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 The best abs workout for women isn’t what you think it is.

It’s not a hundred crunches followed by another hundred sit-ups.

In fact, what you eat and how you handle stress has more of an impact on your abdominal section than how you target the area with your workouts.

That’s not to say that working your abs is totally unnecessary.

Working the abs certainly has its benefits, but it should be done intelligently.

For instance, instead of focusing solely on targeting the abs alone — especially those “six-pack” muscles that are front and center — it would be wiser to engage in exercises that challenge the entire core section including the posterior (back) and lateral (side) abdominals.

It would also be wise to include upper, lower, or full-body exercises that involve engaging the core.

Since the core is the central area of the body that links the upper and lower body, improving its strength is essential to building a solid foundation for your entire workout regimen as well as all of your essential day-to-day activities.

The benefits of having a strong core include:

  • Increased power output from the upper and lower body
  • Improved stabilization and balance
  • Greater control over bodily movement
  • Improved alignment of exercises and increased flexibility
  • Increased support and prevention of injury
  • Better posture and reduced back pain

Unlike the muscles of the upper and lower body, which typically require at least a day to recover from heavy strength training, the abdominal muscles can be safely worked out every day (so long as you’re not loading them up with weights or resistance that they’re sore the next day).

However, you don’t absolutely need to work your abs every day.

It’s true that you can still get great results with just a few minutes of targeted ab work 2 to 3 times a week.

For the best results, consider supplementing your regular workout with 5 to 10 minutes of targeted ab work right at the end.

The following ab workout exercises are great for both women and men.

You might want to select 2 or 3 to try out first for a week or so, then add more and mix them them up for a greater challenge.

Or if you’d prefer a longer, core-targeted workout, scroll down to the end for a killer 10-minute involving all of the following exercises.

As long as you focus on engaging your core the entire time and maintain proper form, I can almost guarantee you’ll be feeling the burn!

1. Plank Shoulder Taps

One of the simplest and most effective core strengtheners is the standard plank.

In addition to engaging all the core muscles, it also strengthens the shoulders, back, glutes, and legs.

A great way to shake things up with the standard plank is by integrating shoulder taps with it, which offer an added boost of strength to all the muscles involved.

It’s also just a nice distraction from having to stay completely still in plank.

How to Do Plank Shoulder Taps:

  1. Get into plank by kneeling down and placing your hands flat on the floor just slightly wider than shoulder width apart, with your shoulders directly over your wrists. (Tip: You can practice engaging your core here in a modified version of plank with your knees on the floor.)
  2.  

  3. Extend one leg out at a time behind you and ground your toes down by pressing them into the floor as you squeeze your glutes and engage your shoulders and core to support the weight of your body.
  4.  

  5. Keep a neutral spine and neck by looking straight down in front of you. Your body should be like a straight line.
  6.  

  7. Shift the weight of your upper body to the left arm, raise your right hand off the group, and tap your left shoulder with it. Make sure you maintain core engagement while doing this.
  8.  

  9. Repeat with the right arm.
  10.  

  11. Keep switching back and forth for 30 seconds to a minute. (Or alternatively count 30 to 60 arm taps.) 
  12.  

2. Forearm Side Plank

Side plank is an excellent move for challenging your sense of balance while strengthening the side (oblique) muscles.

There are a few variations of this exercise that you can work up to as you get stronger.

The image above shows forearm side plank, but you can also do regular side plank with a straight arm and hand planted firmly on the ground.

Forearm plank gives you more support and is a good alternative if you experience pain or weakness in your wrists.

You can also modify a forearm side plank or regular side plank by lower your knee of the leg that’s closest to the ground.

This is a great modification for beginners who can’t hold or balance the entire weight of their bodies yet while maintaining proper form.

How to Do Forearm Side Plank:

  1. Lie on your left side, bending your left arm and using your left elbow to prop your upper body up. Move your elbow just about an inch or so out in front of you so the shoulder isn’t directly stacked over it.
  2.  

  3. Your legs should be long and your feet should be directly stacked on each other. Bend your right arm and place your hand on your right hip so it’s out of the way.
  4.  

  5. Now press the side of the base of your left foot into the ground as you engage your core and lift your hips up, trying to maintain a straight line from head to toe.
  6.  

  7. Hold the position for 10 to 30 seconds or as long as you can maintain that straight line. Remember to breathe.
  8.  

  9. Repeat steps 1 to 4 on the right side.
  10.  

3. Contralateral Limb Raises 

Contralateral limb raises or “swimmers” are more for the back body than your front abdominals.

They’re great for strengthening the lower back while also working the glutes, hip flexors, upper back, and shoulders.

Like its name suggests, this exercise involves lying on your stomach and moving the arms and legs as if you were swimming through water.

How to Do Contralateral Limb Raises:

  1. Lie down on your stomach, ideally on a softer surface like a carpeted floor or exercise mat.
  2.  

  3. Extend your legs straight out behind you and your arms straight out in front of you, with your palms facing down.
  4.  

  5. Keep your neck and head in as much of a neutral position as you can, looking down toward the floor. Avoid looking up too far in front of you.
  6.  

  7. Engage your upper back and left shoulder to lift your left arm up while simultaneously engaging the glutes and right hamstring to lift the right left up.
  8.  

  9. Hold for 3 to 5 seconds and then gently lower the left arm and right leg back to the floor.
  10.  

  11. Switch by repeating step 4 and 5 with the right arm and left leg.
  12.  

  13. Switch back and forth between each side for 30 seconds to a minute, going as slow or as fast as you like.
  14.  

4. Leg Pull-Ins

Leg pull-ins are like a reverse crunch and do an incredible job at targeting the lower abdominal muscles.

Regular crunches, on the other hand, target the upper abdominal region.

This move is a high-rep exercise and will challenge your sense of balance. It won’t take very many before you start to feel it.

For a more advanced version, you can try doing this without the support of your hands.

How to Do Leg Pull-Ins:

  1. Sit on a padded surface, such as an exercise mat, with your knees bent and feet on the floor.
  2.  

  3. Place your hands on the floor just slightly behind your back with your fingers pointing forward.
  4.  

  5. Keep your knees together as take your feet off the floor, pulling torso and your knees together.
  6.  

  7. Now lean back into your hands and extend your legs out as straight as you can. Your elbows might reach down to the floor, but you don’t want to lean back that far if you can’t.
  8.  

  9. Bring your torso and knees back together.
  10.  

  11. Repeat steps 4 and 5 for 30 seconds to a minute or for as many reps as you want to reach. You can go as fast or as slow as you want.
  12.  

5. Crab Toe Touches

Crab toe touches aren’t just for your abs — they’re for your whole body.

In addition to working the core, this quirky looking move works the glutes and legs while stretching the wrists and biceps too.

Yes, you’ll have to assume the crab position. But no, you won’t have to do the crab walk!

How to Do Crab Toe Touches:

  1. Start by sitting on the ground with your knees bent and feet on the floor.
  2.  

  3. Place the palms of your hands behind you slightly wider than shoulder width apart, with your fingers facing forward or slightly outward to the sides.
  4.  

  5. Ground your heels into the floor to lift your hips off of the floor. Your hips can stay slightly dipped.
  6.  

  7. Engage your core as you shift your upper body weight into your left hand and bring your right arm up, keeping it straight.
  8.  

  9. Shift your lower body weight into your right foot and bring your left knee up, extending the leg as straight as you can.
  10.  

  11. Try to tap your right hand to your left toe.
  12.  

  13. Bring your left hand and right foot back to the ground.
  14.  

  15. Switch by repeating steps 5 and 6 with your left hand and right foot.
  16.  

  17. Keep switching for 30 seconds to a minute or for as many reps as you like.
  18.  

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6. Toe Reaches

Toe reaches are simple, but deadly!

They barely involve any movement at all, yet they can do wonders for the rectus abdominus muscle — that part that gives people a six-pack look.

The magic happens by holding your toe reach.

The higher you reach and the longer you hold, the more intense the workout for your abs.

How to Do Toe Reaches:

  1. Lie down flat on your back with your legs long and your arms straight by your sides.
  2.  

  3. Now bring your knees so that your thighs are parallel to the floor and straighten your legs as straight as you can get them. If you have tight hamstrings, feel free to bend them slightly.
  4.  

  5. Sweep your arms up and over your head so they’re resting on the floor.
  6.  

  7. Now lift your arms up so that they’re parallel to your legs.
  8.  

  9. Engage your core and use it to lift your upper body as high as you can.
  10.  

  11. Reach your fingers toward your toes, trying to touch them if you can.
  12.  

  13. Hold for 3 to 10 seconds.
  14.  

  15. Relax and lower your head back down. Optionally sweep your arms back above your head to rest on the floor again or alternatively leave them straight up and parallel to your legs.
  16.  

  17. Repeat steps 4 to 8 for 30 seconds to a minute or for as many reps as you like.
  18.  

7. Dead Bug

Would you believe that dead bugs do ab workouts?

Ha!

No, but really, this move really does look like a helpless beetle or other insect in its final moments of life.

The dead bug move is ideal for those who typically experience back pain in other exercises like sit-ups or knee pull-ins.

This is the benefit of core exercises like these that require you to be in a supine position (lying on your back).

How to Do Dead Bugs:

  1. Lie down flat on your back.
  2.  

  3. Bring your arms up straight toward the ceiling and bring your knees up so that your thighs are at a 90-degree angle to the floor.
  4.  

  5. Flatten your back against the floor as much as you can and maintain it.
  6.  

  7. Simultaneously lower your left arm above your head and your right leg straight out in front of you, as parallel to the floor as you can get them without letting your back come up from against the floor.
  8.  

  9. Lift your left arm and right leg back up to your starting position.
  10.  

  11. Repeat steps 4 and 5 with your right arm and left leg.
  12.  

  13. Do as many reps as you can or continue switching between sides for 30 seconds to a minute.
  14.  

8. Reverse Crunch

Reverse crunches are great for the lower abdominal muscles.

Instead of crunching up with your upper body, your crunching up using your lower body (hence why it’s called a “reverse” crunch).

The greater control you can maintain while you do reverse crunches, the more effective they’ll be.

This is certainly easier said than gone given the opportunity use the momentum of your legs instead.

How to Do Reverse Crunches:

  1. Lie down flat on your back. Your arms should be straight down by your sides with your palms flat against the floor for support.
  2.  

  3. Bring your knees up so that your thighs are at a 90-degree angle, keeping your legs bent.
  4.  

  5. Now engage your core as you work to lift your hips and lower back off the floor.
  6.  

  7. Pause for a brief moment and then use the control of your core to slowly roll back down to the floor.
  8.  

  9. Repeat steps 3 and 4 for as many reps as you want or as many as you can do in 30 seconds to a minute.
  10.  

9. Crunch

These last two exercises are basically optional since you can certainly get a killer ab workout doing any of the seven moves shown above.

Now we’re getting back to traditional ab exercises with regular crunches.

They’re not everyone’s favourite, but when done correctly, they’re effective.

How to Do Crunches:

  1. Lie down flat on your back.
  2.  

  3. Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor with your legs about hip distance apart.
  4.  

  5. Bend your arms and bring your hands behind the lower part of your head (not your neck), interlacing your fingers if desired.
  6.  

  7. Contract your core and lift your upper body off the floor, making sure to keep your neck relaxed and avoid pulling on it with your hands.
  8.  

  9. Pause at the top for a moment and then gently lower back down, maintaining slow control all the way back to the floor.
  10.  

  11. Repeat as many reps as you want or as many as you can do in 30 seconds to a minute.
  12.  

10. Sit-Ups

Last but not least, there’s the classic sit-up.

You could say that a sit-up is just a more intense version of a crunch.

The main difference is that crunches only target the abs while sit-ups target the abs as well as the hip flexors, lower back, legs, neck, and chest.

How to Do Sit-Ups:

  1. Lie down flat on your back.
  2.  

  3. Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor with your legs about hip distance apart.
  4.  

  5. Bend your arms and bring your hands behind the lower part of your head (not your neck), interlacing your fingers if desired.
  6.  

  7. Engage your core muscles and use them to curl your entire upper body up until you’re in a seated position.
  8.  

  9. Lower back down slowly and with control.
  10.  

  11. Repeat for as many reps as you want or do as many as you can in 30 seconds to a minute.
  12.  

Your 10-Minute Ab Workout

Here’s your workout challenge: Get a stopwatch or use a timer app to do each of the 10 following ab exercises for one minute, for a total of 10 minutes.

As soon as each minute is up, go straight to the next one without resting!

1.

 Plank Shoulder Tap

2.

Side Plank

 

3.

Contralateral Swim Raises

 

4.

Leg Pull-Ins

 

5.

Crab Toe Touches

 

6.

Toe Reaches

 

 

7.

Dead Bug

 

8.

Reverse Crunch

 

9.

Crunches

 

10.

Sit-Ups

 

You can even cut this in half and make it a five-minute ab workout by doing each of the above ab exercises for 30 seconds instead of one minute.

There are so many different ways you can customize this collection of ab exercises to suit your fitness level, to prevent injury, or to supplement your regular workout.

I hope you found these helpful!

Enjoy your workout. 🙂

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Elise

Having struggled with diet and fitness since her early teens, Elise spent most of her life cycling between periods of extreme exercise/food restriction and binge eating/burnout. After suffering metabolic damage back in 2013, she began to research how hormones and metabolism affect weight loss and body composition. She has since achieved the most hourglass-like figure she's ever had and continues to live a healthy, sustainable lifestyle eating everything in moderation and exercising regularly.
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