The truth about abs, or the rectus abdominal muscle, is that you cannot activate only the lower part without activating the upper part. It is one muscle that runs down the anterior side of your stomach. However, there are exercises that require more contraction of the lower abs, which is why you may feel more sore there as opposed to your upper abdominal area. For many of us, the lower abs are not activated as much as the upper. Most of the time we are sitting up from lying down rather than lifting our hips and legs up which requires more lower abs. Our lower abdomen is also a common area where fat cells gather, making it even harder to visibly sculpt those muscles. These 5 exercises will both activate your entire abdominal muscle and require a deeper contraction of that hard to reach lower ab area.
1. Leg Circles– Sit on the ground and lean back onto your forearms. Pull your knees in to your chest and press your forearms into the ground to pull your shoulder blades down your back and lift your chest up. Straighten your legs to a 45 degree angle with your legs slightly turned out. You may soften your knees if you are gripping too much with your hip flexors. The stronger your abs get, the more you will be able to keep the tension in your abs instead of the hips. Without moving the torso or changing your posture, lower your legs down a few inches and then circle them around and up. Always initiate the leg circle from your abdominals and complete the circle by squeezing your inner thighs. Do 5 in this direction and then reverse your circles. Work up to 10 in each direction. To modify this exercise, you may lie down flat and lift your head and shoulders off the ground with your hands behind the head. The lower your legs dip in the circle, the more ab control you need to prevent your back from arching.
2. Tabletop Toe Touches– Lie flat on your back with your legs at a tabletop. Squeeze your inner thighs together and make sure your knees are in line with your hips. Bringing your knees to close to your chest deactivates your core. Pull your navel to your spine so that there is no space between your lower back and the ground. Point your toes. Move the legs as one unit from the hips down. Very slowly lower your toes to the ground, hinging at the hip. Go as far as possible without letting the lower back lift off the ground. This requires major ab control. If your lower back starts lifting before your toes tap the ground then that is your maximum. From your max point, use your abs to slowly raise your legs back up to a tabletop position. You may work more of your transverse abdominals by doing one leg at a time. Do ten reps of each.
3. Butt Lifts– Lie down on your back with your legs up in the air. You may soften your knees and cross one ankle over the other. Trying to keep your legs from coming towards your face, use your lower abs to lift your butt off the ground. Reach your feet towards the ceiling to help you keep your legs from swinging towards you each time. The key is not to use momentum or too much of your arms to get your butt up. You may need to at first, but eventually you want to keep your arms as relaxed as possible to really isolate your abs. Do 10 and then cross the opposite ankle over and do 10 more.
4. Walking– Lie on your back with your hands behind your head. Contract your upper abs to keep your head and shoulders lifted off the ground. Start with your legs in parallel and straight up to the sky at 90 degrees. Alternate lowering lowering each leg down to the ground for six counts. Then reverse the movement and take six counts to walk back up to 90 degrees. Flex your feet and reach through your heels as if you are really trying to make a footprint in the air as you walk down and up. The slower you move and the lower your legs go, the more challenging the exercise. Just be sure not to arch the lower back. Scoop those abs in!
5. Stomach Massage– This is an advanced move that is one of my favorites for the abs. Sit on the floor hugging your knees so your feet are flat on the ground in front of your tailbone. Your feet should be in a Pilates V, heels together and toes apart. Drop your head, round your spine by scooping the abs in keep your shoulder blades down your back. Place your fingertips gently on the floor in front of you by your sides. Lean slightly back so that you can lift your heels an inch off the ground while balancing on your tailbone. Press your feet out straight in front of you without letting them touch the ground and then pull your knees back in using your abs. The hardest part is keeping your shoulders over your hips instead of leaning back to get the legs out. To do this you must pull your abdominals deeply into your back so that you can balance your weight. Give those inner thighs a good squeeze as your straighten your legs out to really activate the lower abs. Do 10 reps.
These exercise can be completed within a few minutes when done back to back so it’ll be easy to add them to your exercise routine. You will definitely feel your lower abs working and eventually, burning off the fat cells that like to collect over that area! As always, remember to keep a healthy diet and balance out your workouts with some cardio to achieve the best results.
More core exercises: 4 Moves to a Slimmer Waistline
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Video: Crystal Chin