Oh, those lower abdominal muscles are stubborn! For women, they need to be able to stretch and accommodate a growing baby. That's just how the female body is designed! But you can take control of nature and tighten that area with specific exercises. The bottom third of your transverse abs are known as the rectus abdominis (fun anatomy refresher), and they require support from the obliques (the side abs) and the hip flexors. The six moves listed below target those muscles. Once you get the technique down, increase your reps and intensity. Ready to give it a go? Check it out.
1. Reverse Crunch: Go straight for gold by lying on your back and lifting the legs over the hips. You can bend the knees because your main focus is the work your lower abs are doing. Push the belly button into the spine and create a scoop from the pubic bone to the belly button. The lift doesn't need to be huge, just enough! Try it for 60 seconds with Skinny Mom founder Brooke Griffin or get more details here.
2. Gliding Pike: This can be one you work up to. Grab some gliders (paper plates if you're on carpet, wash cloths if you're on hardwood) and press the balls of your feet into the centers. Get into your high plank. Shift your weight into the shoulders and hands as you pull the legs in using only your lower abs. That's one half of your body you'll pulling! If this is too difficult, try it without the gliders, walking the feet into a pike and back out to plank. Then reintroduce the gliders, inching up one leg then the other until you reach your pike. To see more about it, click here.
3. Weighted Russian Twist: As mentioned from the get-go, you'll need to work the surrounding muscles to help support the lower abdominals. Here, you'll work the lower belly and the obliques. Feet can be up as shown here or on the floor. The idea is to lean back, creating a "V" shape with the torso and thighs. Push the navel into the spine so it feels like you're rounding the lower back, but the chest stays lifted. Turn from side to side, send the elbows behind you. If you get dizzy, just look straight ahead! Focus the work on the belly, not the back. Get more tips here.
4. Ab Cyclone: Start a windstorm with your pretty legs as you send them around and around. Root your hips to the floor, placing your hands under your tailbone for support, if needed. Keep the legs together at all times, zipping up through the thighs and pointing the feet. Your range of motion doesn't need to be massive. Respect your body and work at the edge of your limits because that's the only way you'll get stronger! Make sure the muscles in your belly don't pop up and create a bread-loaf look or triangle. Keep them flat by focusing on the proper engagement of the core and protection of the back. Try it for 60 seconds right now, or bookmark this page for more.
5. Plank Tucks with TRX or Stability Ball: You have two options here: the TRX or the stability ball. By suspending the legs, you shift most of your weight and control into your upper body. It maxes out. The only body part left to move the legs in limbo is your core. Start the tuck by thinking about your hips. Lift them about an inch or two as you push the belly button into the spine and begin to bend the knees. That creates space for the legs to come underneath the body. Hold the torso in place using the abs as the legs extend to plank again. Do this exercise slowly and with god control. Five slow reps are better than 50 quick, sloppy reps. Find the plank tucks here or check out the stability ball version here.
6. Seated Tuck on BOSU: Flip over to your tailbone and sit on the center of a BOSU ball. This piece of equipment isn't easy to come by, so you can always sit on a bench or step instead. Rest your hands behind you for balance. Again with the belly button pull to the spine – make sure you're not arching the back. Tuck the knees close to the chest, then extend the legs as one unit and decline the torso. The trick is to not use your hands to push you up. If you want, keep the torso in the same place, but just crunch the legs in and out. To help, inhale on the way down and exhale as you bring the chest and thighs together. See more on the seated tuck here or check out the assisted boat crunch, which is the same move on a bench.
Disclaimer: The content of the Skinny Mom blog and website, including text, graphics and images, are for informational purposes only. The content of this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have. Do not disregard professional medical advice. Not all exercises are suitable for everyone.