This lower ab circuit targets the lowest part of the “6-pack” muscle group. A lot of ab exercises engage the upper part of the 6-pack more, leaving you with uneven tone across the muscle as a whole. If you’ve been doing some ab training but are disappointed in your lower ab tone, then this workout should help. It’s a 6 week program with the number of reps increasing each week as your strength increases.
Notes on the workout
Please read these general exercise guidelines before you start.
You’ll need some sort of cushioning for your back. If you don’t have an exercise mat, then use a folded blanket or something similar.
Lower ab circuit – the exercises
#1 Reverse crunch
- Start by extending your legs so that they are vertical.
- Engage your lower abs as you curl your lower spine off the mat in a smooth curling movement.
- When your lower back has left the floor, start to reverse the movement – curl your spine back down under control.
#2 Bicycle crunch
- The start position this time is with your feet in the air and your hands behind your head.
- Bring your right knee towards your upper body and, at the same time, lift your left shoulder off the floor and reach your left elbow towards your right knee.
- Repeat on the other side.
- Lie on your back with your legs vertical.
- Making sure you don’t let your back arch, lower and raise one leg at a time.
# 4 Hip rolls
- Start by lying on the floor, with your legs bent at the hips and knees as shown. Your arms should be out to the side, level with your shoulders
- Engage your abdominal muscles and then rotate your legs to the right. It’s important to keep the abs engaged and control the movement. Only take your legs as far as you can keep the movement controlled.
- When you have lowered your legs as far as you can, begin to reverse the movement. When you get back to the starting position, start again in the other direction.
#5 Pilates leg circle
Core engagement is really important here. You need to make sure that you’re holding your pelvis steady and not arching your low back as your leg circles. If you’re unsure about how to stabilise your pelvis then see these instructions https://myfitnessplanner.co.uk/neutral-pelvis/.
The shape you trace with your leg is actually more of a semi circle than a circle.
- Lie on your back with your left leg flat on the floor and your right leg vertical. If you have tightness in your hamstrings, you may have difficulty having your legs straight. If this is the case, you can bend them a little. See here for a routine to improve your hamstring flexibility.
- Keeping your pelvis stable, move your right leg sideways across your body and then in an arc over your extended left leg round to the right of your body, then back to the starting position.
- Repeat for the rest of your reps and then swap legs.
#6 Pilates double leg stretch
- Lie on your back with your knees and hips bent at right angles and your hands behind your head, as shown.
- Curl your head and shoulders off the floor as you straighten your legs
- Return to the start position and repeat.
These are the number of reps you should do each week. The number shown for the leg circles is reps on each leg. For all other exercises it’s the total number – so for example in week 1, 16 bicycle crunches means 16 alternating reps.
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Related to lower ab circuit
Ab workouts FAQ
The stock answer to this is that you can’t get rid of fat from a specific area. This is repeated frequently and emphatically by almost everyone involved in fitness. Given that it’s the go-to answer, you would think that there’s a pile of evidence to support it. In fact, the evidence is surprisingly weak. On the other hand, there’s no evidence that you can exercise to burn fat from a specific area either.
What we do know for sure is that our bodies have preferred places to store fat – and the abdominal area is one of them. So you’re not likely to have a fat-free belly until you’re a healthy weight. The best way to be a healthy weight is of course to have a healthy diet and to exercise regularly. Any exercise helps with weight control.
Even if it doesn’t burn belly fat, regular ab exercise will make a difference though. The deep core muscles pull the abdominal area flat and having a strong core can make a real difference. In fact it’s often the case that what people think is fat is just poor muscle tone allowing the abdomen to protrude.
So, the best things you can do to look slimmer around your middle are to make sure you’re a healthy weight and do some core training.
Plank holds have been an enormously popular abs exercise for years now. This is probably due to the buzz surrounding the exercise in the form of challenges and extreme hold times, rather than being due to its merits as an effective exercise.
Done correctly, the plank will engage the deepest abdominal muscle, the transverse abdominis (TA). This is the one that plays the biggest part in pulling the abdominal area in flat, as well as playing an important role in pelvic and spinal stability. It’s a challenging exercise and most people will struggle to hold the correct position for more than a minute. These are the good points. However, the plank has its drawbacks:
- Doing it with correct technique is difficult for those who are not used to core training. To be effective, the back and legs must form a straight line (like a plank). Inexperienced exercisers fail to do this.
- It’s a static exercise (ie the muscles are held contracted). There are two problems with static exercises. One is that the muscles are only worked in one position and the other is that it causes blood pressure to increase.
- It’s not functional – we do nothing vaguely resembling the plank in every day life. If we want to train our TA to engage when we’re active, then holding it in a static contraction isn’t the best way.
So should you do plank holds? Yes, it’s good to add them to your abs routine sometimes or to do a plank challenge for variety. But you should make sure your technique is correct and you shouldn’t waste your workout time trying to build up excessively long holds.
As with most “best exercise” questions, the answer depends on what you’re trying to achieve. The two main goals people have are flat abs and 6 pack abs. To have a flat abdominal area you need to train the deeper abdominal muscles. This is done by doing core stabilising exercises. The 6 pack muscles are the top layer of ab muscles and are trained by crunches and similar exercises – any exercise in which the upper body and lower body come closer together against a resistance. If you want to train all your ab muscles, bicycle crunches are a good all-round exercise.