The 20 Best Abs Workouts for Women That Really Work
Of all the areas to carry excess weight, the belly area is the most notorious and the toughest to get rid of. Getting toned abs is one of the most common fitness goals among both women and men who are looking to build strength. After a while, doing millions of crunches is frustrating, especially if you’re not seeing results. The truth is, there are tons of exercises that target all abs muscle groups that will get you real results. If you’re trying to implement the best abs workouts for women to reap the amazing benefits, then you’re in the right place.
On the health side of things, belly fat increases your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers. Losing belly fat not only improves your health, but it also gives you a lean sculpted look ideal for the beach. Even as little as a few days a week of ab exercises can sculpt your stomach region if you get your body fat percentage down low enough for your muscles to show.
Getting your abs in shape is different for everyone, and it’s not always about the washboard, getting ripped or toning up. It’s also about improving your posture and keeping the spine in optimal alignment. And yes, a side effect of achieving this might mean totally awesome abs. Try these exercises to get your abs in shape.
20.) Bicycle Crunches
The bicycle crunch has stood the test of time for best abs workouts for women because it works. In fact, it’s ranked no. 1 for strengthening the rectus abdominus (the slab of muscle on the front of your body) according to the American Council on Exercise. The bicycle crunch requires little room and no equipment, and it can be modified depending on your abdominal strength.
- Start by lying on the floor face up.
- Lace your hands behind your head and lift your head and shoulders off the floor.
- Begin pedaling your feet and twisting your torso as if you were trying to touch your elbow to the pulled-in knee. If you’re a beginner or have back issues, pedal your feet toward the ceiling.
- Pedal your legs parallel to the floor when you’re strong enough to do so.
Crank out 12 to 15 repetitions.
19.) Lying Leg-Hip Raise
This workout is great to burn fat along the entire range of your abdomen from pelvis to rib cage, which are the two places that the rectus abdominis muscle connects. The rectus abdominis is the main ab muscle and the lying leg-hip raise is a classic to give you a complete tone.
- Lie on your back with your legs straight, then bend your knees as you bring them toward your chest.
- Lift your hips a few inches off the floor before reversing the motion.
- Do a set of 10 to 12 repetitions for optimal results.
The V-up is a dynamic ab exercise for the upper and lower abs, in order to focus more on your upper abs follow these instructions.
- Lie on your back with your arms straight above your head.
- Sit up as you bring your legs toward the ceiling until your hands reach your feet.
- Continue to repeat this movement for 10 sets of 5.
17.) Rolling Like a Ball
Balance is a core game. The rectus abdominis and obliques work to sustain the spinal flexion throughout the exercise.
- In a sitting position, flex the spine into a c-curve.
- Lean back to balance the sit bones and sacrum hold the knees to the chest with your feet off the floor.
- Inhale as you roll back, taking caution to avoid rolling on your neck or head.
- Exhale to roll back up to the starting position, fighting for the balance at the top.
16.) Double Leg Stretch
Double the trouble, this uses the rectus abdominis and obliques to maintain thoracic flexion.
- Lie on your back with arms by your sides and bring the legs to tabletop.
- Nod the head slightly, then lift the shoulders off the floor while reaching the arms up to the knees.
- Reach your legs out on a diagonal and your arms overhead, as if you were taking off a hat.
- Circle your arms out to the side and back to your knees as they flex in.
- Repeat 10 times, each time exhaling as you extend the limbs and inhaling as you return to the starting position.
Ab exercises will tone the muscle, but if you carry belly fat, your sculpted muscles will remain hidden. Rowing will burn away the pudge and tone your abs. It takes a little coordination and timing to maximize the rowing machine, but done correctly, rowing is one of the best non-impact, total body workouts you can get. It stands to reason that this is also one of the best abs workouts for women.
- Start in the catch phase by sitting on the pad with your feet on the footrests.
- Bend your knees and reach for the handles.
- Extend your legs by pushing back. Keep the arms straight until your legs are nearly extended, then pull the handles toward your upper stomach. This is the dive phase.
- Return to the start position by extending the hands, bending the knees and leaning forward until you’re back in the catchphrase.
Don’t have a rowing machine? Any exercise that gets your heart rate up for 30 to 60 minutes will burn fat, so you can find an exercise that doesn’t need this kind of equipment but still get a great workout.
14.) V-Up: Exercise Ball Style
Adding a ball to the classic V-up adds an extra challenge. Having to pass a ball back and forth ensures that you don’t cheat by not going through the full range of motion. You can use an exercise ball or a stability ball.
- Lie on your back with your arms straight overhead.
- Sit up as you bring your legs up toward the ceiling.
- Pass a ball from your hands to your feet, and then lie back down.
- Sit up again and pass the ball to your hands.
- Continue to alternate for 10 sets of 5.
Scissors are the cousin of the bicycle, engaging the rectus abdominis, and obliques for thoracic flexion, obliques, and multifidus for pelvic stability. This helps make it one of the best abs workouts for women.
- Lie on your back with arms by your sides.
- Bring the legs tabletop, legs together as they straighten, feet to the sky.
- Lift the head and shoulders off the mat into flexion as the arms reach to the legs.
- Use your arms to assist pulling the right leg closer to the chest as the left leg reaches long hovering above the floor on a two count exhale.
- Inhale to switch legs and repeat 10 times.
Although the arms assist, they should be barely touching. There is no pulling the body closer to the leg. That would defeat the purpose of the exercise. This exercise is not about strengthening your biceps; this is supposed to be one of the best abs workouts for women!
12.) Mountain Climber
Remember these from middle school gym class? The mountain climber is a tried and true workout that busts the lower ab region into shape, making it one of the best abs workouts for women.
- Start in the high plank position with your core engaged. Keep your core engaged throughout the entire workout to get the maximum effect.
- Lift your right knee to your chest.
- Bring your right knee back to the original position and repeat with the left knee.
- Continue to alternate knees quickly back and forth. The key is to keep the correct position and maintain the form.
11.) Crab Toe Touch
- Start with your feet on the floor and your hands on the floor behind you with your fingers facing you.
- Lift your hips up off of the floor as you lift one leg towards the ceiling.
- Lift the alternate hand to touch your toes as you lift your hips. So, if you lift your left leg, then touch your right hand as you lift yourself.
- Repeat on the other side after lowering your leg and hand to the ground.
- Do multiple reps alternating sides.
You may have heard of Pilates, but you may not realize how effective it is on building core stability. Inner IDEA says Pilates ab exercises are some of the best abs workouts for women and are more effective than the boring crunches you’ve probably been doing. One of the best is the roll-up, which works through a fuller range of motion than many ab exercises.
- Lie on the floor with your arms overhead and your legs extended with heels on the floor.
- Simultaneously raise your arms and lift your torso, rolling your body to a sitting position without letting your heels come off the floor.
- Reach your hands toward your toes, then reverse the motion by rolling back.
- Move slowly and avoid using momentum to come up.
- Roll-up eight to 10 times.
Planks look easy enough, but they provide a lot of muscle burn for the buck. Plus, there are so many variations that you’ll never get bored. The basic plank is a pushup position that you hold for 15 to 60 seconds. The key is to keep your back and hips straight. If your belly drops or your behind pokes up, you’re doing it wrong.
Another popular variation is to have your forearms on the floor instead of your hands. If these positions are difficult, modify them by dropping your knees to the floor, but don’t allow a bend in the hips.
8.) The Breast Stroke
They say you can’t have flexion without extension. Often we forget that doing back exercises is a huge part of our strengthening our core.
- Lie on your stomach, hover your nose above the mat and have your hands bent next to your head.
- Exhale the arms off the mat lengthening above your head.
- On an inhale, circle the arms out to the side, reaching for your feet by your hips as your upper body extends up through the head.
Think longer, not higher as you engage the glutes and hamstrings to keep the feet on the floor and strain out of the lower back. Do 5-8 repetitions. This is commonly the weaker side of the body.
7.) The Hundred
This exercise is dreaded by some, yet loved by those who love the burn. The rectus abdominis work all ways concentrically, isometrically and eccentrically, making this one of the best abs workouts for women.
- Lie on your back with arms by your sides and shorten the obliques to the ribs to engage the core.
- Bring one leg to tabletop and add the other zipping up the inner thighs, knees and ankles together.
- Nod the head slightly, then lift the shoulders off the floor while reaching the arms to the heels and extending the legs straight out on a diagonal, only lowering as far as you can maintain stabilization.
- Start a small pulse of the arms, inhaling for 5 pulses and exhaling for 5 pulses.
- Keep your gaze at the knees and pump the arms 100 times while maintaining the 5 count breath.
- Once you reach 100, hold the position and reach one inch higher as you return the legs to the table top and lower the head and shoulders down to the mat.
You might want to give up at 60, but push on, my friends. The benefits are worth it.
6.) Body Saws
This exercise looks simple, but it’s one of the best abs workouts for women to build your core. It targets both the abdominals and the back, building ultimate core strength.
- Get into the plank position but with your forearms on the ground where your hands normally would be.
- Begin to rock and shift yourself forward while keeping your muscle stability.
- Return to the original position
- Repeat for 10 to 15 times.
5.) Captain’s Chair
This is a great option for those who want a great ab workout for when they go to the gym. The American Council of Exercise says this exercise is No. 1 abs workout for women that targets the obliques. The obliques are the muscles running along your sides that are responsible for twisting and bending. It’s also No. 2 for the rectus abdominus, making the captain’s chair a great ab exercise. The captain’s chair is easy to use.
- Start by standing on the footrests with your back pressed against the back pad.
- Hold on to the handles with your hands, letting your forearms rest on the arm pads.
- Take your feet off the footrests and hang by your forearms.
- Slowly lift your knees up, hold for a beat and lower — but don’t put them on the footrests.
- Do a set of 12 to 15 lifts, then rest.
If you like working with ab machines more, check out our reviews for the best ab machines for your home.
4.) Forearm Side Plank With a Twist
This plank variation is guaranteed to set your obliques on fire. It’s also a common Pilates exercise for your obliques that will give the best results.
- Start in a side plank position on the left side. Your left forearm should be on the ground and your elbow should be directly above it. You can either stack your feet on top of each other or you can keep it in front.
- Put your right hand behind your head as you bring your elbow to touch the ground in a crunch twist motion.
- Squeeze your glutes and inner thighs to stay stable.
- Continue to rock your elbow back and forth for 30 seconds before switching to the right side.
3.) Kickboard Exercises
Your ab exercises don’t all have to be about appearances. The kickboard exercise helps tighten your tummy and is a functional exercise for when you decide to hit the water. Practice in a pool or out past the waves, if you dare.
- Hold onto a kickboard.
- Start kicking your legs in alternating up and down motion to move forward.
- Keep your body closer to the surface.
You can also flip over onto your back and perform backstroke kicks.
2.) Bicycle Maneuver
Your swimsuit shows off more than just the front of your abdomen, which is why it’s important to work on the obliques. The obliques are the ab muscles on the sides of the waist. The bicycle maneuver is one of the most effective exercises for the obliques and the other abdominal muscles.
- Lie on your back with your hands behind your head, knees bent at right angles and thighs perpendicular to the ground.
- Crunch your shoulders off the floor and start twisting your upper body side-to-side, as if to touch your elbow to your opposite knee, while extending the other leg straight.
To tone up the obliques, repeat 10 reps of 8.
1.) T Rotation
Last but not least, the T rotation is a final oblique-targeted abs workouts for women. It’s also one of the best abs workouts for women. This workout can be repeated multiple times every day for the most toned oblique muscles.
- Begin in the push-up position and make sure you have your core tightened.
- Shift all of your weight onto one side as you lift up your hand of choice.
- Hold the position for 5 seconds before returning your hand to the ground.
- Repeat on the other side multiple times.
These 20 best abs workouts for women can show you great results if you stay dedicated to them. Add a few of these to your daily routine to feel healthier and fitter in no time.