If a strong, sculpted midsection is on your wish list, you need to get in the habit of hitting every muscle in your “six-pack.” The trouble is, some of these ab muscles get more attention than others, and if you’re anything like the majority of exercisers, the lower portion of your abs could use some love.
“When it comes to lower ab training, I find that most people don’t fully understand how their abs work,” says Mike Bell, a Performix House trainer. As he notes, many people favor ab exercises like crunch variations and situps, which largely target the upper abs.
To work your lower abs, however, you need to start incorporating anti-extension and anti-rotation exercises into your workouts. These are movements that require you to resist extension or rotation at the spine, and include dead bugs, medicine ball slams, ab roll-outs, Pallof presses and single-leg Romanian deadlifts.
HOW STRONG ARE YOUR LOWER ABS?
The trouble is, many people don’t know how to effectively engage their lower abs. So, before you try one of the six lower ab exercises below, try Bell’s assessment to see if you know how to recruit these muscles: Lie on the floor on your back and lift both legs. “This will force you to flatten your lower back into the ground,” Bell he says. From there, lower one leg while keeping the other leg lifted and immobile. If your back raises off the floor, you’re not engaging your lower core muscles.
“Sometimes it’s just an awareness thing, and sometimes it’s a strength issue,” Bell says. If you can’t do the move right the first time around, try it again and see if becoming aware of the issue makes a difference. If you still can’t perform the exercise without your back lifting off the floor, you need to continue working to strengthen your lower abs. On the other hand, if you can do the move without any issue, you can progress to tougher variations.
Also keep in mind that if you truly want a defined midsection, you need to keep your diet dialed-in. See, all the core workouts in the world won’t make a difference if your muscles are covered in a layer of fat.
SIX LOWER AB EXERCISES TO TRY
Bell recommends incorporating any two of the following lower ab focused exercises into your regular warmup. “Warming up the core before any type of exercise is always a good idea, and generally helps increase strength and prevent movement-related injuries,” he explains. The other exercises can be done between sets of strength exercises during your workout.
HANGING LEG RAISES
The move: Hang from a pullup bar with your palms facing away from your body and your legs fully extended, feet off the floor. Brace your core and lift your legs with control as far as you can without rounding your back. Lower your legs with control. Your ultimate goal is to touch your feet to the bar. If hanging leg raises are too advanced, regress to hanging knee raises. Do 2 sets of 10 reps.
The move: Begin on the floor on your knees and grip an ab wheel, barbell with plates or a stability ball. Keeping your arms straight, roll the wheel or barbell out in front of you as far as you can without arching your lower back. Return to start. Perform 3 sets of 10 reps.
The move: Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Press your lower back into the floor and lift both knees until your shins are parallel to the floor. Extend your arms toward the ceiling. To initiate the movement, tighten your abdominals and slowly lower one arm toward the floor alongside your ear while you straighten the opposite leg. Only lower your limbs as far as you can without letting your lower back arch. Return to start and repeat with the opposite arm and leg. Do 2 sets of 10 reps per side.
The move: Anchor a resistance band at chest-height. Facing the anchor sideways, grip the ends against your chest with both hands. Walk away from the anchor point until you feel tension in the band. Brace your core and press your hands in front of your body until your arms are fully extended. Resist rotating at the torso and hips. Bring your hands back to your chest and repeat. Complete all reps on one side before turning around 180 degrees and repeating on the other side. To make the move harder, step further away from the anchor point or use a thicker band. Perform 3 sets of 10 reps per side.
The move: Set up on the floor in a forearm plank and place a slider or a folded towel under each foot. Your elbows should be directly under your shoulders; don’t let your shoulders creep up to your ears. Brace your core and push yourself away from your forearms. Only slide as far back as you’re able without letting your stomach drop toward the floor. Reset by pulling yourself back toward your forearms so you go just past the starting position. Do 3 sets of 8 reps.