Take an informal poll at the gym about which body part is hardest to target, and you’ll probably get some strange looks. But you’ll also likely hear “lower abs” more than anything else.
So if you feel like all those crunches aren’t showing dividends at the lowest portion of your abdominals, you’re not alone. Below, we’ll explain why and recommend a few trainer-approved exercises that will get the job done.
“There are four primary muscle groups in your core but only two main muscle groups in the abs: the rectus abdominis and transverse abdominis,” says Aaptiv Trainer Kenta Seki.
He explains that the rectus abdominis is the top layer of the abs, so it is the most visible and generally the easiest to target.
The transverse abdominis, on the other hand, makes up the underlying abdominal muscles. According to Seki, it “connects to a deeper part of the pelvis, so it takes more focus to engage.”
The Benefits of Building Strong Abs
Having a flat stomach is not the same as having a strong core. The former may look good, but the latter is central to health and mobility. “Your core is literally the center of your body, and it helps with many types of functions, including breathing, digestion, bone/joint stabilization, and, of course, movement,” Seki says. “Having a strong core can help many of these functions.”
Maintaining strong lower abs, in particular, can also help your lower back. Seki notes that many people suffer from lower back pain caused by an anterior pelvic tilt—also known as an overarched lower back.
This extra arching can occur for a variety of reasons but is commonly associated with prolonged sitting, bad posture, and poor movement patterns. But it “can be prevented with a strong transverse abdominis,” Seki says.
Five Exercises to Target Your Lower Abs
Building strong abdominal muscles (we love this little gadget) will protect your lumbar spine, promote good posture, and protect your internal organs.
To help your cause, Seki shares five of his favorite ab exercises below. Add them to your workout regimen, stick with it, and you’ll feel the effects.
This classic core move hits every inch of your abdominals while also strengthening your back and improving overall stability. A low plank performed on your forearms targets those deep ab muscles better than a high plank on your hands.
Get into position on your forearms and toes, maintaining a straight line from your shoulders to your heels, and hold. Don’t let your hips drop toward the floor, as this puts pressure on your lower back.
The leg raise is a trainer favorite for targeting the lower abs and can be performed from a hanging bar or on the ground. As the latter requires zero equipment, you can do it anywhere.
Lie on your back with your legs straight out and arms at your sides. Keep your abs tight and your lower back pressed into the ground. Keeping your legs straight, slowly raise them to a 90-degree angle, then lower them back down toward the ground. To make the move more difficult, raise them up again before your feet hit the ground.
Flutter kicks are simply a variation of the leg raise and are great when you want to mix things up. They work your abs, lower back, and hip flexors.
Start flat on your back with your legs straight out and arms at your sides. Lift your heels about six inches off the floor, then flutter your legs in a scissorlike motion. Switch between short, quick flutters and long, slow movements to get the most out of this exercise.
This seemingly simple move is deceptively difficult, but if you can master the hollow man, you’ll give your lower abs quite the workout.
Lie on your back with your legs straight, feet together, and arms stretched overhead. While pressing your lower back into the ground, slowly raise your arms, shoulders, and legs until you form a “hollow” body shape, like a shallow curve. Keep your abs tight, and hold this position.
The hip bridge is a multifaceted move that works your glutes, hamstrings, and core.
Start flat on your back with your arms at your sides and knees bent. Place your feet flat on the floor, about hip-width apart and just a few inches from your butt. Pushing through your heels, squeeze your glutes and abs, and raise your hips to the sky until you create a diagonal line from your shoulders to your knees. Hold at the top before lowering back down.
While we know that abs are made in the kitchen, you can still build strength in your lower abs with this series of exercises. For more workouts that target this hard-to-hit area, head to the Aaptiv app and look for core workouts in the Strength Training section.