People of all genders can do the same ab exercises to get stronger core muscles. A strong core helps with balance and overall body strength. However, some core exercises may be particularly beneficial for women.
Women have to consider their body composition before performing some ab exercises. For example, some women’s pelvis shape can lead to overextension in the lower back. Another name for this posture is lumbar lordosis. It can cause extra pressure on the spine, leading to pain. Those who have overextension of the lower back need to be extra mindful of performing ab exercises with proper form.
Hypermobility of joints is more common in women than in men. They need to stabilize these joints when working out and may need to avoid pushing to their full range of motion in particular movements.
Exercises to Help Women’s Abs
Here are a few simple ab exercises that many women benefit from. They’re easy to do at home too.
1. Sit Up with Back Support
Step 1: Gather materials—a rolled-up towel or an exercise mat.
Step 2: Place the towel or mat under the small of your back.
Step 3: Place your feet in the butterfly position—knees out and feet facing each other.
Step 4: Lay your torso back on the floor or exercise mat.
Step 5: Exhale and brace your core, lifting your torso. Touch your hands to your feet.
Note: Using a towel or mat causes your abs to work more than your hips and supports your spine.
2. Crunch and Reach
Step 1: Lay on your back with arms stretched overhead. Bend your knees so your feet are flat on the floor.
Step 2: Bring your arms forward and through your legs as you activate your core, crunching up.
Step 3: Crunch until your shoulders raise off the floor. Make sure to keep your neck long and in line with your spine.
Step 4: At the top of your crunch, pulse your abs to reach your arms further in between your legs.
Step 5: Lower back down with control, returning your arms overhead.
3. Oblique Crunch
Step 1: Get on your hands and knees on an exercise mat.
Step 2: Place both hands shoulder-width apart. Put both feet behind you and balance on the balls of your feet, so you are in a plank position.
Step 3: Activating your core to stabilize, lift your left leg. Bend it out to the side, bringing your knee towards your left elbow.
Step 4: Return your left leg back to the starting position.
Step 5: Repeat on your other leg.
4. Mountain Climbers
Step 1: Start in plank position, making sure your shoulders are in line with your wrists, and your body is one long line.
Step 2: Bring your left knee into your chest, bending your leg.
Step 3: Replace your left leg to the starting position.
Step 4: Bring your right knee into your chest.
Note: You can go slow, stepping the feet, or faster, basically running in the mountain climber position. You can also use tools like gliders to get more of an ab workout.
5. Flutter Kicks
Step 1: Lay on your back.
Step 2: Lift your legs up to a 90-degree angle.
Step 3: Brace your abs to keep your back on the floor.
Step 4: Lower your legs as far as you can while still keeping your back on the floor.
Step 5: After finding the right height for your legs, raise your feet up one inch.
Step 6: Kick your legs up and down, alternating sides. So, when your left foot goes down, your right foot goes up.
Step 7: Keep breathing through your nose as you perform this exercise.
6. Russian Twist
Step 1: Sit with your knees bent and chest lifted. This is similar to a bent knee boat pose in yoga.
Step 2: Lower back down as far as you can while keeping your abs engaged and spine straight.
Step 3: Grab a weight or hold your hands.
Step 4: Twist your torso from right to left, moving the weight or your hands from side to side, keeping your legs up, and maintaining the angle with your torso.
Note: You can do a Russian twist with your feet on the ground as well.
When working out, you should never experience sharp pain or pain that lasts a long time. It’s common to feel muscle soreness for a few days after working out, especially if you’re starting a new workout program. However, anything other than routine soreness is a reason to talk to a doctor.
It’s especially important for women to focus on doing ab exercises with proper form due to greater instances of pelvic tilt and the potential for hypermobility. Go easy on your workouts until you’re sure you have the correct form. Then you can increase repetitions and weights.
Listen to your body. If something feels too hard, drop down to a lower weight, do fewer reps, or try a modification to make the exercise easier.
Make sure to work all of your core muscles. Your abs are just one part. Your back and pelvic muscles are also part of your core. Building strength in those muscles will also help your balance and overall strength.