The 6 best ab workouts for women looking to strengthen their core, according to a female personal trainer

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The 6 best ab workouts for women looking to strengthen their core, according to a female personal trainer
Workouts like forearm planks, marching bridges, and bicycle crunches can help women build strong, defined abs.Getty
  • For women to build strong, defined abs, it takes a fitness routine that focuses on all their core muscles.
  • This includes exercises like planks, bicycle crunches, and dead bugs, among others.
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If you want visible abs, there are many factors to consider, including diet, lifestyle, genetics, and body fat percentage.

Although it isn't easy for most, getting a visibly toned stomach can be even more difficult for women because they tend to carry less muscle mass and more fat than men.

However, just because it's more difficult doesn't mean it's not unachievable.

"Because men and women have the same muscles in their abs, our exercises can be the same, too," says Audrey Bowman, certified personal trainer, and owner of Audrey Bowman Fitness.

But since men tend to have slightly more muscle fibers and much higher levels of testosterone, they may see results quicker. Combined with the above fact that women tend to carry less muscle mass, it may take them doing more specific ab work to see similar results.

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Below are six of the best ab workouts for women which target the major muscle groups located in the core. These can be added to an existing workout routine or done as a full workout, but make sure not to overdo it.

Types of abdominal muscles

The major muscles in your abs are:

  • transverse abdominals
  • internal obliques
  • external obliques
  • rectus abdominals
The 6 best ab workouts for women looking to strengthen their core, according to a female personal trainer
Caliber

There are also more reasons to work out your abs than to just reap the aesthetic benefits. Your abs are a part of your core which is the entire central part of your body. Your core also includes your pelvis, lower back, hips, and stomach.

Having a strong core helps boost balance, posture, and a healthy spine. All of these benefits can improve your stability and reduce your risk of injuries from falling. Strengthening your core can also make everyday activities like cleaning your house, sitting at work, and gardening less difficult.

"Every part of your life benefits from having a strong core and we should work out to add to our quality of life," says Bowman. "This includes everything from playing with your kids to doing the daily activities you enjoy."

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Below are six exercises Bowman recommends for women that not only work your abs but that target your entire core, too.

Quick tip: Add weights or resistance bands to make these moves more challenging.

1. Forearm plank
The 6 best ab workouts for women looking to strengthen their core, according to a female personal trainer
Audrey Bowman

Planks work every muscle in your core and even engage other muscle groups such as your glutes, hamstrings, and back.

For an added challenge while doing the forearm plank, alternate lifting your feet off the ground for 10 reps each.

How to do it:

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1. Start in a table-top position with your hands and knees placed firmly on the ground.

2. Step your feet back one foot at a time and place them hip-width apart.

3. Keep your elbows directly under your shoulders and place your forearms and hands flat on the floor.

4. Push your body away from the ground and draw your shoulder blades apart.

5. Keep your back as flat as possible.

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6. Hold the plank for one minute.

2. Dead bug
The 6 best ab workouts for women looking to strengthen their core, according to a female personal trainer
Audrey Bowman

Dead bugs not only do well to work your core but this movement can also help improve your balance and stability.

How to do it:

1. Lie on your back with your legs straight and arms extended straight above your head.

2. Lift your shoulders and feet so your arms and legs hover about two inches off the ground.

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3. Keep your right leg straight and pull your left knee toward your torso.

4. As you do this, raise your right arm so it's pointing toward the sky and keep it straight.

5. Reset by straightening your left leg and returning your right arm by your ear, keeping both your arms and legs hovering about the ground.

6. Repeat the same movement on the other side.

7. Do 10 reps on each side for a total of 20 reps.

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Quick tip: Once you get comfortable with this exercise, try straightening your bent leg for more of a challenge.

3. Bicycle crunches
The 6 best ab workouts for women looking to strengthen their core, according to a female personal trainer
Audrey Bowman

The twisting movement in this exercise targets your obliques which are important muscles for supporting your pelvis and ribcage. Strengthening your obliques can also help improve stabilization and lung function.

How to do it:

1. Lie on your back and push your back firmly into the ground to engage your core.

2. Place your hands behind your head while keeping your elbows wide and gently rest your head in your hands.

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3. Lift both your legs and shoulders so they're hovering a few inches off the ground.

4. Pull your left knee toward your torso and twist your upper body so your right elbow reaches toward your left knee.

5. Do the same movement on the other side and make sure to keep your shoulders and legs lifted throughout the entire set.

6. Do 10 reps on each side for a total of 20 reps.

4. Side plank
The 6 best ab workouts for women looking to strengthen their core, according to a female personal trainer
Audrey Bowman

Side planks are another great exercise for working your obliques, as well as the entirety of your core.

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You can make this exercise more challenging by lifting your top leg while you hold this pose. Conversely, you can modify this movement by dropping your knees to the ground while keeping your torso lifted.

How to do it:

1. Start in a high plank position.

2. From there, rotate your torso to the right, lift your right arm overhead, pointed toward the sky, and place your right foot on top of your left foot — your entire body should be in a straight line on the right side

3. Hold this position for one minute.

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4. Return to a neutral plank position and repeat this movement on the left side. That's two reps.

5. Do 5-10 total reps.

5. Marching bridges
The 6 best ab workouts for women looking to strengthen their core, according to a female personal trainer
Audrey Bowman

The marching bridge exercise focuses on your core, glutes, quads, and hamstrings. This move can also help improve your posture and may even help those with lower back pain.

How to do it:

1. Start by laying on your back, and press your shoulders into the ground while you bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor.

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2. Lift your hips off the ground so you're in a bridge position.

3. While in the bridge position, lift your right foot off the ground and pull your right knee toward your torso.

4. Hold that position for a count of two then place your foot back on the ground.

5. Stay in a bridge position and repeat this movement on the left side.

6. Do 10 reps on each side.

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6. Quadruped knee taps
The 6 best ab workouts for women looking to strengthen their core, according to a female personal trainer
Audrey Bowman

Not only does this move work your abs but it's also great for improving your balance and stability. If you do the exercise with your feet lifted off the ground, you'll feel your back get a workout as well.

Quick tip: To modify this movement and make it easier, drop your knees to the ground.

How to do it:

1. Start in a table-top position with your hands and knees placed firmly on the ground.

2. Lift your knees so they're both hovering about two inches off the ground.

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3. With your back flat, lift your left foot off the ground and pull your knee toward your torso.

4. Next, lift your right hand off the ground and bring it under your body to tap your left knee.

5. Place your left foot and right hand back on the ground while keeping both knees lifted.

6. Repeat this movement on the other side.

7. Do 10 reps on each side for a total of 20 reps.

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Best yoga mats

The 6 best ab workouts for women looking to strengthen their core, according to a female personal trainer
Manduka

Cushion your back and knees while doing ab workouts using picks from our guide to the best yoga mats.

Insider's takeaway

Having a strong core can help improve your stability and make everyday tasks easier. While it can be more difficult for women to achieve visible six-pack abs, they can still strengthen their core through the same exercises as men.

For instance, moves like forearm planks and bicycle crunches target your ab muscles and do well to work your entire core. Aim to do some combination of these core-focused workouts once or twice a week to strengthen your abs.

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