15 Best Ab Workouts for Women: Total Core Exercises

By: Chris Freytag, CPT // July 21, 2023

When it comes to the best ab workouts for women, 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, but the answer? None!

Instead, we have chosen 15 ab best exercises for women that target all of your core muscles. These abdominal exercises are perfect for women because they effectively target upper abs, lower abs, and obliques, helping you shed fat and tone up.

Why Crunches Alone Don’t Work

While incorporating crunches into your overall workout routine is fine, relying on them alone to get six-pack abs doesn’t cut it. The reason?

They only work a few abdominal muscles instead of your entire core, which is necessary for stronger, more visible abs. 

Not to mention, too many crunches can be a pain—literally. They push your curved spine against the floor, work your hip flexors to the max (which pulls on your lower spine), and leave you with some pretty brutal lower back pain. 

Related: 7 Things You Can Do To Get A Flat Tummy

Variety is the Key to Strong Abs

All of the hard work you put into your abs should be a balancing act: different exercises that target your lower abs, upper abs, external obliques, and internal obliques.

The key is to mix up your ab workouts! It’s the best way to strengthen your core and get the flat stomach you desire.

Best Ab Exercises For Women to Strengthen Your Core

For these ab workouts, no equipment is required—just your body weight!

As you approach these exercises, be sure to keep your ab muscles engaged so you get the most out of your workout.

Choose all or just a few of these exercises. Remember, a strong core requires working all of your ab muscle groups, so variety is key!

1. V-ups

Chris Freytag demonstrating v-ups

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

How to perform v-ups:

  • Lie flat on the floor and extend your arms behind your head. Keep your feet together and your toes pointed.
  • Keep your legs straight and lift them up as you 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

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

How to perform side plank dips:

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

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!

How to perform a side plank reach-through:

  • 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.)
  • Tighten the abdominals and slowly scoop your left arm under your body, following with your eyes until you can see behind you.
  • Slowly reach the left hand back to start position.

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

4. Toe Reach

Chris Freytag demonstrating toe touch with reach

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

How to perform toe reaches:

  • Start on your back with your legs long-reaching towards the ceiling.
  • Bring your head, neck, and shoulders off the mat and reach your arms up towards your feet. Return to the tips of the shoulders and repeat.

Targets: rectus abdominus, transverse abdominus

5. Plank

Chris Freytag demonstrating a plank

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

How to perform a plank:

  • Begin kneeling on all fours with your hands directly under your shoulders and toes on the mat.
  • Tighten your abdominals and raise your body up off the floor, lengthening your legs behind you. Hold your entire body tight, and remember to breathe.

Targets: transverse abdominus

Related: The Ultimate 8 Minute Plank Challenge

6. Bicycle Crunch

Chris Freytag demonstrating bicycle crunch

Bicycle crunches build coordination and a strong core and are one of the best ab exercises for women!

How to perform a bicycle crunch:

  • Start lying on your back with your feet off the floor and legs in a tabletop position. Hands are behind your head, and your head, neck, and shoulders are flexed off the mat.
  • Bring one knee in and to the opposite elbow, 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

The boat pose is deceptively simple. This move takes incredible core strength while building even more core strength. A win-win!

How to perform a boat pose:

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

Sweeping scissors are a great way to flatten your belly and strengthen your entire core!

How to perform sweeping scissors:

  • Start lying on the mat with your arms over your head and legs long.
  • Sweep arms out to the your sides and bring your head, neck, and shoulders off the mat. While reaching arms long, lift one leg up and in towards the chest.  Reach your arms forward, one on each side of your 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

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

How to perform side-to-side obliques:

  • Lie on the mat and bring your knees into your chest, forming a tabletop position. Bring the head, neck, and shoulder off the mat, coming into a crunch, with reaching arms long at the sides.
  • Exhale as you reach your right fingers to forward to the right side, then return to center on the inhale. Exhale and reach left fingers forward to the left side. Switch side to side without lowering onto the mat.

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

Related: Oblique Workout For Increased Range Of Motion

10. Bend-Extend Ab Tuck

Chris Freytag demonstrating bend extend ab tucj

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

How to perform a bend-extend ab tuck:

  • 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.
  • Keep abs tight, press your legs out long, and lower back down slightly (you should feel your lower abdominals working). 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

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.

How to perform spiderman abs:

  • Start in a plank position with your hands on the mat, slightly wider than your shoulders, with legs long behind you and abdominals and glutes squeezed tight.
  • Pull the left knee toward the outside of your left elbow and hold for one count. Return to the starting position and repeat on the right side.

Targets: transverse abdominus, external obliques, internal obliques

12. Forearm Star Plank

Chris Freytag demonstrating forearm star plank

Wondering how women can really strengthen their core? Through consistent core work and switching things up. 

This forearm star plank is a plank variation that will help strengthen your core and those lower abs that can be so hard to get.

How to perform a forearm star plank:

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

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!

How to perform hip dips:

  • 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.
  • Lower your left hip toward the floor until it almost touches, then immediately raise back to the center.
  • Repeat on the right side.

Target: transverse abdominus, external obliques, internal obliques

Related: 7 Yoga Poses To Relieve Tight Hips

14. Double Leg Stretch

Chris Freytag demonstrating double leg stretch

The double leg stretch is a challenging move, but it works both your upper and lower abs. You’ll definitely love the results from this one!

How to perform a double leg stretch:

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

The plank-to-balance plank strengthens your abdominals and lower back while training your body to have better balance and stability.

How to perform a plank-to-balance plank:

  • Begin in a plank position with your shoulders over your wrists and your body in a straight line.
  • Simultaneously raise your right hand and left foot off the floor, squeezing your abs and glutes. Repeat on the other side.

Targets: transverse abdominus


Which ab exercise is the most effective?

The bicycle crunch is the most effective abdominal workout, according to a study by the American Council on Exercise. They looked into this, ranking the best and worst abdominal exercises in order of their effectiveness.

The study looked at the effects of a number of different exercises, including traditional crunches and an ab roller on 30 healthy volunteers.

How do you lose that belly fat over those ab muscles to show off your hard work?

To burn the fat over your abs, you need to lose body fat overall. To do this you need to take into account both caloric intake and your exercise regimen. In terms of exercise, be sure to do cardio exercises that are focused on the lower body to elevate your heart rate.

This includes running or even power walking on a treadmill for at least 30 minutes. HIIT workouts are a great way to torch calories and burn fat.

What kind of food should I eat for flat abs?

Is there any special food that will help me get a flat tummy? While there’s no “six-pack-abs ingredient,” what you eat matters tremendously. Eating a clean high protein, low-carb diet with plenty of veggies will help you achieve your goal.

Also, be mindful of your digestion. If you’re eating foods that are irritating to your system it could be causing issues and you’ll need to learn to debloat your food choices. Prime bloating suspects include sugar, alcohol, and salty foods.

What Are The Abdominal Muscle Groups?

The abdominal muscle groups include:

Transversus Abdominus: Think of this as an internal corset that pulls you in nice and tight, keeping your tummy tight and back strong. When you cough or blow out candles, this is the muscle you are engaging.
External Obliques: The large muscles that wrap around your rib cage starting just beneath your arms. They help you flex, bend, twist, and rotate.
Internal Obliques: These are deeper side muscles than the external obliques, and help keep you stabilized.
Rectus Abdominus: This is the one most people think of when they look at their abs because it is noticeable. It is the muscle that runs up the front of the body and looks like a 6-pack when super lean. The rectus abdominus helps to flex the spine and provide stabilization during side bending and while your extremities are moving.

 READ THIS NEXT: Ab Workout at Home: Best Core Exercises (No Equipment)

Core Workouts, Fitness

Printed from GetHealthyU.com


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