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The 5 Best Ab Exercises For Women

Published September 11, 2018 (Revised: May 20, 2020) Read Time: 9 minutes
Ben Kissam

Written By: Ben Kissam, BS

Ben has a B.S. in Movement and Sports Science and over 7 years Certified Personal Training Experience.

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<script type="application/ld+json"> { "@context":"http://schema.org", "@type":"BlogPosting", "author": { "@type": "Person", "name": "Ben Kissam, BS" }, "publisher": { "@type": "Organization", "name": "Warrior Made", "logo": { "@type": "ImageObject", "url": "https://www.warriormade.com", "image": "https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/media/public/2020/05/ab-exercises-for-women.jpg" } }, "headline":"The 5 Best Ab Exercises For Women", "datePublished":"2018-09-11", "dateModified": "2020-05-20", "description":"Most ab workouts fail to train all the muscles in your core. But you can use these 5 ab exercises for women to get a great total-core workout right from home!", "image": "https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/media/public/2020/05/ab-exercises-for-women.jpg" } </script> <script type="application/ld+json"> { "@context": "https://schema.org", "@type": "FAQPage", "mainEntity": [{ "@type": "Question", "name": "What exercises are good for abs?", "acceptedAnswer": { "@type": "Answer", "text": "The best ab exercises are ones that target multiple muscle groups at once, especially those located in your deep core. When you perform a total-core movement such as planks or v-ups, the muscles in your midsection all get a workout at once, which helps them get strong together as one unit." } }, { "@type": "Question", "name": "What exercise burns the most belly fat?", "acceptedAnswer": { "@type": "Answer", "text": "You'll want exercises that target all the core muscles: 1. Planks, 2. V-Ups, 3 Side Planks, 4. Plank Marching. In conjunction with a healthy approach to your nutrition, these are the most effective movements for burning belly fat." } }] } </script> <article> <div> <ul> <li><a href="#section1">What Exercises Are Good For Abs?</a></li> <li><a href="#section2">The 5 Best Ab Exercises For Women</a></li> </ul> </div> <section> <p>Tired of doing crunches and sit-ups without getting results?</p> <p>Many women want a lean, toned midsection, and they assume these movements are the "gold standard" for reaching their goal.</p> <p>The truth is, though, sit-ups and crunches aren't the best exercises for getting stronger abs. </p> <p>In fact, they only target <i>one</i> muscle in your core, which can create muscle imbalances and even lead to injury.</p> <p>That's why we put together this list of the 5 best ab exercises for women that you can do at home to get a <i>total</i> core workout. And we'll show you beginner, intermediate, and advanced options!</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section id="section1"> <h2>What exercises are good for abs?</h2> <p>The best ab exercises are ones that target multiple muscle groups at once, especially those located in your deep core.</p> <p>When you perform a total-core movement such as planks or v-ups, the muscles in your midsection all get a workout at once, which helps them get strong together as one unit.</p> <p>This helps you <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/0-6pack-abs/more-info/" rel="noreferrer">build your abs</a> up, and also offers other functional benefits, like better spine protection and improved posture. <sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6226075/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">1</a></sup></p> <p>Plus, a strong core will translate into other functional exercises (for example, being good at planks can help you get stronger at push-ups).</p> <h3>Why you should skip sit-ups and crunches</h3> <p>On the other hand, some popular ab exercises, like crunches or sit-ups, only really target the <i>rectus abdominis</i>—the front abdominal muscle. This is a misguided approach, since the <i>rectus abdominis</i> only has one real job: to help you bend the spine forward. <sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1836517" rel="nofollow noreferrer">2</a></sup></p> <p>This isn't ideal, because when this muscle gets strong and the others are left neglected, you're creating a muscular imbalance in your midsection, which might increase your risk of injuries. <sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6454249/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">3</a>, <a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3806175/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">4</a></sup></p> <p>Basically, choosing total-core movements makes sure you hit every muscle group and offers other benefits crunches and sit-ups can't. </p> <h3>What exercise burns the most belly fat?</h3> <p>Again, you'll want exercises that target all the core muscles (including the deep ones). In conjunction with a healthy approach to your nutrition, these are the most effective movements for burning belly fat.</p> <p>(Remember: <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/" rel="noreferrer">how you eat</a> is equally important when it comes to <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/weight-loss-exercise-at-home/" rel="noreferrer">burning belly fat</a> and <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/core-exercises-for-beginners/" rel="noreferrer">toning up your midsection</a>.)</p> <p>The 5 exercises in the next section will hit <i>all</i> your core muscles, that will help you to create that toned, lean appearance you're going for. <sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4668176/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">5</a></sup></p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section id="section2"> <h2>The 5 best ab exercises for women</h2> <p>Below you'll find our 5 favorite ab exercises for women. They can be performed from anywhere using a mat or just some floor space.</p> <p>Each exercise (besides #1) has a beginner, intermediate, and advanced level. At the bottom of each section, you'll find an adjustable workout suggestion you can try right now. Give it your best shot!</p> <img style="max-width:100%;" class="img-fluid" src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/LYING-DEEP-BREATHING.jpg" alt="LYING DEEP BREATHING"> <h3>1. Braced breathing</h3> <p>This first movement isn't an exercise in the conventional sense, but it helps with developing core strength with the other movements.</p> <p>Bracing helps activate the deep (often neglected) muscles of your core, and to support your spine while you perform ab exercises.<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27377782" rel="nofollow noreferrer">6</a></sup> You'll maximize the benefits from the other ab exercises by perfecting this technique. </p> <ul> <li>Lie on your back with your heels flat on the floor.</li> <li>Place one hand on your belly and your other hand by your side.</li> <li>Take controlled, deep breaths in. Aim for diaphragmatic or “belly” breathing here.</li> <li>Flex your abdominal muscles. This brings your ribs “down” and tilts the pelvis. Take note of how this position feels.</li> </ul> <p>Be sure to practice this bracing technique <i>while</i> you do the other movements!</p> <p><strong>Ab Workout For Women</strong>: Practice braced breathing before every workout this week (especially before you train your core). Try doing 10 to 15 controlled breaths before starting each session.</p> <h3>2. Planks</h3> <p><a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/plank-exercises-to-activate-your-core/" rel="noreferrer">Planks</a> are a great ab exercise to bridge the gap between mastering the braced breathing technique and building stronger abs.</p> <p>There's no movement in this exercise, but it hits pretty much everything—all your core muscles, plus your upper body, too.</p> <img style="max-width:100%;" class="img-fluid" src="https://wm-blog-content.s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/MOVEMENTS/HIGH-CHAIR-PLANK-ON-HANDS.gif" alt="High chair planks"> <h4>Beginner</h4> <p><strong>Exercise</strong>: High chair planks</p> <p>You'll need a chair or sturdy object at about chest-height for this version.</p> <ul> <li>Make your best modified chair push-up position: hands on the chair, arms straight, both feet making contact with the floor.</li> <ul><li>Active your lats and serratus muscles by trying to "screw" your hands into the chair. You should feel tension in your upper body.</li> </ul> <li>Get your body in one straight line—no sagging hips, no upside down 'V' like a downward dog yoga pose.</li> <li>Squeeze your belly and butt for maximum muscle engagement.</li> <li>Hold this position for as long as you can with good form.</li> </ul> <img style="max-width:100%;" class="img-fluid" src="https://wm-blog-content.s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/MOVEMENTS/LOW-CHAIR-PLANK-ON-HANDS.gif" alt="Low-chair planks"> <h4>Intermediate</h4> <p><strong>Exercise</strong>: Low-chair planks </p> <p>Use a chair or other sturdy object that's about knee high for this one!</p> <ul> <li>Make your best modified chair push-up position: hands on the chair, arms straight, both feet making contact with the floor.</li> <ul><li>Active your lats and serratus muscles by trying to "screw" your hands into the chair. You should feel tension in your upper body.</li></ul> <li>Get your body in one straight line—no sagging hips, no upside down 'V' like a downward dog yoga pose.</li> <li>Squeeze your belly and butt for maximum muscle engagement.</li> <li>Hold this position for as long as you can with good form.</li> </ul> <img style="max-width:100%;" class="img-fluid" src="https://wm-blog-content.s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/MOVEMENTS/PLANK-ON-HANDS.gif" alt="Plank on hands"> <h4>Advanced</h4> <p><strong>Exercise</strong>: Plank on hands</p> <ul> <li>Start at the top of a push-up position: both hands, both feet making contact with the floor, arms and legs straight.</li> <ul><li>Active your lats and serratus muscles by trying to "screw" your hands into the ground. You should feel tension in your upper body.</li></ul> <li>Get your body in one straight line—no sagging hips, no upside down 'V' like a downward dog yoga pose.</li> <li>Squeeze your belly and butt for maximum muscle engagement.</li> <li>Hold this position for as long as you can with good form.</li> </ul> <p><strong>Ab Workout For Women</strong>: Hold a plank (whichever variation you choose) for 2 total minutes. Complete this in as few sets as possible. Try taking no longer than a 20 second break in between sets.</p> <h3>3. V-ups</h3> <p>We've practiced bracing and holding a solid plank position. This V-up progression adds movement to help work your deep core muscles. Don't forget to dial in the technique learned from the previous exercise and brace those abs!</p> <img style="max-width:100%;" class="img-fluid" src="https://wm-blog-content.s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/MOVEMENTS/90-REVERSE-CRUNCHES.gif" alt="Reverse crunches"> <h4>Beginner</h4> <p><strong>Exercise</strong>: Reverse crunches</p> <ul> <li><strong>Video</strong>: How to do <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/reverse-crunches/" rel="noreferrer">reverse crunches</a></li> </ul> <ul> <li>Lie on your back with your legs extended, knees slightly bent, feet flat on the floor.</li> <li>"Glue" your lower back/rib cage to the ground (there should be no space between your lower back and the floor*)</li> <li>Bring the heels off the ground about 6 inches; bend your knees as you bring both legs towards your face.</li> <li>Return your feet to the 6 inch position, then repeat.</li> </ul> <img style="max-width:100%;" class="img-fluid" src="https://wm-blog-content.s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/MOVEMENTS/SLIGHTLY-BENT-LEG-RAISES.gif" alt="Slightly bent leg raises"> <h4>Intermediate</h4> <p><strong>Exercise</strong>: Slightly bent leg raises</p> <ul> <li>Lie on your back (palms facing the floor; feet flat on the ground, knees slightly bent).</li> <li>Bring your legs off the ground about six inches. Pause and hold.</li> <li>Now bring your legs up until your knees and hips are at a 90-degree angle.</li> <li>Return to the six inch position, and repeat.</li> </ul> <img style="max-width:100%;" class="img-fluid" src="https://wm-blog-content.s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/MOVEMENTS/LYING-LEG-RAISES-WITH-HANDS-UNDER-BUTT.gif" alt="Lying leg raises with hands under butt"> <h4>Advanced</h4> <p><strong>Exercise</strong>: Lying leg raises with hands under butt</p> <ul> <li>Lie on your back (place your arms on the ground besides you, palms down, under your buttocks*; toes comfortably pointed, legs straight).</li> <li>Bring your legs off the ground about six inches. Pause.</li> <li>Now bring your legs up until your knees and hips are at a 90-degree angle (keep the knees locked).</li> <li>Return to the six inch position, and repeat.</li> </ul> <p><i>*Placing your arms here helps give you support. For a challenge, place them straight out to the side.</i></p> <p><strong>Ab Workout For Women</strong>: Do 3 sets of 20 V-ups (at whichever level you choose). Rest 60 seconds in between sets. Take as few breaks as possible in between sets. You got this!</p> <h3>4. Side planks</h3> <p>Of all the exercises on this list, side planks target your obliques, or the sides of <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/core-workouts-for-men/" rel="noreferrer">your core</a>, the best. Strengthening this muscle is great for your posture, as well as rotational strength and spine health. <sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK545253/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">7</a></sup></p> <img style="max-width:100%;" class="img-fluid" src="https://wm-blog-content.s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/MOVEMENTS/STAGGERED-STANCE-HIGH-CHAIR-SIDE-PLANK-R.gif" alt="Staggered stance high chair side plank"> <h4>Beginner</h4> <p><strong>Exercise</strong>: Staggered stance high chair side plank</p> <p>A chair or sturdy object about waist or chest high will be helpful here.</p> <ul> <li>Standing next to the chair, "stack" your body in one diagonal straight line as you lean left towards the chair, forearm on the chair for support.</li> <li>Shift weight from your forearm to your hand as you push into the chair and raise your hips away from it. </li> <ul><li>There should be two points of contact once you raise your hips: your left hand, and the outside of your left foot.</li></ul> <li>Hold this position for as long as you can with good form, then repeat on the other side.</li> </ul> <img style="max-width:100%;" class="img-fluid" src="https://wm-blog-content.s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/MOVEMENTS/STAGGERED-STANCE-LOW-CHAIR-SIDE-PLANK-R.gif" alt="Staggered stance low chair side plank"> <h4>Intermediate</h4> <p><strong>Exercise</strong>: Staggered stance low chair side plank</p> <p>A knee-high chair or sturdy object will do the trick here!</p> <ul> <li>Standing next to the chair, "stack" your body in one diagonal, straight line as you lean left towards the chair, on your forearm for support.</li> <li>Shift weight from your forearm to your hand as you push into the chair and raise your hips away from it. </li> <ul><li>There should be two points of contact once you raise your hips: your left hand, and the outside of your left foot.</li></ul> <li>Hold this position for as long as you can with good form, then repeat on the other side.</li> </ul> <img style="max-width:100%;" class="img-fluid" src="https://wm-blog-content.s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/MOVEMENTS/SIDE-PLANK-ON-HAND-WITH-FEET-STAGGERED-R.gif" alt="Side plank on hand with feet staggered"> <h4>Advanced</h4> <p><strong>Exercise</strong>: Side plank on hand with feet staggered</p> <ul> <li>Sit on your left hip. Extend your legs, stacking them on top of each other. Lean your left forearm on the ground for support.</li> <li>Shift weight from your forearm to your hand as you push into the floor and raise your hips to the ceiling. From the side of your body should be in one straight line—no sagging of the hips.</li> <ul><li>There should be two points of contact once you raise your hips: your left hand, and the outside of your left foot.</li></ul> <li>Hold this position for as long as you can with good form, then repeat on the other side.</li> </ul> <p><strong>Ab Workout For Women</strong>: Accumulate 90 seconds of side planks (at whichever level you've chosen on each side (3 minutes total). Take breaks when you need to and complete in as few sets as possible. This is going to be a great oblique workout!</p> <h3>5. Plank marching</h3> <p>Last but not least, plank marches (part of <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com" rel="noreferrer">Warrior Made</a>'s Sit Out exercise progression) will help you put it all together. Proper bracing, good plank form, and attention to detail on the movement portion of the exercise are all key!</p> <img style="max-width:100%;" class="img-fluid" src="https://wm-blog-content.s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/MOVEMENTS/HIGH-CHAIR-MARCHING.gif" alt="High chair marching"> <h4>Beginner</h4> <p><strong>Exercise</strong>: High chair marching</p> <p>Grab a hip or chest high chair for this one.</p> <ul> <li>Start in a high chair plank (see beginner exercise #2 above).</li> <li>Raise your right, straight leg off the ground and bring it towards the ceiling behind you. At the top, <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/gluteus-maximus-exercises/" rel="noreferrer">squeeze your glutes</a>.</li> <li>Return your right leg to the floor, then raise the left straight leg. Repeat.</li> <li>Keep doing this at a steady pace, like you're marching.</li> </ul> <img style="max-width:100%;" class="img-fluid" src="https://wm-blog-content.s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/MOVEMENTS/LOW-CHAIR-MARCHING.gif" alt="Low chair marching"> <h4>Intermediate</h4> <p><strong>Exercise</strong>: Low chair marching</p> <p>A slightly lower chair is perfect here—you can even use the side of a couch.</p> <ul> <li>Start in a low chair plank (see intermediate exercise #2 above).</li> <li>Raise your right, straight leg off the ground and bring it towards the ceiling. At the top, squeeze your glutes.</li> <li>Return your right leg to the floor, then raise the left straight leg. Repeat.</li> <li>Keep doing this at a steady pace, like you're marching.</li> </ul> <img style="max-width:100%;" class="img-fluid" src="https://wm-blog-content.s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/MOVEMENTS/PLANK-MARCHING.gif" alt="Plank marching"> <h4>Advanced</h4> <p><strong>Exercise</strong>: Plank marching</p> <ul> <li>Start in a plank on hands (see advanced exercise #2 above).</li> <li>Raise your right, straight leg off the ground and bring it towards the ceiling. At the top, squeeze your glutes.</li> <li>Return your right leg to the floor, then raise the left straight leg. Repeat.</li> <li>Keep doing this at a steady pace, like you're marching.</li> </ul> <p><strong>Ab Workout For Women</strong>: Set a timer for 60 seconds. Do as many plank marches as you can with good form in that time. Don't rush—a good goal to aim for is 20 to 30 perfect reps. (Avoid swaying from side to side!)</p> <p>The best ab exercises for women work the deep core muscles, protect the spine, and translate (as you've seen above from exercise #1 to #5) to different functional exercises.</p> <p>These 5 movements will be a perfect addition to your at-home workout routine. If your goal is a more toned midsection, we recommend using these workouts 2 to 3 times a week and dialing in your nutrition plan. Results are sure to follow!</p> </section> </article>

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