Let's be honest: Many consider a sleek six-pack to be a coveted aspect of the fit female physique. But an enviable core isn't made overnight—sculpting a toned, defined set of abs takes hard work, dedication, and just the right moves to get there. When you think of exercises that train your core muscles, your mind likely gravitates straight toward sit-ups and crunches. But there are plenty of other movements that can help you build impressive washboard abs and boost the strength of your midsection. We spoke with Jacquie Smith, a certified integrative nutrition health coach from IIN and a fitness instructor specializing in barre, yoga, and pre/postnatal workouts, who shares with us five easy but effective ab exercises for women.
A strong core means better overall stability and posture. You may not even realize that many daily tasks, hobbies, and physical activities depend on your core strength. "Your abdominals are essential for everything you do—like walking, sitting, bending, standing, reaching, and lifting. Without proper core strength, you are at risk of developing lower back pain and other injuries, which is why it is so important to strengthen them properly," Smith tells us.
In order to get your core into tip-top shape and sculpt some beach-read abs, Smith walks us through five easy yet effective ab exercises for women. Start doing them today, and gear up for results! And when you're finished, be sure to check out The #1 Standing Ab Workout for a Visibly Toned Six-Pack.
To start with planks, bring your hands under your shoulders, and place your feet hip-width distance apart with your heels driving back. You should be on the balls of your feet. Keep your hips aligned with your shoulders, and pull your core inward. Hold the plank for 30 seconds, making sure to breathe into your ribcage and breathe out through your mouth for further activation of your core.
2. Mountain Climbers
Next up are mountain climbers. This move will have you assuming a straight-arm plank position and alternating bringing one knee up toward your chest, then back, and repeating with the opposite side. Smith describes this alternating leg movement to be similar to a "running" motion. She notes, "This is also an effective way to add cardio to your workout routine and shred your abs at the same time."
3. Plank to Downward Dog Alternating Ankle Taps
Begin this exercise in a plank, situating your feet a bit wider than hip-width distance apart. Next, push your hips into the air to assume a downward-facing dog position. Then, initiate ankle taps by bringing your left hand over to tap your right ankle as you pull your belly button inward and up. Return to a plank. Next, assume a downward dog once again, and tap your right hand to your left ankle. Keep alternating your arms and ankles.
4. Leg Raises
For leg raises, you'll lie flat on your back, and place both hands under your buttocks. Bring both legs above your hips so they're fully extended toward the sky. Take a deep breath in, then gradually lower your legs so they're just about one inch above the mat. Make sure your legs stay as straight as they can. Breathe out, and raise your legs back over your hips.
5. Alternating Jack Knives
Last but not least on Smith's list of ab exercises for women is the alternative jack knife. You'll start by lying flat on your back with both hands reaching above your head and your legs completely extended in front of you. Next, bring your right hand and left leg up to each other simultaneously. Be sure to activate your abs as you do so. Keep in mind that your right hand should come all the way to the outside of your left ankle. Hold this position for a moment, then gradually bring your arm and leg back down to the position you started in. Then, repeat the same motion with your left hand and right leg.