Get ready to build a stronger core with the best ab exercises for women…
Targeting your abdominal muscles with the best ab exercises for women will help you build a stronger core and create a more defined waist – if that’s something you’re after. It will also improve your balance and stability, which in turn will aid in preventing injuries and optimising your performance in a range of sports and activates.
Below, we’ve rounded up the best ab exercises for women, designed to target your ‘six pack’ muscles, as well as your obliques (the muscles at the sides of your waist) and those all important deep core muscles…
8 best ab exercises for women
1. Knees-up crunch
Benefits: This is the classic move for working your abdominals and core.
- Lie on your back with your knees raised, so they’re at a 90˚ angle to your hips. Place your fingers on your temples, upper arms in line with your shoulders (A).
- Contract your abs and press your lower back into the mat as you slowly lift your shoulder blades (B). Avoid jerking your head – the movement comes from your upper back.
- Pause and slowly lower your upper body back to the mat. Aim to do eight to 15 reps.
Quick tip: Place your feet on a chair if you need extra stability.
Benefits: The added twist will work your obliques, in addition to your abdominals, upper body and core.
- Lie on your back with your knees raised, so they’re at a 90˚ angle to your hips. Place your fingers on your temples, upper arms in line with your shoulders.
- Slowly lift your shoulders off the mat, engaging your abdominals. Crunch up and bring your right elbow to your left knee, as you extend your right leg (A). Repeat on the other side (B). Aim to do eight to 15 reps on each side.
Quick tip: The movement should come from your upper body – don’t be tempted to just twist your arms.
3. Dumbbell Russian twist
Benefits: This dynamic rotation will test your core strength, arms and obliques (the muscles at the sides of your waist).
- Sit on a mat, grasping one dumbbell in both hands, arms fully extended. Engaging your abdominals, move your upper body back so it’s at 45° to the floor. Your knees should be bent at a slightly shallower angle with your toes pointing upwards.
- Keeping your spine straight and feet together, twist your torso from right (A) to left (B). Your focus should remain on the dumbbell throughout and your abs should control the momentum of the move.
- Return to the starting position to complete one rep. Aim to do eight to 15 reps.
Quick tip: Maintain the angle of the upper body throughout.
4. Dumbbell woodchop
Benefits: A great all-rounder to prime your tum, waist, shoulders and back muscles.
- Stand with your feet about a metre apart, toes pointing forward. Grasp your dumbbell with both hands.
- Keeping your arms straight, twist up dynamically, bringing the dumbbell up beyond your right shoulder and pivoting on your left foot (A).
- In a smooth movement, sweep your upper body down towards your left knee, bending your right knee as you move in a wood-chopping motion (B). Keep your head up. Repeat on the other side.
- Aim to do eight to 15 reps on each side.
Quick tip: You can also try this move with a secured resistance band.
5. Gym ball crunch with twist
Benefits: The addition of a gym ball tests your stabilising muscles and allows you to achieve a wider range of movement.
- Lie back on a gym ball with your upper body supported. Your feet should be positioned below your hips, your fingers on your temples, upper arms in line with your shoulders.
- Engage your core and slowly lift your upper body from the ball.
- As you do so, twist your torso to the left.
- Keep your neck in line with your spine throughout the movement. Repeat on the other side to complete a rep.
- Aim to do eight to 15 reps.
Quick tip: Keep your feet planted on the floor throughout.
6. Side plank
Benefits: A plank with added benefits! This move will challenge your core muscles, arms and waist.
- Lie on your side with your weight resting on your right elbow, keeping it directly below your shoulder. Place your left foot on top of the right – keep your feet flexed and your toes pointing forward.
- Hold your body in a straight line from head to feet, making sure you keep your hips lifted
throughout. Aim to hold for 30 seconds to a minute, then repeat on the other side.
Quick tip! For an extra challenge, lift your upper arm away from your body.
7. Lower body Russian twist
Benefits: Great for building strength in your lower and side abdominals.
- Lie on a cushioned mat, extending your arms out at shoulder-height. Keep your legs together and hold your thighs vertically with your knees bent at 90° (A).
- Twist your legs – still together – over to the left, making sure you don’t let your feet rest on the floor (B). Keep your focus on the ceiling and shoulders flat on the floor throughout.
- Return to the start, then twist to the other side. Aim to do eight to 15 reps.
Quick tip: Mid-twist, extend your legs for an extra challenge.
8. Gym ball jackknife
Benefits: A wonder for your abdominals, waist, shoulders, core and under-exercised hip flexors.
- Kneeling on all fours with a gym ball behind you, engage your core and place the top of your feet on the ball one at a time. Straighten your legs and keep your arms straight, with your hands a little more than shoulder-width apart.
- Bend your elbows slightly – there should be a straight line from your head to your toes (A).
- Bend your knees towards your chest, trying to keep your upper body and head stable (B). Pause and extend your legs back to the outstretched position to complete one rep. Aim to do eight to 15 reps.
Quick tip: Make sure the movement is smooth and don’t let your hips drop.