What are the Best Abdominal Exercises for Women?

K. Testa

Whether they are seeking a flat stomach or general abdominal toning, many people want to learn more about the best abdominal exercises for women. According to some fitness experts, women tend to carry abdominal fat lower on their torsos than men do. Therefore, some specific ab exercises might help women achieve better results. It is also important to strengthen one’s core in order to help prevent back pain, which is extremely common in women. For the best overall results, abdominal exercises for women should be part of a consistent exercise routine, combined with a healthy diet.

Doing push-ups with elevated legs works the abs more than regular push-ups do.
Doing push-ups with elevated legs works the abs more than regular push-ups do.

A study to determine the most effective abdominal exercises was carried out by the San Diego State University Biomechanics Lab. Participants were asked to complete 13 different ab exercises, some of them utilizing gym equipment and the rest relying on the person’s own body weight. The exercises were then ranked from best to worst, according to how well they strengthened the rectus abdominus and the oblique muscles. Many people who might have considered traditional sit-ups to be one of the most effective abdominal exercises for women would likely be surprised to learn that they ranked 11th out of the 13 exercises.

Core strengthening has numerous benefits for women.
Core strengthening has numerous benefits for women.

One of the top exercises for both the rectus abdominus and the obliques is leg lifts with the help of a piece of gym equipment known as the Captain’s Chair. In this exercise, the person puts all of his or her weight on the forearms while performing leg lifts. Another exercise that was found useful was lying on one’s back and pedaling in the air, as if riding a bicycle. A reverse crunch on the floor was a top choice for working the obliques, and a regular crunch on a stability ball ranked third best for strengthening the rectus abdominus. These exercises appeared to target the abs most efficiently, while the less effective ones seemed to work the back or the legs more than the abs.

Abdominal exercises can build muscle, but do not have much affect on fat content.
Abdominal exercises can build muscle, but do not have much affect on fat content.

The core is comprised of both abdominal muscles and back muscles. Strengthening all of these muscles can help women avoid back pain. In addition, having good posture can help the abs and protect one’s back. One recommended exercise is the plank, which can be done using a stability ball, a foam roller, or one’s own resistance. There are variations on the exercise, but a basic plank involves holding one’s own weight up with the hands or forearms either on the floor or on the ball, similar to the top of a push-up position. Another suggested way to strengthen one’s core is to work the obliques, using crossover moves, such as kickboxing jabs.

Sit ups are surprisingly not one of the best abdominal exercises for women.
Sit ups are surprisingly not one of the best abdominal exercises for women.

When performed correctly and consistently, abdominal exercises for women can greatly benefit a person’s physical fitness and overall health. One should remember to warm up with some cardio activity for a couple of minutes prior to working out the abs. In addition, most fitness professionals recommend stretching both before and after an abdominal workout. It is important to stretch the belly and other muscles, including the hip flexors, to avoid pain and potential injury.

It's important for women to work their core, as they can be more prone back pain than men, which is prevented with ab workouts.
It's important for women to work their core, as they can be more prone back pain than men, which is prevented with ab workouts.
Strengthening the core muscles help women avoid back pain.
Strengthening the core muscles help women avoid back pain.

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