10 Lower Ab Exercises for a Stronger Core

It's important to maintain a strong core, as it strengthens your lower back, improves your posture, and helps stabilize your entire body. Nearly all body movements originate from the core, so strengthening these muscles will increase your range of motion, as well as protect you from injury while performing everyday tasks. 

Of course, some people long for flat, washboard abs for aesthetic reasons, but find it difficult to reach their six-pack goals. Standard crunches alone aren't enough to achieve total definition, so it's crucial to mix up your routine.

The lower abdominal area, commonly called the "lower-abs," is an area that some people try to target with exercise. But the "lower abs" are not a muscle group, so you can't necessarily isolate this area during a workout. The lower abdominal area is really just the lower end of the rectus abdominis, a muscular sheath that runs from the bottom of the rib cage to the pubic symphysis. When you work the rectus abdominis, you work the entire muscle, not just the lower end or the upper end.

But you can still challenge yourself by working the rectus abdominis (and the other three abdominal muscles: the internal and external obliques and the deep transverse abdominis) in different ways. This can include exercises that involve the legs and hip flexors. When you do these exercises, you might feel the lower part of the abdominal area become more active.

Get started with these 10 exercises that target the area while strengthening your entire core. 

1

V-Sits

Woman on yoga mat doing a v-sit exercise

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

The V-sit ab exercise works multiple areas of your core, building abdominal strength while challenging your balance. To perform this exercise, create a V shape with your body, lifting your torso off the ground and extending your legs upward.

If you are a beginner, you can modify this movement by using your hands for support or bending your legs slightly at the knee to perform a knee tuck.

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Begin in a seated position with your feet and hands on the floor.
  • While contracting your core, slowly lift your legs to an extended position, creating a 45-degree angle with your torso.
  • Reach your arms straight forward or reach up toward your shins, as long as it feels comfortable for your body. Be sure to maintain good core posture and a strong spine throughout the movement, and avoid rounding the shoulders. It is natural to hold your breath, but remember to keep breathing.
  • Start by holding this position for several seconds until your body fatigues. As you become more accustomed to the movement, you will be able to hold the position longer.
  • Carefully return to your starting position while keeping your abdominal muscles engaged.
  • Stop and hold the position for several seconds before releasing your body to the floor.
  • Repeat this movement 20 to 25 times.
2

Reverse Crunches

Reverse Crunch

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

The reverse crunch is a variation of the traditional abdominal crunch exercise. During this movement, your upper body remains on the mat as you contract your abs, bringing your legs toward your chest.

This move targets the entire rectus abdominis muscle, hitting those hard to reach lower abs. This exercise only uses bodyweight, making it a great addition to any core workout.

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Lying face up, bring your legs to a tabletop position, bending your knees and stacking them above your hips. With your hands behind your head, bend your elbows so they are pointed out to the side, or rest them next to your body on the floor for increased stability. Engage your abs to bring your shoulders off the floor. This will be your starting position.
  • With your abs contracted, slowly bring your hips off the floor, pulling your knees in toward your chest.
  • Carefully lower your hips and legs back to the starting position.
  • Perform two to three sets of eight to 10 reps.
3

Pilates Scissors

Pilates Scissors

Verywell / Ben Goldstein 

This Pilates scissors exercise is great for targeting both the upper and lower abs, as well as the obliques. The criss-cross motion will also give you a good stretch in your hamstrings and hip flexors.

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Start on your back with your knees bent, placing your feet on the floor. Breathing in deeply, press your shoulders and the backs of your arms into the mat.
  • Pull your knees toward your chest and bring your hips off the mat, creating an upside-down position, with your body's weight resting on your shoulders. Grasp the back of your pelvis with your hands, placing your elbows directly under your hips.
  • Extend your hips and your legs, keeping your legs together. Envision yourself lengthening your body as you support yourself in this upside-down position.
  • Ensure your neck is long and your chest is open. If you need to modify, drop your shoulders to get additional support from the backs of your upper arms.
  • Open your legs and move them in a scissoring motion away from each other. Avoid overextending the overhead leg.
  • In an open position, pulse the legs twice, then switch legs. Remember to keep your pelvis stable.
  • Repeat the scissor motion six times per set.
4

Double Leg Lifts

Double Straight Leg Lower/Lift

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

This compound double leg lift movement works both your upper and lower abdominal muscles, as well as the hip flexors. You'll also activate the front of your thighs (quadriceps) and the buttocks (gluteal) muscles.

Proper technique for this movement involves breathing in deeply toward your back and sides.

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Beginning flat on your back, start by extending your legs up toward the ceiling. Keep your heels together and rotate your legs out slightly, pointing your toes. Keep your hands behind your head, making sure your elbows are wide and your chest is open.
  • Inhale deeply. On the exhale, pull your abdominals to the floor. The motion will press your lower back into the mat, and you will curl your upper torso up off the floor. This is the starting position.
  • Keeping your abdominals pulled in and your back pressed into the mat, lengthen your legs from your hips, lowering them slowly. As a modification, you may lower the legs in three stages. Remember, the lowering movement should take longer than the lifting motion.
  • Lower your legs as far as you can while still maintaining proper alignment, then pause.
  • Exhale and lift your legs upright in a controlled motion, keeping the abs contracted.
  • Check your position to be sure your elbows are wide and your chest is open.
  • Repeat this exercise six to eight times.
5

Bicycle Crunches

Bicycle Crunches

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

The bicycle crunch effectively targets the lower abdominal muscles, as well as the obliques. This is a beginner move that requires only a mat.

Since your legs are raised throughout the movement, you're engaging the deep ab muscles throughout the entire exercise.

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Lying face up with your legs in a tabletop position, start by placing your hands behind your head with your elbows bent and pointing out to the sides. Engage your abs to curl your shoulders off the floor. This is the starting position.
  • Twist your body and bring your right elbow to your left knee, simultaneously straightening your right leg.
  • Next, twist to bring your left elbow to your right knee, simultaneously straightening your left leg.
  • Moving at a slow pace, put your mind into the muscle, controlling the twist so you can feel your abs working.
  • Aim for three to four sets of 15 to 20 reps.
6

Bird-Dogs

bird dog pose

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

The bird-dog is a bodyweight movement that strengthens the abdominal muscles, lower back, and glutes. This exercise requires only a mat, as you will use your own body weight as resistance during the movement.

You can perform bird-dogs anywhere that provides a comfortable place for your hands and knees, and a bit of extra room to extend your arms and legs. Your core will be activated during this movement as you use the muscles for stability to maintain your balance.

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Begin with your knees hip-width apart and your hands pressed against the mat at about a should-width distance. Contract your abdominals.
  • To get a feel for the motion, lift one hand and its opposite knee an inch or so off the floor, balancing on the other hand and knee. Center your weight.
  • When you feel steady enough for a full range of motion, extend one arm straight in front of you, with the opposite leg behind you. You should aim to form a straight line from your hand to foot, with your hips square. Engage your abs to prevent your lower back from sagging.
  • Hold this movement for a few seconds before returning to your hands and knees. Switch sides.
  • Keep your abdominal muscles engaged throughout the entire movement. Avoid using momentum to complete the reps, slowing down as needed to maintain proper form.
  • Complete five reps on each side for a total of 10 reps per set. Aim for three sets total.
7

Dead Bugs

dead bug exercise

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

This may not be the most conventional-sounding exercise, but the strange name aside, the dead bug is highly effective for your core. This bodyweight movement requires only a mat and is performed lying on your back.

You'll keep your torso still and your abdominal muscles contracted, extending and retracting your opposite arms and legs, challenging your stability by preventing your body from rocking back-and-forth.

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Lying flat on your mat, extend your arms straight above your chest, forming a perpendicular angle with your torso. Bend your knees and hips 90-degrees, bringing your feet up from the ground. Next, form a right angle with your torso and thighs, and with your thighs and shins. This is the starting position.
  • Tighten your core, keeping your lower back pressed into the mat. Be sure your spine is stable and neutral throughout the movement.
  • Keep your right arm and left leg steady. Next, slowly reach your left arm above your head and toward the floor, simultaneously extending your right knee and hip as you reach your right heel toward the floor. Move slowly, inhaling during the extensions. Avoid twisting or movement of your abs and hips. Stop the movement just before your leg and arm reach the ground.
  • Switch the movement by returning your left arm and right leg to their starting positions. Move slowly on the exhale.
  • Perform the same movements to the opposite sides, this time keeping your left arm and right leg steady as you extend your right arm and left leg.
  • Aim for three sets of five to 10 reps on each side.
8

Mountain Climbers

Mountain Climbers Annotated

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Performed from a plank position, mountain climbers involve bringing one knee to the chest then back out again, speeding up each time. During the exercise, you'll feel like you are running against the floor. This movement works nearly every muscle group in the body while providing a cardio boost to your workout.

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Begin in a high plank position—palms flat on the floor, hands shoulder-width apart (or wider), shoulders stacked above your wrists. Your legs will be extended, with your core engaged.
  • Tightening your core, draw your right knee to your chest.
  • Return to the starting position and quickly bring your left knee to your chest.
  • Moving swiftly, repeat this movement in an alternating motion.
  • Avoid rounding your back, remembering to keep it flat in order to engage your core. It's fine to move more slowly to maintain proper form.
  • This exercise may also be performed with a twist variation to activate the oblique muscles.
  • If you are a beginner, aim for 15 to 20 consecutive mountain climbers. For those who are more advanced, work toward sets of 25 to 30.
9

Pilates Hundred

Classic Pilates Hundred

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

This classic Pilates hundred exercise is named for the 100 beats you will perform with your arms during the set. The exercise is performed on a mat, with your legs extended, and your head and shoulders lifted.

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Begin by lying flat on your back. Next, raise your legs, bending them at the knee to form the tabletop position. Your shins and ankles will be parallel to the floor.
  • Take a deep breath in, then exhale.
  • Lift your head up and point your chin down. Using your abdominal muscles, curl the upper part of your spine up off the floor to the base of your shoulder blades. Keep the shoulders engaged in the back. Scoop your abs in and inhale.
  • Exhale while simultaneously deepening the contraction of the abs. Extend your arms and legs. Position your legs lower for more advanced core work, but only as low as you can go without shaking or pulling your spine up off the mat. To modify, you may adjust your legs higher.
  • Extend your arms so they are just a few inches off the floor, pointing straight out with the fingertips reaching toward a far wall.
  • Hold the position, taking five short breaths in and five short breaths out (sniff in through your nose and puff out through your mouth). At the same time, pulse your arms up and down, keeping the movement controlled. Remember, your shoulders and neck should be relaxed, leaving your abdominal muscles to do the work.
  • Complete a cycle of 10 full breaths. Each cycle is five short in-breaths and then five short out-breaths. Pulse your arms in unison with your breath, keeping your abs scooped, and your back flat against your mat.
  • Keep your head pointing down, and be sure your breaths are big. Breathe into your side and your back. If you're unsure of what this should feel like, take some time to learn more about lateral breathing.
  • To finish, keep your spine in a curved position, bringing your knees in toward your chest. Hug your knees, and relax your upper spine and head back down to the floor. Take a deep breath in, then out.
10

Yoga Boat Pose (Navasana)

Boat pose annotated exercise

 Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Boat Pose (Navasana) is a yoga-based move with a focus on building abdominal strength. Like many yoga poses, you'll work a number of different muscle groups during this exercise.

It will also help you work on your balance by strengthening muscles that naturally weaken through everyday activities, such as sitting at a desk.

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Start by sitting up straight with your legs bent, keeping your feet flat on the floor.
  • Press your legs together, slowly lift them off the floor until they form a 45-degree angle to your torso. Keeping your back flat, engage your core, balancing your weight on your tailbone.
  • If you're a beginner, feel free to keep your knees bent. For more of a challenge, straighten out your legs.
  • Reach your arms out in front of your body, keeping them parallel to the floor. For extra support, place your hands on the floor, just underneath your hips.
  • Hold the position for 10-20 seconds, gradually increasing your hold time until you reach one minute.
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Article Sources
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  1. McCall P. American Council on Exercise. Functional Anatomy Series. The Abdominals. April 2016.