Are you tired of doing the same situps and crunches for the sake of ab exercise? Abs exercises are an important part of every workout routine, anyway. Strengthening your core will not only help you get those enviable, Instagram worthy six pack abs, but it will also help increase your overall performance in the gym – even during workouts and activities that do not specifically target the core. If you are curious about the best ab workouts for women that not only result in a trim waist (goodbye muffin top), but also strengthen the muscles underneath, keep reading.
What Are The Benefits Of Doing Ab Exercises?
Other than simply looking good, doing ab exercises has many more benefits for our bodies than we may realize. Here are some
Can Help Reduce And Even Prevent Back Pain
Back pain is not something only experienced by older adults. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, many people start complaining about back aches as early as 30 years old (13).
If you are lucky not to have any back pains yet, ab exercises are a great preventative measure against this. A strong core helps keep your belly from protruding too far to the front which not only alters your center of gravity (which can mess with your balance) but also puts too much pressure on your lower back to support you. Too much pressure on the lower back messes with the lower back’s discs and facet joints, flexible points which with time can lead to weakness, pain and potential rupture.
If you already have back pain, research shows that strengthening your core is the best way to reduce this pain. A study done on 120 subjects (between the ages of 20 to 60) all with varying levels of back pain revealed that core exercises were in fact more effective in reducing this pain, compared to physical therapy (5).
An earlier study done on 30 middle-aged men and women found that just eight weeks of core stabilization exercise not only increased the endurance of both core and back muscles, but it also significantly reduced low back pain (6).
Other than improving self confidence and helping you look taller, good posture can help reduce lower back pain as well as tension in your neck and shoulders. A study published in The Journal of Physical Therapy Science in 2015 found that exercising your deep abdominal muscles helps improve your posture, leading researchers to suggest the use of such exercises for any athletes or patients who might need postural adjustments (11).
Makes It Easier To Do Daily Activities
We use our core, spine and low back muscles a lot during the day. From simple tasks such as sitting or standing, twisting to look behind, tying our shoes to bending over in the garden, picking up a package/baby, getting up from a chair, mopping the floor, etc.
If you have weak or painful back and core muscles, such tasks can be a chore. However, a strong core makes such tasks second nature so that you do not have to think twice about them.
Can Help You Breathe Better
According to a study published in 2015, combining core exercises with diaphragmatic breathing exercises will not only improve your posture, but also your pulmonary function and abdominal fitness (10).
Will Improve Your Athletic Performance
Want to lift heavier, run for longer, or simply workout longer and with more intensity? Work on your core. Most of the time while working out, regardless of the exercise, you will hear your trainer telling you to brace your core – this is because you really do use your core to do almost all exercises, from weight lifting to running (8, 4, 15, 1).
The Best At Home Ab Workouts For Women (That Aren’t Sit-Ups)
Now that you have a better understanding of why exercising your core should be a top priority for you, here are some simple ab workouts that can easily be done at home. These exercises not only require minimal space, but can be done with or without weight, making them easily accessible to everyone.
Planks are a great and versatile workout that not only targets your core, but also other upper body muscles like the pectorals, biceps, triceps, deltoids, and more. Planks come in many variations such as the basic (high) plank, elbow plank, side plank, plank crawl outs, knee planks, etc. For many beginners, the elbow plank is the easiest to do as they build both their upper and core strength.
Here is how to do it:
- Begin by getting on you hands and knees on a soft but firm surface.
- From this position, lower yourself so that you end up resting on your elbows and forearms. Straighten your legs out behind you and rest on the tips of your toes.
- Make sure that your body, from your head to the toes is in a straight line. Do not lift your butt into the air or sag your midsection to the floor.
- Hold this position for 20 to 30 seconds.
- Do this three times.
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Like planks, mountain climbers work more than just your abs. They also target the muscles in your shoulders, arms, under the armpits, chest, and even your legs.
- Begin by getting into a high plank position – your legs stretched and balanced on your toes behind you while holding yourself up with your arms. The arms should be about shoulder-width apart.
- Look at a point straight in front of you, engage your core by pulling your belly button toward your spine, and keep your back flat and straight.
- Bring your right knee into your chest/right hand as far as you can.
- Kick the right knee back and bring the left knee up towards the left hand.
- Keep switching your legs (think of it as running in place) like this for a count of ten to twelve. This counts as 1 set.
- Do three sets in total and remember to keep breathing.
Glute Bridge March
As the name suggests, glute bridges are primarily meant to work your butt. However, like many compound exercises, this workout doesn’t just target your butt. It also works your abs, hip flexors, quads, and the hamstrings.
- Start by lying on your back. Bend your legs with your heels under knees and feet flat on the floor.
- You can do one of two things with your arms.
- Either extend your arms straight up toward the ceiling.
- Place them on either of your body. This second option is better for beginners as it’s easier to keep balanced.
- Slowly raise your hips so your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your knees.
- Engage your core and lift your right knee over your hip, maintaining 90-degree angle of that leg.
- Hold this position for 2 to 3 seconds before lowering your right foot. Repeat this movement with the other leg. That’s one rep.
- Do 10 reps for a full set. Do 3 sets in total.
Hip lifts are one of the best lower ab workouts for women who struggle with reducing the size of the FUPA. Other than the lower abs, hip lifts also target the muscles in the hips, glutes, and hamstring.
- Lie flat on your back and lift your legs to the ceiling. Keep them as straight as you can without locking your knees.
- Keep your hands on either side of your body, or under your bum to help with your lifts.
- On an exhale, lift your hips a few inches off the floor pushing your legs towards the ceiling. Do not lift your head during this.
- On an inhale, slowly lower your hips back to the floor. Do not drop your legs to the floor. They must remain raised. Only your hips touch the floor throughout the exercise.
- This counts as 1 rep. Do 8 to 12 reps for 1 set.
Like hip lifts, v-ups are also one of the best lower ab workouts for women. V-ups are also compound exercises that target the quads, hips and other muscles in your lower body.
- Lie back down on the floor with your legs extended and your arms stretched out behind your head.
- In one movement, lift your arms, upper body and legs up to form the letter V with your body. At your highest point you should be balancing on your tailbone.
- Lower back down to the floor. This counts as 1 rep.
- Do 10 v-ups for 1 set.
Like mountain climbers, bear crawls target almost every muscle in your body. Aside from your abs, they also work the chest, glutes, shoulders, back, quads and hamstrings.
- Get into a standard push-up position – your hands right under your shoulders, feet about hip-distance apart, core engaged and back straight.
- Start moving forward as though you were crawling – right hand and left leg forward, left hand and right leg forward.
- Keep switching like this for 10 to 12 steps. This makes 1 set.
- Do 3 sets of bear crawls and remember to keep your body low and breath throughout the exercise.
Of the ab workouts of this list, the dead bug is perhaps the only workout that just targets the abs.
- Lie flat on your back on a soft surface.
- Lift your arms and ensure that the wrists are directly above the shoulders.
- Lift your legs until they are right above your hips.
- Brace your core and then slowly drop your left hand and right leg to the floor.
- Lift the arm and leg back to start position. This counts as 1 rep.
- Do ten reps for 1 set. Make sure that you don’t drop the non-moving arm and leg and always ensure to keep breathing.
It might seem like an odd option for ab workouts but kickboxing is not only a great cardio and full body workout, but research shows that kickboxers have incredibly strong core muscles.
In a study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, researchers took 20 kickboxers aged between the ages of 18 and 32, all weighing anywhere between 75 to 92 kilograms and evaluated their sports and fitness levels. Other than finding out how agile, fast,and strong they were, researchers also found that their core strength was also quite impressive (17).
This exercise targets the muscles in your core, glutes, calves, hamstrings, and shoulders.
- Start standing with your feet together.
- Bend forward with straight legs, and place your hands on the floor.
- Walk your hands out until you are in a plank position with shoulders over your wrists.
- Bend your elbows and bring your chin and chest to the floor. Your elbows should form a 45-degree angle with your shoulder joints. Think of a pushup position.
- Press back up to your plank.
- Walk your hands back in toward your feet, keeping your legs as straight as possible.
- Roll back up to a standing position, with control.
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What Is The Most Effective Ab Workout For Women?
All of the above mentioned exercises are very effective in helping women get a stronger core and trimmer waist. Just be sure to remain consistent, and watch your calorie intake as well as your diet. Remember that 90 percent of abs are made in the kitchen – not the gym.
How Can A Girl Get Abs In 2 Weeks?
Unfortunately, unless a person had a pretty flat tummy and some small ab definition before (and works to get them more defined) there is absolutely no way for you to get abs in just two weeks. In recent years, the ‘2 week ab challenge’ has grown in popularity making many women everywhere think that getting abs is as simple as doing ab workouts everyday for 14 days.
Not only are such challenges not good for you, but they will not give you abs. Some important points to note are that
- You should not exercise one muscle group everyday – Muscles – even abs – need to rest. This prevents fatigue as well as muscle soreness and also allows them to heal and grow – which makes them more defined.
- Ab growth is more determined by your diet, not your workout routine – Let’s get one thing straight: incorporating any of the above mentioned best ab workouts for women is a certainly great idea, but it is only a very small first step to reaching your goals. We all have abs, they just tend to be hidden under a layer of fat.
To get rid of the fat, we must watch our calorie intake – by eating at a calorie deficit, eat a more healthy, well balanced diet, and then exercise. Remember that any effort you put into your workout routine will be lost if you do not fix your eating habits.
What Are The Best Ab Workouts For Women At Home?
The best thing about ab workouts is that almost all of them can be done at home with not only minimal space, but also little to no equipment as well. Any of the above-mentioned workouts can easily be done at home for that sexy midriff as well as a strong core. If you’d like to add some intensity to them – and make your muscle work even more – invest in some simple free weights, or improvise with things in the house if you cannot spare the money for free weights.
Which Are The Best Ab Workouts For Women Over 50?
When it comes to doing ab workouts, or just exercise in general, a lot of older adults tend to shy away from them due to multiple reasons such as cost, fear of embarrassment or falling, lack of support from family and friends, health problems such as disabilities, chronic illnesses and joint pain, a lack of the know how to approach many exercises, and many more reasons (12, 2, 14).
For women over 50 looking to start doing some ab exercises, the first and most important step to take would be speaking to your doctor so you can find workouts that may not aggravate any underlying health conditions that you may have.
If you are in good health and your joints are okay, some of the best workouts that you can do to strengthen your core include planks, glute bridges, and alternating leg and arm raises (aka bird-dog).
- Start by getting on your hands and knees on a soft but firm surface eg. a yoga mat
- Brace your core by pulling your belly button to your back. Remember to keep breathing
- Slowly raise your right arm up as you simultaneously raise your left leg up off of the ground.
- Hold both limbs up and straight for about five seconds before slowly lowering both limbs to the floor
- This counts as 1 rep. Do 8 to 12 reps before alternating to the left arm and right leg and repeating the same movements
If your joints cannot handle being on the floor, you can modify your routine and simply do some standing ab exercises. Some great standing core exercises include:
- High knees
- Standing crunches
- High knee pulls
- Standing twists
- Standing cat cow
- Overhead side reach
How Can Women Get Abs Fast?
As mentioned above, there is no magical exercise that will help you get abs fast. Abs, like all other types of muscle take time, dedication and above all, care to grow and sustain. That’s what you need to do, if you are looking for longterm, sustainable, and actually effective ways to get abs.
What Is The Most Effective Ab Exercise?
There is no one specific ab workout that works better than all others. All ab workouts are equally important
The Bottom Line
The best ab workouts are the ones that you actually do and stay consistent with. Whether you choose ab specific workouts or compound exercises that target more than one muscle, the most important thing is to remain dedicated and watch your diet – doing this will have you seeing results in no time.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- A PILOT STUDY OF CORE STABILITY AND ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE: IS THERE A RELATIONSHIP? (2011, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Barriers to exercise behavior among older adults: a focus-group study (2005, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Core Stability Training for Injury Prevention (2013, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Core Training: Evidence Translating to Better Performance and Injury Prevention (2010, journals.lww.com)
- Effectiveness of core stabilization exercises and routine exercise therapy in management of pain in chronic non-specific low back pain: A randomized controlled clinical trial (2017, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Effect of 8-Week Core Stabilization Exercises on Low Back Pain, Abdominal and Back Muscle Endurance in Patients with Chronic Low Back Pain due to Disc Herniation (2014, researchgate.net)
- Effect of Core Stabilization Exercises on Balance Performance in Older Adults (2021, researchgate.net)
- Effects of 8-week core training on core endurance and running economy (2019, journals.plos.org)
- Effects of core muscle stability training on the weight distribution and stability of the elderly (2015, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Effects of different core exercises on respiratory parameters and abdominal strength (2015, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Effects of selective exercise for the deep abdominal muscles and lumbar stabilization exercise on the thickness of the transversus abdominis and postural maintenance (2015, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Interventions to Promote Physical Activity by Older Adults (2001, academic.oup.com)
- Low Back Pain Fact Sheet (2022, ninds.nih.gov)
- Older adults’ perceived physical activity enablers and barriers: a multicultural perspective (2010, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Optimizing performance by improving core stability and core strength (2008, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Physical Fitness and the Level of Technical and Tactical Training of Kickboxers (2021, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- The effect of static and dynamic core exercises on dynamic balance, spinal stability, and hip mobility in female office workers (2020, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)