The 8 Best Ab Workouts for Women: Define & Strengthen Your Core

8 Best Ab Workouts for Women to Help Tone, Tighten, and Strengthen the Core

Having a strong core can make or break your next workout. No matter if you’re an avid runner, a golfer, or a bodybuilder, nearly every movement requires us to have balance, stability, and power throughout the core. Naturally, one of the best ways to boost core strength is with ab exercises! 

Read on to find out the top ab workouts for women to help tone, tighten, and strengthen the core. 

What Are the Core Muscles?

Our "core muscles" are comprised of the pelvis, lower back, hip flexors, and abdominal muscles. Making up most of our torso, the core helps stabilize the trunk while our arms and legs are in motion. 

The abdominal muscles, or ‘abs’ for short, make up a fraction of the core to help maintain harmony in motion across all dynamic muscle groups. Located along the front of the torso, between our ribs and pelvis, the abdominals are made up of four major muscle groups [1].

1. Rectus Abdominis: also known as the “6-pack muscle”, the rectus abdominis is a long, narrow muscle located directly beneath the skin and is responsible for helping our spine flex forward. 

2. Traverse Abdominis: the traverse abdominis is our deepest ab muscle that is most beneficial for stabilizing the spine and helping to prevent low back pain during movement. 

3. Internal Obliques: the internal oblique is a thin but broad muscle located on the lateral side of the torso. They function bilaterally, meaning that both sides work together to flex the trunk while also working unilaterally to laterally flex and rotate the spine. 

4. External Obliques: the external obliques are the outermost muscle in the abdominal region that work together with the internal obliques to forward flex, laterally flex, and rotate the spine. 

Why Is it Important to Strengthen the Core Muscles?

Strengthening the core muscles can be incredibly beneficial for our physical health and daily function. Sure, six-pack abs are impressive to look at, but the true benefits of a core strengthening workout are much deeper than this. 

The core muscles as a whole serve two essential purposes [2]: 

  1. to relieve the spine from excessive load, and 

  2. to transfer force from the lower body to the upper body (and vice versa)

Having a strong core helps improve balance and stability during rest and movement, encourages good posture, protects our organs, reduces or prevents back pain, boosts power, and helps make everyday life easier [3].

One of the best ways to improve core strength is with ab exercises! 


8 Best Ab Exercises for Women

We've got you covered if you’re searching for a well-rounded, functional core routine. Here are the eight best ab workouts for women that hone in on the abdominal muscles while also engaging many other important stabilizing muscles throughout the core. 

We suggest picking 3-5 exercises from the list below to perform for 30-60 seconds each before switching to the next. Once you’ve completed these exercises, take a short rest for 30-60 seconds then repeat for a total of 3 rounds. 

1. Hip Lift 

The hip lift is a simple ab exercise that primarily engages the rectus abdominis muscle. 

Lying flat on your back, begin by raising your legs up so they’re perpendicular to your torso. With your arms extended next to your body, begin to pull your belly button toward your spine and lift your hips up from the floor, keeping your legs straight throughout. Slowly drop your hips back down to the floor for a moment before pulling them back up for your next rep.

2. Scissor Kicks 

Scissor kicks are a great ab workout that engages all four abdominal muscles along with the hip flexors. 

Begin by lying down on your back, keeping your arm extended on either side of your body. Raise your legs slightly keeping a straight line from your head to your hips. Press your shoulder blades against the ground and engage your lower abs and your stabilizing core muscles to “scissor” your right leg over your left then again with your left leg over your right. 

3. Hip Dips 

Hip dips are a functional ab exercise that helps strengthen the rectus abdominis, traverse abdominis, lower back, hip flexors, and glutes with some support from the lateral deltoids and traps. 

Begin in a side plank position by laying flat on your side and propping your body up against your right forearm (your right shoulder directly above the right elbow). Keep your legs extended and stacked on top of each other. From this starting position, slowly lower your right hip down towards the floor then back up. Make sure your body is in a straight line and avoid leaning back or forward with your hips. Switch sides after the time is up.

4. Plank (with knee taps) 

The plank is a classic ab exercise that helps boost core strength, balance, and stability. Using strictly body weight, the plank helps the abs, shoulder girdle, and spine become more balanced and stabilized. 

Lie flat on your stomach and lift your body up onto your forearms and toes. In this forearm plank position, keep your body in a straight line from your pelvis to your neck. Tuck your sit bones down slightly, keeping your core engaged, and hold for the duration of time. 

You can progress this exercise to incorporate knee taps. As you hold the plank position, slowly lower both knees down to gently graze the floor then return back up to starting position. 

5. Deadbug

The dead bug is a beneficial core exercise that engages your entire core along with your pelvic floor and hip flexor muscles. 

Lie flat on your back and raise your arms and legs straight up so your wrists are over your shoulders and your ankles are over your hips. Squeeze your belly button in towards your spine and begin the movement in the following sequence: 

  • Lower your right leg and left arm down towards the floor at the same time 

  • Next, bring your right leg and left arm back up to starting position while simultaneously lowering your left leg and right arm down towards the floor 

  • Keep the movement slow and steady throughout 

6. Glute Bridge March

The glute bridge march is one of the best core exercises that has all the benefits of a crunch, without putting the spine into a compromising position. 

Begin by lying flat on your back with your knees bent and feet hip-width apart on the floor. Raise your glutes off the floor, keeping your spine in a straight line from your pelvis to your neck. Keep the upper aspect of your shoulder blades pressed into the floor. Raising both hands straight up towards the sky, lift your right foot up and drive your right knee towards your body, maintaining a 90-degree angle of that leg. Lower your right knee down before repeating this movement with your left knee. 

7. Mountain Climber

Mountain climbers are by far one of the best ab exercises that is sure to get the blood pumping. Although emphasizing the ab muscles, this exercise engages the entire body for a fast-paced workout. 

Start in a raised plank position with both arms straight making sure your wrists sit directly below your shoulders. Keeping the core engaged, drive your right knee in towards your chest and return it back onto the floor behind you in a quick movement. Do the same with your right knee, sort of like you’re “running” while maintaining a plank position. 

8. Heel Taps 

Heel taps are another great ab workout that targets the oblique muscles. 

Lying flat on your back with your legs bent and feet flat on the floor, extend both arms straight to your sides.  Begin by squeezing your obliques to “crunch” your abs laterally as you tap your right heel with your right hand. Return back to starting position before doing the same movement on the opposite side, tapping your left heel with your left hand.

Losing Body Fat Is Key to Revealing Your Core Muscles

best ab exercises for women

Okay, now for the hard truth: You can train your core and ab muscles until you throw up, but they won't "pop" or appear defined if you're carrying too much body fat. Use our body fat calculator to determine how much you need to lose to get lean and define your midsection.

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