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15 of the best ab workouts for women

woman doing ab exercises

Looking for the best ab exercises for women? We don’t blame you! Our core is important. We use it for just about every movement: walking, sitting, bending, standing, reaching, lifting, and more.

It’s not all about getting definition or even a six pack, either. Healthy, strong abs don’t have to be visible, and it’s much harder for women to achieve those flat, firm abs that everybody seems to crave anyway.

Don’t let us put you off, though; it is achievable for most if you get your diet on track and choose specific core exercises for women.

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What are your abdominal muscles?

Keep reading for a round-up of 15 of the best core exercises for women and how to do them. But first, we think it’s a good idea to explain the types of muscles that they target. From your obliques to your lower abdomen muscles, the exercises below cover the following important ab areas:

  • Transversus abdominus – the deepest ab muscles that run horizontally around your middle of your core (think belly button) 
  • External obliques – the side abdominal muscles that run from just beneath your arms and down the side of your rib cage
  • Internal obliques – the stabilising muscles that sit just underneath your external oblique abs
  • Rectus abdominus – the most ‘superficial’ muscles in your abdomen (the ones you see in a six-pack) that run from your sternum right down to your pelvis

15 of the best ab exercises

From crunches to planks, there are a wide range of indoor exercises you can do to work your core muscles. But if you’re a fitness newbie or looking for some workout inspiration, you’re in the right place. Here are 15 of the best all-round effective abdominal exercises for women, as well as exercises that target certain areas.

Side plank

Works the: Obliques.

Great for: Protecting the spine, strengthening the core without stressing the back, and improving balance.

How to do a side plank

  1. Lay down on your mat on one side of your body and prop yourself up on one elbow (below the shoulder) with your forearm flat on the ground perpendicular to your body. 
  2. Straighten your legs and stack your feet on top of each other, or place one in front of the other. 
  3. Contract your abdominals and lift your hips up off the floor, supporting your weight evenly from elbow to feet in a diagonal line. 
  4. Try to hold this position for at least 30 seconds, contracting your abs the entire time.
  5. Now do it on the other side!

Boat pose

Works the: Whole abdominal area and hip flexors

Great for: Building overall core strength and reinforcing the spine.

How to do the boat pose

  1. Sit upright on your mat with your feet on the floor and knees bent.
  2.  Lean your upper body back, balancing on your sit bones and lift your legs off the floor in a right angle.
  3. Straighten your legs as much as possible, without compromising your flat back to form a V-shape.
  4. Extend your arms out in front of you with your palms up for balance.
  5. Try to hold for at least 30 seconds, keeping your abs contracted.

Reverse sitting crunch

Works the: Rectus abdominis (those pesky six-pack muscles), transverse abdominis and external obliques.

Great for: Strengthening your abs without putting strain on your neck and back compared to regular crunches.

How to do a reverse sitting crunch

  1. Sit on a bench or chair with your feet flat on the ground and your knees at a right angle. 
  2. Extend your arms forward with palms facing each other. 
  3. Take a deep exhale and pull your belly button in towards your spine. 
  4. Roll back onto your tailbone and curve your spine into a C-shape. 
  5. Inhale and return to original sitting position. Then repeat.

Plank walk out / inchworm

Works the: Rectus abdominis, obliques + triceps and deltoids (arms and shoulders).

Great for: Working out multiple abdominals and your upper body simultaneously.

How to do a plank walk out / inchworm

  1. Stand up tall with your feet together and engage your core.
  2. Try to touch the floor by bending at your hips.
  3. Once your fingertips reach the floor, walk your hands out slowly until you’re in a push-up position.
  4. Reverse the action by inching your hands backwards and lifting your hips towards the ceiling.
  5. When your feet are flat on the floor, bend your hips upwards back into the standing position.

Hip lifts

Works the: Rectus abdominis and obliques.

Great for: Ab definition and overall strength.

How to do hip lifts

  1. Lie back on your mat with your arms at your side, palms facing down.
  2.  Raise your legs up until they are perpendicular with your torso.
  3. Squeeze your ab muscles and lift your hips up a few inches from the floor while keeping your legs straight and upper body on the ground.
  4. Lower the hips to the floor and then repeat the motion for at least 30 seconds.

Plank rolls

Works the: Obliques, hip flexors, glutes, and shoulders.

Great for: Challenging your core stability and stretching.

How to do plank rolls

  1. Get into a plank position on your forearms, making sure your elbows are below your shoulders and hips are lowered.
  2. Squeeze your glutes and abs and rotate your pelvis down to the left until you make contact with the mat, and then repeat on the right.
  3. Repeat for at least 30 seconds.

Flutter kicks

Works the: Lower abdominal muscles, hip flexors, lower back, and quad muscles.

Great for: Increasing your heart rate while toning your ab muscles.

How to do flutter kicks

  1. Lay down on your mat and raise your legs straight above your hips.
  2. Push your lower back into the floor by contracting your abs.
  3. Lower your legs down as far as possible while keeping your lower back glued to the ground.
  4. When you’ve found your ‘sweet spot’ raise your feet about an inch and start making small flutter kicks up and down with your legs.
  5. Repeat for at least 30 seconds.

V-sit ups

Works the: Rectus abdominis, external obliques, internal obliques, and hip flexors.

Great for: Improving total core strength and trunk balance.

How to do a V-sit up

  1. Lay down on your back with your legs stretched straight out in front of you and arms by your side.
  2. Sit up with a straight back and bring your knees in towards your chest – making a V shape - and touch your heels with outstretched arms.
  3. Lower yourself back down and straighten the legs back to the floor.
  4. Sit up again and repeat for at least 60 seconds.

Reverse crunch (lay down)

Works the: Rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis and external obliques.

Great for: Strengthening your abs without putting strain on your neck and back compared to regular crunches.

How to do a reverse crunch (lay down)

  1. Lay down on your back and bring your knees and legs up in a right angle.
  2.  Place your hands behind your head for support and bring your knees and chest / elbows together.
  3. Return to starting position and repeat for at least 30 seconds.

Scissor kicks

Works the: Rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, obliques and hip flexors.

Great for: Total ab workout with extra lower body training.

How to do scissor kicks 

  1. Lay on your back and glue your lower back into the mat.
  2. Raise your legs to just above hip height, keeping your lower back flush against the floor.
  3. Scissor the left leg over the right leg, then the right leg over the left leg continuously without lowering your legs.
  4. Repeat for at least 30 seconds.

Leg lifts

Works the: Rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, and legs.

Great for: Toning up the upper and lower abs, as well as strengthening the legs.

How to do leg lifts

  1. Start by laying down on the mat with your legs straight out in front of your and arms by your side, palms down.
  2. Glue your lower back into the floor and engage your core.
  3. Raise your straight legs up towards the ceiling just past the hips.
  4. Pulse your feet up and down – without touching the ground.
  5. Repeat the exercise for at least 30 seconds.

Dead bug

Works the: Transverse abdominis and rectus abdominis.

Great for: Total core stability and spine support.

How to do a dead bug

  1. Lie on your back and bring your arms up above your shoulders, like you’re pointing up at the ceiling with your fingertips.
  2. Bring straight legs up directly over the hips, keeping your lower back squeezed into the floor.
  3. Drop your left leg to the floor and right arm above your head to the floor, then reset and repeat with the right leg and left arm.
  4. Make sure you keep the non-working arm and leg pointing up towards the ceiling.
  5. Repeat on both sides for at least 30 seconds.

Forearm Plank

Works the: Transverse abdominis, rectus abdominis, internal obliques, external obliques, quads, chest, upper back muscles.

Great for: A healthy posture, balance, coordination, and a strong core.

How to do a forearm plank

  1. Lie on your stomach.
  2. Lift yourself up onto your toes and forearms, keeping your elbows directly beneath your shoulders and your shoulders away from your ears.
  3. Squeeze your core and glutes, keeping your hips, spine and neck in one straight line.
  4. Try to hold for at least 30 seconds.

Hollow body hold

Works the: Transverse abdominis, rectus abdominis, obliques, and quads.

Great for: Aligning and strengthening the spine and ab muscles.

How to do a hollow body hold

  1. Lie on your back with extended straight legs and arms stretched above your head.
  2. Engage your core, push your lower back into the ground, and raise your legs a few inches from the floor. 
  3. Raise your straight arms and head off the floor while keeping your lower back glued to the mat.
  4. Hold this ‘hollow body’ for at least 30 seconds before lowering your legs and shoulders to the floor.

Jack knife (V-up)

Works the: Rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, legs, back, and shoulders.

Great for: Advancing your ab training – don’t try if you are a complete beginner to ab workouts.

How to do a jack knife (V-up)

  1. Lie flat on the floor with your arms straight above your head.
  2. Suck in your stomach and plant your lower back into the floor.
  3. Take a deep inhale and then as you exhale sit up and bring your straight legs up to touch your fingertips.
  4. Lower back down and repeat for at least 30 seconds

The final say

So, there you have it – 15 of the best stomach exercises for women to help you on your way to a strong, healthy core.

Try all the exercises to see which ones you like best, or even better, do them all on rotation.

You’ll have abs of steel in no time! For a top-level overview, check out our complete guide that covers everything you need to know about muscle health.

You also asked...

How can a woman get abs fast?

Woah, slow down there! You cannot simply blast through hundreds of sit ups one night and wake up with a ripped six pack.

Firstly, being a woman puts you at a significant disadvantage when compared to men.

Abdominal muscles aren’t significantly different across the sexes, but it can be harder for women to achieve flat and firm abs due to their longer waist and wider pelvis.

Women also tend to carry more fat around their abdominal area – so don’t feel disheartened if you don’t end up with rock hard abs. Strong abs can still have fat over the top and improve your strength and stability.

There are several factors you need to consider on your ab-acquiring journey, the most important being:

  • Your diet: if you want visibly firm and strong abs, you need to lose some body fat in order for them to show. Achieving a calorie deficit through your diet can help you do this alongside ab exercises and strengthening the rest of your body.
  • Your workout: As well as doing your ab workout, training the rest of your body can help you develop muscle mass, which helps you burn fat and gives you more visible ab strength.
  • Consume plenty of protein: You need to make sure you are eating enough protein to support your growing muscles.

What are the best workouts to get abs for females?

There are lots of different core workouts for women to help get your abs on top form.

As well as stomach workouts for women you can do at home, you can also utilise the gym or other fun workouts to strengthen that core, like:

  • Gymnastics
  • Volleyball
  • Swimming
  • Muay Thai
  • Boxing
  • Kayaking
  • Running
  • Skipping
  • Tennis
  • Squash
  • Yoga
  • Football

And more! As you can see, a lot of sports require and help you develop a strong core.


How do you work out abs at home for women?

Grab yourself a yoga mat, bottle of water and some dumbbells (optional), press play on some music that makes you want to move, and we are ready to go.

Try the following 15 women’s exercises for stomach in sets that you can gently increase to create the right amount of resistance to get those muscles nice and strong.

For example, first try 30 seconds of each exercise with 30 seconds rest in between and repeat as you feel necessary. Then, as you get stronger, you can increase the exercise time and the amount of sets you do.

Try to do them 1-3 times a week on non-consecutive days – trust us, you’re probably not going to want to do ab day 2 days in a row – ouch!

On the other days you can do some cardio or train some of the other muscles in your body. This will help you reduce fat, improve heart health and gain lean muscle mass, all of which will contribute to your new-and-improved abs.


Which ab exercise is most effective?

Doing a single ab exercise on its own isn’t the most effective way to get a strong core. So, rather than focussing on one ‘super effective’ ab exercise, do a variety of the exercises above to achieve the best results.

The advice in this article is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP or healthcare professional before trying any supplements, treatments or remedies. Food supplements must not be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle.

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