We sought the advice of a PT and scoured Instagram for some useful abs-piration
When it comes to losing weight off your waist, is it possible to target your lower abs? In an ideal world, the answer would be yes, there would be one magic move that would do the trick on this particularly tricky area. Unfortunately though, there are more layers to this common fitness query than first meets the eye.
The rectus abdominus works as one unit and spot-reducing one ‘half’ is not only extremely difficult to do, but also could end up doing more harm than good in the long-run. As personal trainer and That Girl London’s Christina Howells puts it: “Toned lower abdominals are not the result of any one specific isolation exercise and require more than just training your abdominals, which in fact if you did would leave you with a pretty unbalanced core.”
Abs are said to be made in the kitchen and in addition to this, a multidimensional workout is needed to reduce overall body fat - especially since our stomachs are more likely to accumulate more of the stuff in the lower ab region. “Your lower abdominals are not going to be visible until this extra layer has gone,” says Christina. “To get results, you will need to implement a cardio as well as strength training regime that also focuses on your core while paying attention to your diet.”
Also central to an effective lower ab exercise regime is not just what you do in it, but how you do it. “The lower abdominals require mental focus to make sure you’re engaging them throughout,” explains Christina. “If you don’t engage your brain when doing these exercises, then you’re not likely to be engaging your lower abdominals. It’s simple really, lose your attention and you jeopardise your results.”
So provided diet and technique are addressed, any modifications/additions to your regime can be best maximised to achieve optimum results. We’ve asked Christina for her top ab workout upgrades in this regard and have also scoured social media for some useful lower ab exercise inspiration. Here are 7 of the best tips, moves and circuits that we’re found.
“This is an excellent core and lower abdominal exercise that also requires total body tension throughout,” says Christina. “Plank exercises are great and I particularly like to add movement so the abdominals have to work harder as stabilisers especially if you add gliders, swiss balls or a TRX.”
To do this, come into plank position, feet together with a glider under the ball of each foot. With your wrists in line with your shoulders, draw your thighs upwards, squeeze your bum tight and engage your abdominals to create a straight spine. Shoulders should be rolled down your back. Focus on engaging the abdominals deeper as you slide your feet towards your hips so your knees come to chest level. Keep that abdominal focus throughout. Return to the plank position and repeat 12-15 reps for 2 sets.
“This is a fantastic exercise to help you strengthen your anterior core muscles and focus on understanding how to engage your abdominals correctly,” says Christina. “Start by lying on the floor with the knees in line with your hips and hands in line with your shoulders. Subtly engage your abdominals while maintaining a neutral spine and keep the ribs polled down. On an exhale, move the opposite hand and foot away from each other while focusing on maintaining a neutral spine and keeping the abdominal braced. Repeat 20 reps.”
If you’re looking for a workout that strings a range of different moves together, this 4 minute 6-exercise ab circuit from The Body Coach could be your pick. From leg raises to double crunches, Joe recommends spending 30 seconds on each move with a 10 second rest in between each exercise to get the most out of it.
Leg raises on a swiss ball
To take your leg raises to the next level, Christina recommends using a swiss ball. “Keep your arms straight and chin slightly tucked in,” she recommends. “Focus on engaging your lower abdominals as you lower and lift the legs under control, maintaining a neutral spine. Be mindful not to flare your ribs as you lower the legs. You can modify this move by lowering and lifting one leg at a time.” Aim to do 8-12 reps focusing on quality over quantity.
Knee-up (pictures 5 and 6)
Recommended by our Editor Victoria Woodhall’s PT, Maria Angela Cireddu, the effectiveness of this exercise stems from activating the core. “Don't just go through the motions, put your brain into your muscles,” she says. With your abs engaged and upper body raised, extend your legs and then slowly pull your knees to your chest in a 90 degree angle to your body. Maria recommends doing 12-16 reps (depending on your level) for three sets.
Not technically an exercise, this Instagram video from personal trainer Shona Vertue focuses more on form than function regarding the best way to engage the abs when performing certain moves. “Remember you can’t spot reduce fat, but you can spot enhance and there are ways to ensure you’re actually activating the lower fibres of your whole rectus abdominus,” she writes. “Who would have guessed it involves squeezing your glutes (in some cases), and tucking the tailbone. I’ve shown you some examples here of minimal to no lower ab activation (eg. butt in air aka. anterior pelvic tilt aka. Nicky Minaj Posture) vs. posterior pelvic tilt in which you tuck your tailbone with better abdominal activation.”
Bench ab circuit
Providing an extra degree of support, this bench ab workout from Kayla Itsines provides some valuable ab-spiration when at a loss at how to best use the gym floor. Incorporating flutter kicks, leg raises and weight crunches as well as leaps over the bench for a quick hit of cardio, she recommends trying 10-15 reps for four rounds.