As Fitness Professionals, we always get asked the question, "how can I target my lower abdominals?" Before we go into our top 5 favorite lower abdominal exercises, we have to get one thing on the record. You cannot, I repeat, CANNOT spot reduce body fat by exercising. No matter how many crunches you do, it will not give you a visible six pack. Six packs are made in the kitchen, but I know you already knew that!
However, lower abdominal exercises are important for other reasons than wanting rock hard abs in the summer time. Strengthening the lower abs can help create better posture by opening up your hip flexors as well as lightening the gravitational pull on your lower back. Ultimately achieving both of these things will reduce back pain, especially on the lower back.
Below we have listed our top 5 favorite lower abdominal exercises. We recommend working through each of these exercises for 2-3 sets for 10-12 reps each.
1. Leg Lifts
Start by laying on your back, with your hands pressed on the floor by your side. Lower both legs (or modified version you can alternate lowering the legs) until your heels are 3-6 inches off the floor. The lower your heels go without touching, the harder it will be. It’s important to focus on pressing your lower back on the floor as you move through this exercise because it will start to arch as you fatigue. This is a great exercise because you can modify it for any fitness level by alternating the legs or not coming down as far with the heels. You can also advance this exercise by hanging from a pull-up bar and lifting your legs up 90 degrees in front of your body.
2. Mountain climbers
Start in a push up position on your hands and balls of your feet. Make sure your shoulders are directly over your wrist for proper form. Drive your left knee into your chest, then extend it back to the plank position. Switch to your right knee, driving it into the chest. Alternate each side focusing on keeping your butt down and controlled movement. This is a great lower abdominal exercise because you can speed up the movement and make it into a cardiovascular exercise as well. Kills two birds with one stone!
3. Hollow Hold Switches
Start by laying on your back with both legs out straight, hovering a foot off the floor and your arms straight over head lining up with your ears (this is called the hollow position). Bring your right knee into your chest and hug it with your arms as your left leg is still extended. Then return back to starting (hollow) position. Repeat with the left knee hugged into your chest and right leg extended out. This is a great exercise because it not only again stretches your hip flexors and glutes, but it works your lower abdominals and obliques.
4. Bird Dog
Start on all fours (knees and hands, also known as the quadruped position). Shoulders directly over the wrists and hips over the knees. Starting with the right arm, reach out in front as your left leg extends out behind you. Return back to starting position and switch to the other side- left arm out in front, right leg extends back. This is a fantastic exercise for beginners as well as anyone looking to strengthen your lower abs, glutes, balance and stretch your lower body.
5. Jack Knives
Start laying on your right side with your left hand behind your head and your right elbow on the floor supporting your upper body. Simultaneously lift your legs and crunch your left elbow towards the center. You can modify this by keeping one leg on the floor and crunching just the top leg. After complete your reps on the right side, switch to the left side. This is definitely a challenging exercise but it’s great for strengthening your oblique and practicing body control and coordination.
Overall, any exercises that extends the legs out and drives it back into the center of your body is a powerful exercise to strengthen the lower core as well as stretch the hip flexors and alleviate lower back pain!
Ready for the challenge? Try this 9 minute core sequence. See how far you can get through without having to rest or lose form!