18 Best Ab Exercises For Women (Video)

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Planks, oblique crunches, dead bugs, v-ups and more – these are the 18 best ab exercises for women. This ab workout for women includes 9 beginner ab exercises and 9 advanced core exercises that will sculpt and strengthen your mid-section from every angle.

To sculpt a stronger, more defined core, you need to functionally train the muscles that criss-cross around the trunk of your body.

The best ab workouts for women incorporate exercises that fire up all of these major muscles in the core. Particularly exercises that work multiple ab muscles at the same time (like planks, dead bugs, and bear crawl variations).

If you want defined ab muscles, you have to train your abs from every angle.

Bonus: the benefits of strengthening your abs go far beyond aesthetics.

A strong core:

  • Prevents injury
  • Reduces lower back pain
  • Improves posture
  • Provides stability to everyday movements and activities.
Why Is A Strong Core Important?

A strong core is important for so many reasons. According toMayo Clinic, a strong core is tied to improved balance and stability, improved posture, reduced risk of lower back pain, and reduced risk of injuries (especially from activities that involve core rotation).

What Muscles Make Up The Core?

There are over 24 muscles between your hips and shoulders that make up “the core”. Some of the most prominent core muscles include the transverse abdominis (deep core muscles, sometimes referred to as the “corset” of the body), internal and external obliques (muscles along the side of your core), rectus abdominis (the “six-pack” ab muscles) and multifidus and erector spinae (important stabilizing muscles located along the spine).

How Many Times A Week Should A Woman Do Abs?

Add targeted ab and core workouts to your fitness routine 1-3 times per week for the best results. For a more structured workout program, try following one of myfree home workout plans.

two women lying on their backs extending their arms and legs away from the body as part of a dead bug exercise to strengthen abs

10-Minute Ab Workout For Women

Improve core strength at home with these ab exercises: beginner to advanced.

Add this 10-minute ab workout to yourweekly workout routine1-2 times a week to build muscle and improve endurance. I recommend alternating this workout with ourother ab workoutsto avoid workout boredom.

Workout Equipment:

Option to add a medium set of dumbbells for move 8 (dead bug exercise). Otherwise just your bodyweight.

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two women performing a bear crawl to strengthen core muscles

Workout Instructions:

Follow along with theguided Ab Workout for Women on YouTube,led by certified personal trainer, Lindsey Bomgren.

Your Workout Looks Like This:

  • 9 Ab Exercises (18 in total; 9 beginner and 9 advanced versions of each exercise)
  • Timed Intervals (40 seconds work, 20 seconds rest)
  • No Repeats


5 Beginner Ab Exercises (and Ways to Advance Them!)

Workout Outline

  1. Plank
  2. Side Plank
  3. Alternating Leg Lowers
  4. Side-To-Side Leg Lowers
  5. Boat Pose
  6. Oblique V-Up Crunch
  7. Bicycle Crunch
  8. Dead Bug
  9. Bear Crawl
two women performing a side plank exercise to target obliques as part of best ab exercises for women

9 Best Ab Exercises For Women

Plank

Targets: Transverse abdominals, upper abs, lower abs and shoulders.

Beginner (Incline Plank) / Advanced (High Plank)

two women performing different plank variations as part of 18 best ab exercises for women workout

How To Do A Plank

  1. Start in a table top position with shoulders stacked over wrists (soft bend in the elbows) and hips over knees. Hand are planted firmly on the mat, weight evenly distributed between all ten fingers.
  2. Then step both feet back and extend legs long, balancing on your toes. Pull up on your kneecaps and push back on your heels to keep your core engaged.
  3. Hold this plank position, maintaining a straight line with your body, gaze slightly in front of you.

Modification: Place your hands on a raised surface (such as a chair, couch, or countertop).

Side Plank

Targets: Internal and external oblique muscles (the muscles that run along the side of your core) and transverse abdominus.

Beginner (Knee-Down Side Plank) / Advanced (Side Plank)

two women performing a side plank exercise

How To Do A Side Plank

  1. Start lying on your side, right forearm on the mat, right shoulder stacked over right elbow.
  2. Press into your forearm and lift your hips. Balance on the outside edge of your right foot, stacking your left foot on top of your right foot. Option to stagger your feet if stacked isn’t comfortable.
  3. Place your left hand behind your head or extend your left hand overhead. Focus on keeping your hips high and even (stacked over each other).

Modification: Drop the inside knee to the ground rather than extending both legs.

Alternating Leg Lowers

Targets: Rectus abdominis, transverse abs, and lower abs.

Beginner (Bent Leg Lowers) / Advanced (Straight Leg Lowers)

two women lying on their backs performing alternating leg lowers as part of ab workout for women

How To Do Alternating Leg Lowers

  1. Start lying on your back. Press your low back firmly into the mat and think about “wrapping” your abdominal wall around your core.
  2. Straighten your legs and extend them over your hips, the bottom of your feet facing the ceiling.
  3. Slowly lower one leg towards the ground, keeping both legs as straight as possible. Focus on keeping your lower back pressed into the mat.
  4. Hover your heel above the mat, then pull it back up to starting position.
  5. Then repeat, this time alternating legs.

Modification: Bend both knees, shortening the distance each leg travels.

Side-To-Side Leg Lowers

Targets: Internal and external oblique muscles (the muscles that run along the side of your core), rectus abdominis, and transverse abdominus.

Beginner (Bent Knee Lowers) / Advanced (Straight Leg Lowers)

two women performing side to side leg lowers as part of best ab exercises workout

How To Do Side-To-Side Leg Lowers

  1. Start lying on your back, lower back pressed into the mat and core engaged.
  2. Straighten your legs “up the wall” or stacked on top of your hips. Legs are extended long, feet flexed towards your face.
  3. Slowly lower both legs towards the ground on the right side of the body. Keep both legs as straight as possible while keeping your left shoulder connected to the mat.
  4. With control, pull the legs back to starting position and repeat on the left side of the body.

Modification: Perform this exercise with knees bent, shortening the distance each leg travels.

Boat Pose

Targets: Rectus abdominis and transverse abs.

Beginner (Assisted Boat Pose) / Advanced (Advanced Boat Pose)

beginner and advanced boat pose options

How To Do Boat Pose

  1. Start sitting on the floor with your legs bent at 90 degrees. Lean back slightly sitting on your sit bones (two sitting bones and tailbone), keeping a nice long spine, shoulders down and back.
  2. Place your hands behind your knees and lift your feet off the ground. Bent legs are extended out in front of you.
  3. Slowly straighten your legs out in front of you. Raise the tips of your toes to eye-level or just higher. Option to extend your arms towards your toes as well.

Modification: Keep your hands on the back of your thighs, holding your legs during this pose to reduce the intensity.

Oblique Crunch

Targets: Internal and external oblique muscles (the muscles that run along the side of your core) and transverse abdominus.

Beginner (Oblique Crunch) / Advanced (Oblique V-Up)

oblique crunch to target sides of core

How To Do An Oblique Crunch

  1. Start lying on your side, right arm on the mat, left hand behind your head. Extend both legs long, feet stacked on top of one another. Brace your core.
  2. Lift your head, neck and shoulders off the ground while also lifting your legs up off the mat. Keep both legs straight as you raise them, forming a “V” shape with your body. Think about bringing your left elbow to meet your left knee.
  3. Slowly lower back down to the starting position.

Modification: Keep both legs on the ground for the entire movement, knees bent and feet together. Squeeze the core, and crunch through the side of your body to raise your head, neck and shoulders off the mat.

Bicycle Crunch

Targets: Rectus abdominis, transverse abdominal muscles and obliques

Beginner (Bent Knee Bicycle Crunch) / Advanced (Bicycle Crunch)

two women performing bicycle crunches as part of ab workout at home

How To Do A Bicycle Crunch

  1. Start lying flat on your back, lower back pressing firmly into the mat. Bring your legs to a raised 90 degree bend.
  2. Lift your head, neck and shoulders off the ground. Place your hands behind your head and think about pressing your head into your fingertips.
  3. Lift your right elbow towards your left knee as you extend your right leg long.
  4. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat on the other side. Pulling your left elbow towards your right knee as you extend your left leg long.
  5. Continue to repeat this ‘bicycling’ movement, alternating knee to elbow crunches.

Modification: Perform with knees bent, reducing the range of motion.

Dead Bug

Targets: Deep core muscles (transverse abdominis), lower abdominal muscles, hips, shoulders and back (posterior and anterior deltoids).

Beginner (Dead Bug) / Advanced (Weighted Dead Bug)

two women demonstrating dead bug exercise with weights

How To Do A Dead Bug

  1. Lie on your back flat on the floor, performing a slight pelvic tilt to press your lower back into the mat. Lift your knees to form a 90-degree angle (knees stacked on top of hips).
  2. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and extend your hands straight overhead toward the ceiling. Inhale, letting your belly expand.
  3. Exhale, engaging your core. Extend your left leg and right arm away from your body, lowering the dumbbell in your right arm towards the ground with control. Left arm and right leg remain in place. With control, inhale as you return to center.
  4. Then repeat on the opposite side. Exhale as you extend your right leg and left arm away from the body, lowering the dumbbell in your left arm towards the ground. With control, return to starting position.

Modification:Perform with just your bodyweight instead of adding a dumbbell. Option to reduce range of motion of your legs, performing dead dugs with knees bent instead of straight leg dead bugs.

Bear Crawl

Targets: Deep transverse abdomen muscles, rectus abdominis (six-pack ab muscles), oblique muscles, shoulders, back, legs, glutes and quads.

Beginner (Bear Crawl Hold) / Advanced (Bear Crawl and Arm Extension)

two women demonstrating how to perform a bear crawl exercise

How To Do A Bear Crawl

  1. Start in a table top position, quadruped on all fours, shoulders stacked over wrists and hips stacked over knees, pelvis even.
  2. Inhale as you let your belly slightly drop, raising your gaze up as you breathe through into your belly.
  3. Exhale, drawing your belly button towards your spine. Tuck your toes under and lift your knees one inch off the mat, finding a bear crawl.
  4. Hold this bear crawl position, then extend your right arm straight overhead, reaching out away from your body.
  5. Return your right palm to the mat and repeat on the other side. Extending your left hand away from the body and then returning it to the mat.
  6. Continue this pattern, alternating which hand is extended.

Modification: Hold a bear crawl for the timed interval.

two women performing a bear crawl to strengthen core muscles

Ab Workouts For Women: Trainer Tips and Tricks

Start with the beginner version, and scale up to more advanced versions when you feel ready. For reference, here are the best beginner ab exercises and advanced ab exercises:

9 Beginner Ab Exercises

  1. Incline Plank
  2. Knee Down Side Plank
  3. Bent Knee Leg Lowers
  4. Bent Knee Side-to-Side Leg Lowers
  5. Assisted Boat Pose
  6. Side Oblique Crunch
  7. Bent Knee Bicycle March
  8. Dead Bug
  9. Bear Crawl Hold

9 Advanced Ab Exercises

  1. High Plank
  2. Side Plank
  3. Alternating Leg Lowers
  4. Side-to-Side Leg Lowers
  5. Advanced Boat Pose
  6. Oblique V-Up Crunch
  7. Bicycle Crunch
  8. Weighted Dead Bug
  9. Bear Crawl with Arm Extension
two women lying on their backs extending their arms and legs away from the body as part of a dead bug exercise to strengthen abs

How To Engage Your Core During Ab Workouts

These are some common fitness instructor cues designed to help you safely perform core exercises:

  • Pull your belly button towards your spine.Your belly button is connected to your deepest ab muscles, which you want ‘pulled in’ when performing ab exercises.
  • When performing a mat ab exercise, press your lower back into the floor. This activates your core muscles and protects your back from injury or strain.
  • Imagine there is a string between your hip bones.As you exhale, imagine that string (or your TA muscles) are pulling your hip bones together.

How To Avoid Neck Pain During Ab Workouts

  • Avoid “pulling” on your neck. Any time your hands are behind your head, think about pressing your headintoyour fingertips, rather than using your hands to “pull up” on your head.
  • Imagine there’s a tennis ball tucked underneath your chin. This creates space between your chin and your chest and avoids extra neck strain.
  • Take modifications. Neck pain can be a sign your core isn’t quite strong enough to complete the exercise you’re attempting.

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