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Helpful Ab Exercises For Women

Medically reviewed by Karyn Eilber, MD, Susan Kerrigan, MDAsma Khapra, MD, and Marianne Madsen on March 14. 2023

Forget traditional sit-ups and crunches: if you want lean, toned abdominal muscles, you’ll need to adopt a new lower body routine. And since there aren’t many differences between men’s and women’s muscles, you can do the same exercises that men use to strengthen their core. In addition to having great looking abs, a strong core also improves balance and stability, can reduce back pain, and reduces the risk of injury.




The plank is the classic ab workout. It primarily works your abdominal muscles but is good for your back and shoulders, too. You can do it anywhere that you can get on the floor, and it’s highly effective for developing strong abs. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Lie down on the floor and prop yourself up on your elbows, then rest on your forearms.
  2. Raise yourself up on your toes.
  3. Maintain a flat back and contract your abdominal and glute muscles. 
  4. Keep your glutes in line with your back.
  5. Hold the position for 30 to 60 seconds, then repeat for 3 to 5 reps.
  6. To challenge yourself more, you can do hip dips by alternately touching the outside of each hip on the ground to create a rainbow shape in the air.


Leg raise


The leg raise is a simple but challenging core exercise. It targets your entire core, including your abs. As a bonus, it works the hips and lower back, making them more flexible. 


  1. Lie down on your back, with your arms by your sides.
  2. Keeping your legs as straight as possible, slowly raise your legs keeping the soles of your feet toward the ceiling. 
  3. Slowly lower your legs and repeat for 10 repetitions. Aim for 3 sets of 10. 
  4. Keep your lower spine touching the mat during the exercise, as opposed to arching your low back.


Side plank


The side plank isn’t only good for strengthening the oblique muscles, it also improves balance and coordination. It’s essential for a strong core and should be part of any well-rounded ab routine.


  1. Lie on your side, with your forearm resting on the floor and both legs extended.  
  2. Prop yourself up using your hips. Tighten your core. Lift the arm that’s not resting on the floor.
  3. Hold the position for 30 to 60 seconds, then switch sides and repeat for 3 to 5 reps.
  4. You can challenge yourself by lowering and raising the hip closest to the ground.


Alternate heel touches


Warning: these are more difficult than they look. But if you can handle them, you’ll get a great oblique workout that works the abs and the upper back muscles as well.


  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent.
  2. Keep your arms by your sides with your palms up.
  3. Slightly elevate your shoulders, engage your obliques and touch your right ankle with your right hand. Repeat using the left hand.
  4. Continue alternating in this manner for 30 to 60 seconds. Repeat for 3 to 5 sets.




Also known as the V-up, the jackknife is an advanced core exercise that works both your upper and lower abs. 


  1. Lie on your back with your legs extended and arms behind your head. 
  2. Lift your upper and lower body at the same time and touch your feet, forming a V-shape with your lower abdominals and upper thighs.
  3. Hold the position for 3 seconds and then lower back down. Repeat for 10 reps and try to complete 2-3 sets. 


The exercises mentioned above are only some of the most effective ab exercises for women, but if you do them regularly, you’ll have a powerful core in no time. Make sure you use proper form while performing any of these to avoid risk of injury.


Written by Natan Rosenfeld

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