking through, Gibson says. “Also, work on stress reduction because high stress causes cortisol hormones to elevate, leading to stubborn belly fat.”