Did you know that your abs are one of the most vital muscle groups of your body? It’s not just because of how toned and strong they look, they also help you bend, extend, rotate, and flex your torso, they also support the most important part of your body: your spine. Almost all of your movements originate from your core, so the stronger your core is, the easier everything becomes and the more you protect yourself from injury.
Today, we will be sharing various men and women-friendly ab exercises that will help in strengthening your core and its other benefits.
How to Engage Your Core During Ab Exercises
First things first! How do you know if you have a proper form? It’s important to remind yourself that no matter what move you're working on, you have to focus on pulling your navel in toward your spine to keep your abs muscles engaged. If you're doing a movement on your back, make sure to press your lower back into the floor and keep it flat on the mat so your abs will do the work—not your spine.
Ab Workouts for Men and Women
The bicycle crunch is a great ab workout, trainers and fitness enthusiasts have loved for years. As opposed to the regular crunch, the twisting movement hits your obliques, the muscles on the side of your core.
How to do a bicycle crunch:
- With your lower back pressing firmly into the mat (keep it flat!) and your core engaged, bring your legs to a raised 90-degree bend.
- Lift your upper back until your shoulder blades are off the mat, keeping a space between your chin and your chest and avoid neck strain. Place your hands behind your head, gently pressing your head into your fingertips. Use your core to lift and turn your upper body bringing your right elbow towards your left knee as you straighten and extend your right leg.
- 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.
- Continue alternating from side to side and do 8-12 reps for 2-3 sets. One pair is equal to one rep.
Leg Raises, or Leg Lifts seem simple but gives a powerful burn to our rectus abdominis, also known as the “six-pack” ab muscles. It is also one of the go-to exercises for ab workouts for women.
How to do leg raises:
- Lay flat on your mat, raise your legs so they’re upright directly over your hips.
- Rest your palms down at your sides or clasp them behind your head. Contract your core, and lift your legs off the floor using your lower abs. Keep your lower back and glutes on the floor.
- Pause for 2-3 seconds, then slowly lower your legs back down towards the floor. Do 8 to 12 reps for 2-3 sets.
A gentle note that if you are often experiencing back pain, this exercise may not be recommended for you. Do seek medical advice before adding this to your ab workouts.
Scissors is an abdominal exercise that strengthens the transverse abdominals, a muscle layer of the front and side abdominal wall which is layered below the internal oblique muscle helping flatten your belly and strengthen your entire core. A must-do exercise included in most ab workouts for men, this exercise is also a great stretch for your hamstrings and your lower back.
How to do scissors:
- Lie flat on your back. Place arms on each side of your body, palms facing the floor. Point your legs straight into the air until above your hips and actively press your lower back flat on the ground.
- Keeping your core tight, slowly lower your right leg a few inches above the ground. Then slowly alternate your legs, lifting your right leg back up as you lower your left leg down toward the ground.
- Continue for 10 to 15 times on each leg for 2-3 sets.
Sit-ups work all the abdominal muscles including your hip flexors, chest, and neck. Promoting good posture by working your lower back and gluteal muscles, also known as glutes, are a few sit-ups benefits. A lot of people also say this reminds them of a tummy trimmer, which also works on the same muscles.
How to do sit-ups:
- Lie flat on your back with bent knees and your feet anchored on the mat.
- Tuck your chin into your chest to lengthen the back of your neck.
- You can choose to interlace your fingers at the base of your skull, cross your arms with your hands on opposite shoulders, or place your palms down alongside your body.
- Exhale as you lift your upper body up toward your thighs.
- Inhale as you slowly lower yourself back down to the floor.
- Do 8-12 reps for 2-3 sets.
You will have a love-hate relationship with this exercise! Love because it works the whole abdominal muscles, strengthening your core muscles from your pelvis to your shoulders. Hate it because it makes time longer, but worth it.
The plank is achievable in a number of different variations, including basic plank, side plank, see-saw planks, and plank twists. Aside from working on your stability, all these variations have their own plank benefits.
How to do a plank:
- Place forearms on the floor with elbows aligned below shoulders and arms parallel to your body at about shoulder width.
- Engage your core, then tuck your toes to raise your body. Ground your toes into the floor and squeeze glutes to stabilize your body.
- Neutralize your neck and spine by looking at a spot on the floor forming a straight line from head to heels. Don’t raise your butt!
- Hold the position for 20 seconds. As you get more comfortable, hold your plank for as long as possible without compromising your form. Remember to control your breath.
These exercises will help you a lot in strengthening your ab muscles and improve your posture. Really push and challenge yourself with these new movements but remember to always engage your core, keep an eye out of your form, and give yourself a pat on the back after a great workout!