Our midsection is one part of our body that we obsess over most. We all strive for that flat belly for a better figure. It’s what enables us to wear a short crop top in the summer months with confidence.
It’s not just women either. Men focus on getting that washboard six-pack popping abs when striving for the perfect beach body. Many workout plans you see at the gym include crunches or ab-strengthening exercises to get that flatter belly. Losing fat around the belly can reduce your risk of diabetes and many other chronic health issues.
We may not want an over ripped washboard you can do your laundry on like most men aspire to. No more than men want larger boobs unless they want to be on the next series of RuPaul’s Amazing Drag Race. We want ab exercises for women that help us look both strong and feminine.
The Difference Between Men’s and Women’s Abs
Structurally, there’s very little difference in men’s and women’s muscles. But as women we tend to have a wider pelvis and a longer waist. It’s all down to those child-bearing hips.
For some women, achieving a flatter midsection can be challenging at the very least. All we want is a flat stomach with a little definition on the sides. Something that looks just as good in a little black dress and down the beach in that new swimsuit.
And biology is working against us, with experts estimating a woman’s normal body fat content is 25 percent compared to an average male body fat of 15 percent. When a man and a woman have equal-sized abs, the man’s are likely to have less fat on top of them and be more prominent. Oestrogen alone, essential for our health and reproductive cycles, can be responsible for much fat gathering around the belly and those all-important abs.
Here’s the good news!
Flat abdominal muscles and a sleek belly are possible though. You simply need to commit to a healthy diet and doing more than just sit ups in the gym. Introduce more varied ab exercises for women that target your core muscle groups like the ones we look at a little later.
The Worst Ab Exercises for Women
I know you’re itching to get started but let’s quickly take a few moments to rule out exercises you may have previously relied on for lean abs. You may be amazed at how much time you’ve wasted on these ineffective exercises. Not only do they yield poor or limited results, but they can place extra stress on other muscles and increase your risk of injury.
Leg throws, sit ups and hanging leg lifts will only place a strain on your spine if your abs aren’t strong enough. Sit ups especially can increase your risk of bulging spinal discs or even worse slipping a disc. The motion of a sit up pushes your body beyond the range of motion of the abs and places extra attention on your back.
Instead, focus on exercises that work your core muscles. The following YouTube video shows a typical ab workout for women with not a sit up in sight. Introducing cardio to your workout will help burn that extra fat hiding your abs.
The Best Ab Exercises for Women
Full-body exercises that work your core muscles are more likely to help in building those abs in time for the summer. Here are three of our favorite exercise for some serious ab strength building.
No abs workout plan can neglect to include the plank. Traditionally a yoga move, it may look simple at first but it can be one of the most challenging ab workouts for both men and women. And there are many variants too that you can use to get those abs working and feeling the burn.
A traditional plank move is relatively easy, but don’t think it’s not doing you any good. After just 20 or 30 seconds you may struggle to hold the pose.
- A good-quality yoga mat can ensure you don’t lose grip when performing this move. Start with your hands palm side down on the mat and shoulder-width apart.
- Place your feet together.
- Tuck your butt and hips.
- Hold your head up and straighten your back.
- Try to hold the position for 30 to 60 seconds.
This is a perfect exercise for beginners as it involves no motion, instead focusing on the muscles that are holding you up. Easy to perform yet it will still work your core. As you get more advanced, you can try variations on the plank and develop a plank workout as shown in this short YouTube video.
One variation on the plank worthy of getting its own mention is the side plank. This is one of the top isometric exercises you can perform and helps to target the obliques. For many women this can be a key part of getting those desired lines down the side of their abs.
- Start by lying on your mat on your left side with your elbow directly below your shoulder.
- Move your arm out on the mat until it’s perpendicular to your body.
- Place one foot on top of the other and contracting your abs lift your hips from the floor.
- Your body should be in a diagonal line from your feet all the way up to your shoulder.
- Hold the position for 30 seconds before switching sides and repeating.
If this sounds too complicated the following how-to video from YouTube shows just how simple it can be.
This crunch is thought to be one of the best exercises when trying to strengthen your abs—it really works those obliques!
- Start by lying flat on the floor on a good-quality mat which can prevent you slipping and provide cushioning.
- Press your lower back down to the ground pulling in your abs so you also work your deeper ab muscles.
- Put your hands together behind your head and bring your knees forwards towards your chest.
- Lifting your shoulder blades off the ground, straighten the right leg to a 45-degree angle while moving your upper body to the left. At the same time twist so your right elbow moves towards your left knee.
- Make sure you move your rib cage as you twist and not just your elbows.
- Switch sides and repeat the same movement on the other side to complete a rep; this resembles a pedaling motion hence the name.
- Repeat for 10 to 20 reps with a slow and controlled motion.
Sounds confusing? Again we have a YouTube video that can demonstrate far better than words ever could.
Diet Can Also Be Important for Your Abs
We may have only looked at our favorite three ab exercises for women but performing these regularly will help strengthen your ab muscles while improving your posture. As you develop more strength and balance, speak to an instructor who will advise you on more advanced ab workouts.
There’s a whole range of ab exercise and workouts out there, but they are only effective when combined with a balanced diet. Experts at the Mayo Clinic argue there’s no such thing as spot reduction of fat. You could perform as many reps as you want but unless you reduce your overall body fat that six-pack may never happen.
Reducing your calories and ensuring you stick to a consistent exercise plan is the most effective way of getting the abs you dream of.