Upper abs may be what's most prominently on our minds when we think of that six-pack ab look, but lower abs are just as important. Beyond needing to exercise them to sculpt our hips, lower stomach, and lower back, lower ab exercises can help with back pain, improve our balance, and give us better posture —all of which matter far more than a six-pack.
Standard ab workouts tend to focus on our upper abs, and because of that, lower abs may be much less strong. Ahead, we have ten different workout moves to increase the strength of your lower abs, from reverse crunches to alternating bird dogs. They're less known takes on common exercises, making them at once challenging and familiar. Read on for the full list.
Meet the Expert
Safety and Precautions
Lower ab exercises should be avoided by anyone with a lower back injury or lower back pain. Additionally, pregnant people should first consult with their medical practitioners before doing them. If you experience lower back pain while doing any ab workout moves, you may need to strengthen your core with different exercises before trying to perform the ones causing pain. Proper form for ab exercises is essential for avoiding injury.
- Lie on the floor on your back. Herrmann says to "make sure your lower back is pushed against the floor at all times" through this exercise.
- Place your hands behind your head and lift it off the ground.
- Lift your legs into the air at a 45-degree angle. This angle of your legs is what differentiates the exercise from a standard bicycle move.
- Bring one knee to the opposite elbow, then bring that knee back to fully extended. Keep it elevated in the air throughout the move.
- Repeat on the other side.
Seated Knee Tuck
- Begin on the floor in a V-hold position, with your body shaped like a V, then bend your knees. Herrmann says to ensure "you have a straight upper body with your core engaged."
- Extend both your legs and engage your core, then crunch your legs and torso towards one another. Herrmann suggests you "use your hands on the ground for balance if needed" and notes that "you should really feel this exercise in your lower abs."
- Release back to your starting V-hold position, and repeat.
- Lie on your back on the floor or a mat. Place your hands on your hips, and press your lower back to the floor.
- Bend your knees, then thrust your legs up into the air as you exhale.
- Inhale and lower your legs, then repeat.
Straight Leg Bicycle Crunch
- Lie on your back on the floor or a mat. Place your palms behind your head.
- Keep your glutes pressed firmly against the ground as you raise one leg straight. Simultaneously, bring the opposite elbow to that knee.
- Return to your starting position with your palms behind your head, and repeat.
Floor Windshield Wipers
- Lie on your back on the floor or a mat. Your arms should be spread out on the floor on both sides of you. Ross says they should like "like a letter T." Your legs should be straight up in the air.
- Drop your legs down over to one side without rotating your upper body.
- Using your obliques, pull your legs back up to your starting position.
- Repeat on the other side.
Abdominal Leg Lowers
- Begin on the floor supinated, with your arms by your side. Jam instructs that your arms should be "a little wider than shoulder-width for support" and that you should "keep your head and neck neutral, and your low back tucked and braced."
- With your knees slightly bent, engage your core and pull in your legs, then press them straight up.
- Slowly lower your legs straight down until you tap the floor with your heels, then repeat.
Jam instructs us to "control the movement by contracting your core muscles." To do this, he says you should "feel your core and abdominals working to keep your body stable and legs in control, not letting gravity do the work."
Alternating Bird Dog
- Begin in a tabletop position. To find a comfortable placement for your back, Jam suggests, "I like to do a cat-cow flow to find my neutral position."
- Keep your back straight with your hands underneath your shoulders, your knees aligned with hips, your neck rested in a neutral position, and your core engaged. From there, lift and extend one arm straight up while simultaneously lifting and extending your opposite leg toward the back of the room. Jam instructs us to "be mindful of keeping your hips square to the floor...make sure not to wobble or slant your low back. Keep the core engaged to avoid wobbling or losing your balance."
- Once both limbs are fully extended, hold that position for two to five seconds.
- Lower back down to your starting position in tabletop.
- Repeat on the opposite side, extending the other arm and another leg.
- Begin by lying on the floor on your back, with your legs extended. Jam says that your hands should be "positioned on the sides of your head for the purpose of guiding your elbows to your knees."
- Lift your shoulders and torso off the floor, keeping your core engaged.
- Lift your legs off the ground so that they are hovering above it slightly.
- Crunch up with a twist, aiming one elbow to the opposite knee by bending your leg towards your chest.
- Pause a hold here for one to two seconds, then lower back down to your starting position.
- Immediately switch sides, crunching the other elbow to its opposite knee.
If this move is too difficult, Jam instructs you "to keep your legs bent the entire time." He details that "when you come up for the crunch twist, you’ll have your elbow meet your opposite knee and lower back down. This way, you won’t put too much stress on your low back muscles to hold your legs up, but you’ll still hit your abs and obliques with the crunch and twist."
- Sit on the floor with your legs together and extended in front of you. Your arms should be held up level with your shoulders, at your sides, and your core engaged.
- Bend your knees and pull your legs into your chest. Make sure your back doesn’t arch as you do this.
- Rotate your arms around to your midline and wrap them around your knees.
- Extend back to your starting position and repeat.
Hip Raise Abs
- Lie on your back with your legs straight, and engage your core by drawing it towards your spine.
- Lift your legs into the air until they are perpendicular to the floor.
- From there, lift your hips off the floor slightly over your head.
- Roll your hips back down, and drop your feet back to the floor in a slow and controlled motion.
Lower ab exercises can lead to better balance and posture, as well as less back pain. The ten moves detailed here all work your lower abs, and they range from variations on bicycle crunches to hip raises. No one should do lower ab workouts with lower back pain or injury, and pregnant people should consult their medical practitioner before trying them. For everyone else, these exercises are a safe and effective way to increase your core strength and are easy to incorporate into your workout routine. None require any equipment, and all can be performed with minimal space. Increased lower ab strength awaits you with these moves!
Poti K, Upadhye J. Effect of calisthenics workouts for weight loss and flexibility. International Journal of Physiology. 2019;5(1).