Your lower abs are high maintenance. It takes a clean diet and consistent regimen to make them pop. While your total-body sessions hit your core, it’s equally important to do a targeted lower ab workout at least once a week. Doing so can reduce and prevent low-back pain, and help correct posture and pelvic tilt issues. A strong core connection and understanding how to engage your lower abs will improve your everyday movements but also unlock greater strength gains whether you’re training at home or in the gym.
Over time, you’ll stop overworking the muscles you’re not trying to target—but often take over—and see more defined lower abs. Some tips before you attack the lower ab workout below: Targeting the lower abs can be thwarted by tight, overactive hip flexors; overdoing an exercise’s range of motion; and moving too quickly. But don’t get disheartened! The circuit below will give you the tips and confidence to get where you’re trying to go.
Best of all, this workout entirely comprises bodyweight exercises. All you need is a yoga mat and some will power.
Directions: Perform 1 round for a quick fire up or 3 rounds total for a full roast.
The Best At-Home Lower Ab Workout
1. Toe Taps x 10 reps each side
Lie on your back with arms actively pressing into the ground, head and neck relaxed. (Bonus: This move activates your triceps and opens up your chest). Raise legs into tabletop position with knees stacked above hips, shins parallel to the ground, feet relaxed. Inhale, then lower one foot at a time toward the floor, keeping the 90-degree bend at the knee. Tap the floor, then exhale to draw the leg back to the starting position. Alternate and perform on the other side; that’s 1 rep. To make it harder, take hands behind your head with elbows wide, lifting your shoulder blades off the floor. This spicy variation works the upper abs at the same time and add a stability challenge. Watch a video demonstration here on slide 1 (go to slide 2 for the advanced variation).
Pro tips: Go as slow as possible, and let a steady, consistent breath control the movement. A deep exhale will help engage your lower abs more. Watch that you don’t draw your knees in too close to your chest, always stop the knees a little farther away than you think (no closer than directly above hips) to keep the core engaged.
2. Forearm Plank With Knee Taps x 10 reps each side
Come into a forearm plank with forearms directly under shoulders, legs extended long. Activate your quads, engage your glutes, and stay on your toes by flexing feet and shifting weight forward. Draw your lower abs up and in—almost like you have an invisible tuck. This is subtle, but helps keep your back safe and engages your abs more. With everything fired up, start to gently lower one knee at a time to tap the floor. Use your lower abs and breath to control the movement. Your upper and lower body should remain still and stable. Alternate and perform on the other side; that’s 1 rep. Continue alternating on every rep. Watch a video demonstration here on slide 4.
Pro tip: To engage your serratus (the large muscle that extends from the outside of your ribs to just beneath your shoulder blades) and lats more, imagine you’re drawing your elbows back toward your hips.
3. Diagonal Dead Bugs x 10 reps each side
Lie on your back with arms straight up above shoulders, head and neck relaxed, knees stacked above hips, shins parallel to the ground, and feet flexed. Inhale, then extend your left arm and right leg away from you on a diagonal while keeping your right arm and left leg completely still. Exhale to come back to center. Alternate and perform on the other side, extending right arm and left leg; that’s 1 rep. Watch a video demonstration here on slide 4.
Pro tip: Move slow and controlled to get the most out of this exercise and keep your black flat to the ground but not fully pressed to the floor. This exercise will work your lower abs with the bonus of hitting your entire core. If you really nail the diagonal angle, you’ll feel your obliques fire fast!
4. Slow Reverse Crunch x 20 reps
Lie on your back with arms pressed firmly into the floor, knees bent and feet close to glutes. It’s key you keep them here the entire time. With a tilt of your pelvis, use your lower abs to lift your hips an inch off the floor with knees coming in toward your chest. Lower back slowly with control so you can’t use momentum for your next rep (this is not a rocking movement). Watch a video demonstration here on slide 8.
Pro tip: Try not to shrug your shoulders or use your arms too much so you can really hit your core. You can get as little or as much as you want from this exercise so my top advice is to slow it down and control each rep.
5. Single-Leg Lower to Hip Lift x 10 reps each side
Lie on your back and raise legs into tabletop position with knees stacked above hips. Extend your left leg straight up toward the ceiling. Take both hands behind your head and roll up to the tips of your shoulder blades. Inhale, then extend your left leg down toward the floor as low as you can control it, then exhale and draw it straight back up. Once back at the starting position, use that pelvic tilt to lift the hips just off the floor. Complete all reps on one side, then switch. Watch a video demonstration here on slide 6.
Pro tip: Stay on the tips of your shoulder blades. This provides a killer stability challenge and upper ab scorcher from the head and shoulders being lifted. You’re welcome.
Kirsty Godso is a Nike Master Trainer and founder of Made Of Whey Protein Isolate