Strong abs are about a lot more than a six-pack or rocking a flat stomach at the beach. A solid core can help you keep good posture, reduce your risk of lower back pain, and develop overall strength and stability for life's adventures.
Looking to take up rock climbing? You'll benefit from a strong core. What about dancing? Core strength required. Volleyball? Swimming? River rafting? SUPing? You guessed it: core.
The best ab workouts for women not only help strengthen your abdominal muscles but the surrounding muscles. This creates a balanced approach to core strength and flexibility. We've collected all of our favorite core exercises to help you build a program to support you.
Core Strength Is More than Ab Strength
The more you know, the more your abs can grow. We’ll dive into the nitty-gritty of forming an ab workout for women soon. But first, we need to head to exercise science class.
Your abdominal muscles are part of a system in your midsection that helps keep you balanced, strong, and limber. Muscles in this system include rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, multifidus, internal and external obliques, erector spinae, diaphragm, and pelvic floor muscles. By mastering exercises that target these areas, you'll have a balanced approach to strengthening your core muscles, including your abs.
The best ab exercises work your entire core — especially when you use heavy weights — so we’ll lead with some of those.
Add the routine below to whatever cardio program you're already doing, or focus on this list as a workout unto itself.
You can make the experience as long or as short as you want. Tag it on as a 10-minute workout at the end of a run or this full-body workout for women, or spend a solid 30 minutes going through these moves. Try augmenting your training regimen with Cira Flare to help you burn belly fat while you do these exercises.
8 Exercises for an Ab Workout for Women
We’re almost ready to show you how to get those Insta-ready abs.
Before diving into the list, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, if you're not used to engaging your core, this might require some focus at first. If you don’t pay attention to your ab muscles, it's easy to let other body parts take over some of these exercises.
During these exercises, engage your core by drawing your belly button toward your spine. This doesn't mean suck in and hold your breath. It means you pull your gut inward. Second, when you're lying down, your lower back should touch the ground. Last, breathe with your movements, exhaling as you flex and inhaling as you extend. This is an ab workout for women who can focus on breath and body at the same time and reap all the benefits you get from connecting with your breath.
Do these as body weight exercises in sets of 15. You can either do one set of all 10 exercises without stopping, then rest and repeat the whole list. Or, you can do two sets of the same exercise with a quick rest between sets. It's up to you!
If you do these with weights, use light dumbbells and drop to 10 or 12 reps. Or, use heavier weights and drop to 8 or 10 reps.
Surprise number one: Squats are great for your core. While it might seem that squats are all about glutes and legs, proper squat form requires a tight, engaged core, especially if you're squatting with heavy weights. A strong core protects your back and ensures the proper movement of your upper body as you lower to flexion (flexed muscles). Squats require many muscle groups like your glutes, quadriceps, and the entire core.
Start with your knees shoulder-width apart and your toes pointed forward. As you squat, keep both knees facing forward, not allowing them to travel in front of your toes. Engage your abs throughout this movement, and keep your neck straight and aligned with your back. When your knees are at a right angle, stand back up slowly. That's one rep.
That's right — pull-ups aren't just about arms and back. You can't do a pull-up without strong abs.
Of course, not everyone can do a pull-up with no training, and that's totally fine. Some wonderful bands can help you do this exercise with a pull-up bar. The gym also has assisted pull-up machines. These are great, but the movement is less of a full-core experience because the equipment allows less freedom of movement in any direction.
Start by selecting the best band to help you get started — a long, thick band if you're a beginner, a long, thin band if you’re more advanced. Loop the band around the bar and through its other side. Then, step one foot into the loop as you grasp the bar with both hands in a pull-up position. You can then step your other foot into the band.
Engage your core to keep your legs and body straight as you pull your body up and your chin over the bar, then slowly lower down. That's one rep. If you find 15 assisted pull-ups is too much at one time, lower the reps on this exercise to 5 or 7 at first.
3. Forearm-to-Standard Plank
Planks are great for your entire core, whether you do them from your hands or forearms. A forearm plank gives your wrists a break, as it asks you to place your forearms on the ground rather than your hands. This variation is more engaging than other kinds of plank because you’re moving around rather than doing the isometric plank.
In this exercise, you'll move between the forearm plank and standard plank. Your starting position will be the push-up position, back and legs in a straight line (don't stick your butt up in the air), core engaged. Try to focus on your abs more than your glutes.
Then, shift your weight to your right hand and lower your left elbow and forearm to the ground. Switch your weight to your left arm and lower your right elbow and forearm to the ground. Now, you're in a forearm plank position. Then, return to standard plank, one arm at a time, until you're back in the push-up position. That's one rep.
4. Side Planks
Start in standard plank position (or push-up position), rotate your body to the side, and lift your top arm. Keep your body straight and stiff, and don’t let your hips dip as you shift your weight to the hand and foot that's on the ground. Hold that for 15 seconds, then switch sides for another 15. That's one rep.
Challenge: Once you’re in a side plank, lift your top foot at a 45-degree angle. Hold this position, or do leg lifts by raising and lowering your top leg 10 to 15 times. Then, switch sides.
5. Bicycle Crunch
Lie on your back with your feet flat on the floor, knees bent. Place your hands behind your head for a standard crunch position, then lift your knees off the ground so your lower legs are parallel to the floor and your knees are bent at a 90-degree angle.
As you move your legs as if pedaling a bicycle, lift your head off the ground, taking care not to jerk it forward with your hands. Support your head with your hands. Imagine you’re holding a tennis ball between your chin and your chest, and try to look up as you engage your core rather than crunching your neck into your chest.
If you feel your hips burning, stop and stretch before continuing. Focus on engaging your lower abs to avoid hip pain.
6. Reverse Crunch
This one has the same starting position as bicycle crunches but with your head on the ground. Bring both legs from a 90-degree angle tight into your chest, lifting your butt off the ground as you crunch into a tight ball. Instead of raising your upper body toward your knees, you're raising your lower body toward your chest.
It might help to place your hands on the ground underneath your hips. Notice your lower abs as you lift your legs. Are they flexed and engaged? Bring your belly button in and flex them to avoid using your hips.
This pilates move is a full-body core workout. It's more advanced than the others, so if you have any lower back issues, skip it.
Lie flat on your back, legs stretched in front. Reach your arms back so that your body is as long as possible in a straight line on the ground. Then, lift your upper body and lower body to meet each other in a V-shape. Lower back down for one rep.
8. Bear Crawl
This movement is almost like crawling, except you keep your knees off the ground. It’s a cross-body movement, as you're moving limbs on opposite sides at the same time (right arm, left leg, then left arm, right leg). The bear crawl works your abs, glutes, and quads.
Start on your hands and knees in a table-top position. Then, shift your weight to your toes, lifting your knees slightly off the ground without letting your tailbone shoot into the air. Keep your back flat.
Now, walk your right hand and left foot forward, keeping your left knee off the ground the whole time. Then, walk your left hand and right foot forward. That's one set.
If you have the space in your house or at the gym, keep going for the length of the room to make the movement more fluid and simple.
Invisible Abs Can Still Be Strong
Don’t hate us for being cliché, but what’s on the inside counts way more than what’s on the outside.
Fitness isn't about numbers on a scale or getting six-pack abs. It's about feeling awesome in your body and having the physical strength and ability to do what you love. Finding confidence in what your body can do is a lot more sustainable than worrying about what it looks like.
These eight ab workouts for women can take your core strength to the next level and empower you to try new and challenging activities. Whether or not you have chiseled abs is less important than what you can do with them!Take our quiz to find out which supplements will help you reach your fitness goals. With the right training and nutrition, you can try adventurous activities with strength and confidence.