The most popular core workout is one that works the entire core. If one portion is weak – other, stronger muscles take over. Have you ever felt your lower back or your upper abs take over during a plank or a crunch? This is why…those muscles are stronger. So working the core as a unit is so important.
Your lower abs are not separate from your upper abs. They belong to the rectus abdominis or the “six-pack” muscle. But they can work separately. Popular exercises target the upper abs, while the lowers abs, obliques and transverse abdominis are most times under recruited. Different types of exercises will activate different portions of the core.
In the best 6 exercises for women we will incorporate the entire core using different planes of motion. Note: if this is the first time exercising your transverse abdominis – start with our Core Principles workout.
Ab Wood Chop
Setup: Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Grab two small hand weights (using weights is optional) and hold them together, using both hands, over your left shoulder.
Lift your right knee upward as you bring the weights down, making a “chopping” motion, and shift your weight over to your left leg. Bring the weights back up over your shoulder as you lower your leg back down. Repeat and then switch sides, holding the weights in the opposite hand and lifting your opposite leg.
Advanced Dead Bug
Setup: Begin lying on your back with legs bent
*Beginners — start with only the legs. If you do not feel it in your back you can add your arms. Stronger muscles like the back extensors can take over in this exercise. Starting with the legs only should prevent that.
Lift your legs and arms off the ground, keeping your knees bent. Lower one arm to the ground and lower your opposite leg at the same time. Repeat with your opposite arm and leg. Continue to alternate. Maintain your low back on the floor and keep abdominals drawn down towards your spine. If you cannot maintain lower back, start by alternating arms. As you become stronger alternate legs only. Then progress to opposite arm and leg.
Lateral Waistline Extension
Setup: Stand with your feet turned out and bend your knees, keeping your back straight, so you are in a deep plie squat position. Hold a small hand weight in each hand, bending your arms so the weights are up near your ears.
Keeping your torso facing forward, lean to the left side, bringing our left elbow down toward your left knee. Straighten your arms so the weight in your left hand goes toward the floor, between your legs, and your right hand extends straight up toward the ceiling. Bend your arms again, bringing the weights back near your ears and then bring your torso up back to the starting position. Repeat and then begin again, twisting toward the right.
Setup: Lie on your back with your right leg extended straight and your left leg bent, placing your left foot near your right knee.
Tuck your right hand under your back and your left arms straight above your head, holding a small hand weight. To begin the exercise, lift your right foot up about a foot off the ground, keeping your leg straight. Then, lift your left arm and hand weight up as well, raising it to the ceiling as you also lift your head, engaging your abs–so your lower back stays on the tucked hand. Lower your left arm back down and then your right leg back down. Repeat the exercise and then switch sides, raising and lowering your opposite leg and arm.
Lateral Half Moon Abs
Setup: Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, arms outstretched to each side and a small hand weight in each hand.
Bring your right hand up over your head, reaching toward the left as you simultaneously reach your left hand down and toward your right hip. Lean your torso slightly toward the left as you reach. Bring your arms back to the starting position as you stand up. Repeat the exercise and then start again, reaching toward the right side instead.
Setup: Sit on a mat with your knees slightly bent, toes touching the mat. Lean back, engaging your lower abs, at a 45 degree angle with the ground.
Hold a small hand weight in each hand. Keeping your back straight, twist your torso to the left while you raise your left knee upward, bringing your right elbow toward your left knee. Lower your leg back down so your toes are again touching the floor and lean back so you are again in the starting position. Then, twist toward the opposite side, bringing your right knee up and left elbow toward your right knee. Return to the starting position again. Repeat and keep your abs tight and engaged throughout the motions.
*Modification: follow Sommer on the right – keep your feet on the ground.