15 Effective Ab Exercises That Are Not Crunches

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By: Chris Freytag, CPT // June 15, 2023


When it comes to what are the best ab exercises, crunches are going to fall toward the bottom of our list. Many women wonder how many crunches a day it takes to get flat abs. The answer is NONE. 

Instead, we have chosen 15 ab exercises that target all four muscles of the abdominals. These ab exercises are perfect for women because they will effectively target lower abs, and obliques and help you shed fat and tone up.

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    1. V-ups

    Photo Credit: Get Healthy U

    V-ups are one of the best ab workouts for women because they also develop incredible balance.

    1) Lie flat on the floor and extend your arms behind your head. Keep your feet together and your toes pointed.

    2) Keep your legs straight and lift them up as you simultaneously raise your upper body off the floor. Keep your core tight as you reach for your toes with your hands. Slowly lower yourself back down to the starting position.

    Targets: transverse abdominus, rectus abdominus

    2. Side Plank Dips

    Chris Freytag demonstrating side plank lift and lower
    Photo Credit: Get Healthy U

    Side plank dips are oblique exercises for women looking to develop core strength and enviable side abs.

    1) Start by laying on your right side with forearm below shoulder, body lifted and legs long, and feet stacked. Keep body straight, abs tight, and place left hand on hip.

    2) Dip your hips down towards the mat and lift back up using your obliques and core muscles.

    Targets: internal obliques, external obliques

    3. Side Plank Reach Through

    Chris Freytag demonstrating side plank scoop or reach through
    Photo Credit: Get Healthy U

    The side plank reach-through is one of the best ab oblique combination movements. You must keep your core engaged the entire time – you’ll be feeling this move!

    1) Begin in a full side plank position with the right hand below shoulder, left arm reaching high above left shoulder, and legs long. (Modify by placing bottom knee onto mat if needed)

    2) Tighten the abdominals and slowly scoop the left arm under the body, following with your eyes until you see behind you.

    3) Slowly reach a left hand back to start position.

    4) Repeat for the desired number of repetitions and switch sides.

    Targets: transverse abdominus, internal obliques, external obliques, rectus abdominus

    4. Toe Reach

    Chris Freytag demonstrating toe touch with reach
    Photo Credit: Get Healthy U

    The toe reach is different than the classic crunch you see in most ab workouts for women. This focuses on core engagement and the rectus abdominus and the transverse abdominous.

     

    1) Start on the back with legs long-reaching towards the ceiling.

    2) Bring the head, neck, and shoulders off the mat and reach arms up towards the feet. Return to the tips of the shoulders and repeat.

    Targets: rectus abdominus, transverse abdominus

    5. Plank

    Chris Freytag demonstrating a plank
    Photo Credit: Get Healthy U

    The plank is a staple part of most ab workouts because it recruits the entire core.

     

    1) Begin kneeling on all fours with your hand directly under your shoulders and toes on the mat.

    2) Tighten your abdominals and raise your body up off the floor, lengthening your legs behind you. Hold your entire body tight for the desired amount of time and breathe.

    Targets: transverse abdominus

    6. Bicycle Crunch

    Chris Freytag demonstrating bicycle crunch
    Photo Credit: Get Healthy U

    The bicycle crunch builds coordination, and a strong core, and is one of the best ab movements.

     

    1) Start lying on your back with feet off the floor and legs in a tabletop position. Hands are behind the head and the head, neck, and shoulders are flexed off the mat.

    2) Bring one knee in and the opposite elbow over reaching towards it. Repeat on the other side in a crisscross motion working the obliques.

    Targets: transverse abdominus, internal obliques, external obliques, rectus abdominus

    7. Boat Pose

    Freytag demonstrating boat pose
    Photo Credit: Get Healthy U

    The boat pose is deceptively simple. This move takes incredible core strength and builds core strength. A win-win.

     

    1) From a seated position, draw navel to spine bracing abdominals and, with hands-on the floor behind you, bring your legs up off the floor with knees bent in front of the chest.

    2) Keeping abdominals tight, slowly lift hands off the floor and reach them forward and up while simultaneously lengthening legs upward. Your body will look like a “V” shape. Lengthen your spine as you hold. (If your hamstrings are too tight, bend your knees slightly.)

    3) Keep abdominals tight and breathe. Stay for 30-60 seconds or as long as you can.

    Targets: transverse abdominus, rectus abdominus

    8. Sweeping Scissors

    Chris Freytag demonstrating sweeping scissors
    Photo Credit: Get Healthy U

    1) Start lying on the mat with arms over your head and legs long.

    2) Sweep arms out to sides and bring head, neck, and shoulders off the mat reaching arms long and lift one leg up and in towards the chest.  Reaching arms forward on the sides of the leg. Roll back to the mat lowering the leg, and repeat on the other side.

    Targets: transverse abdominus, rectus abdominus

    9. Side To Side Obliques

    Chris Freytag demonstrating side to side oblique exercises
    Photo Credit: Get Healthy U

    The side-to-side oblique move is one of the best ab exercises for women who want to target the obliques.

    1) Lie on the mat and bring knees into the chest forming a tabletop position. Bring the head, neck, and shoulder off the mat coming into a crunch reaching arms long at the sides.

    2) Exhale as you reach your right fingers to the right side and forward then return to center on the inhale. Exhale and reach left fingers to the left side and forward. Switch side to side without lowering onto the mat.

    Targets: transverse abdominus, internal obliques, external obliques, rectus abdominus

    10. Bend Extend Ab Tuck

    Chris Freytag demonstrating bend extend ab tucj
    Photo Credit: Get Healthy U

    Ab workouts don’t have to be boring. There’s always a new variation to try, just like this bend extends ab tuck.

     

    1) Start seated on the mat with arms behind you, hands on the mat, and fingers facing your backside. Sit back on your hands and lift up your feet off the mat keeping the knees bent.

    2) Keep abs tight and press your legs out long and lower back down slightly. You should feel your lower abdominals working, then push yourself back up and pull your knees in to return to your starting position.

    Targets: transverse abdominus, rectus abdominus

    11. Spiderman Abs

    Chris Freytag demonstrating spiderman abs
    Photo Credit: Get Healthy U

    How do you flatten your lower abs? This spiderman abs move is a start! It’s a move that hurts so good – give it a try and your lower abs will be at attention.

     

    1) Start in a plank position with hands-on a mat slightly wider than shoulders, legs long behind you, and abdominals and glutes squeezed tight.

    2)  Pull the left knee toward the outside of your left elbow and hold for one count. Return to the starting and repeat on the right side.

    Targets: transverse abdominus, external obliques, internal obliques

    12. Forearm Star Plank

    Chris Freytag demonstrating forearm star plank
    Photo Credit: Get Healthy U

    Wondering how women can really strengthen their core? Through consistent core work and switching things up. This forearm star plank is a variation on the plank that will help you strengthen your core and even those lower abs that can be so hard to get.

     

    1) Begin lying on the right side, forearm on the floor, body lifted, and legs extended long on the mat with feet stacked.

    2) Tighten the abdominals and lift the left leg and arm up in the air. Hold them straight and keep the body still for the desired amount of time. Switch sides.

    Targets: external obliques, internal obliques, transverse abdominus

    13. Hip Dips

    Chris Freytag demonstrating hip dips
    Photo Credit: Get Healthy U

    While no one workout can get rid of love handles (only fat loss and clean eating can do that – sorry!) hip dips really build those oblique muscles. Strong, defined obliques are muscles to be proud of.

     

    1) Begin in a forearm plank position with your forearms flat on the mat, making sure that your elbows are aligned directly under your shoulders, your core is engaged, and your body is in a straight line from your head to your feet.

    2) Lower your left hip toward the floor until it almost touches and then immediately raise back to the center.

    3) Repeat on the right side.

    Target: transverse abdominus, external obliques, internal obliques

    14. Double Leg Stretch

    Chris Freytag demonstrating double leg stretch
    Photo Credit: Get Healthy U

     

    1) Start lying on your back with knees bent 90 degrees and arms lengthened alongside calves.  The low back should be pressed against the mat with the head, neck, and shoulders flexed up off the mat.

    2) As you inhale, stretch your arms straight behind your head and legs straight to a diagonal position in front. As you exhale, circle your arms around and back to your legs while drawing your knees back into the 90-degree angle. Repeat for the desired number of reps.

    Targets: transverse abdominus, rectus abdominus

    15. Plank To Balance Plank

    Chris Freytag demonstrating plank to balance plank
    Photo Credit: Get Healthy U

    How to perform plank to balance plank:

    1) Begin in a plank position with your shoulders over your wrists and your body in a straight line.

    2) Simultaneously raise your right hand off and left foot off the floor, squeezing your abs and glutes.

    Targets: transverse abdominus

     

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