Side & Lower Ab Exercises

Fact Checked

Jacob Ammentorp Lund/iStock/Getty Images

People don't strive for soft, large bellies. To the contrary, washboard midsections and taut abs are goals that many aspire to. That's why you'll see most exercisers focusing on their midsections at least once during a week of workouts. Simple sit-ups and crunches are effective, but you must work all the abdominal muscles to get thorough results, so including side -- or oblique -- exercises along with upper and lower abs is essential.

Exercising the Obliques

Any movement that requires you to twist your torso or bend to the side will focus on those difficult-to-target side abdominal muscles. The most obvious oblique exercises would be twisting crunches. While they are useful and should definitely be part of your ab workout, add other oblique exercises to your regimen, such as cable twists, side bridges, side crunches, bicycles and dumbbell side bends.

Lower Abs Don't Work Alone

Here's the thing about trying to isolate your lower ab muscles: It can't be done. Your rectus abdominis muscle is one long muscle that runs the length of your abs, from upper to lower. Doing exercises such as crunches, sit-ups and leg raises will strengthen your lower abs, but they'll be strengthening the upper part, too. Don't let that fact curb your enthusiasm for working your lower abs. Instead, look at it like you're benefiting two sections of your abs for the price of one exercise.

What the Exercises Won't Do

You want the six pack and the flat tummy. Ab exercises for the front and side abs will help you get there, but they won't do it all on their own. If you've got a layer of fat around your middle, no amount of ab exercises will "change" the fat into muscle. You'll have to add cardio exercise to your workout to help burn off the fat, and taking a second look at your diet can be of use, too. Eating nutritiously and incorporating aerobic exercise into your regimen will do the job of taking off the fat, allowing your newly strengthened and sculpted ab muscles to be seen.

Ab Exercising Frequency

In your zeal to have the abs of your dreams, you might be convinced that more is better. Working your abs every day, however, isn't the answer. Your abdominal muscles are, after all, muscles. They need rest and recovery between workouts in order to develop effectively. Give them 48 to 72 hours rest after exercising them, working them twice a week maximum. When you do work your abs, do two or three sets of 10 to 25 reps of each exercise. In her article "Should I Train My Abdominals Every Day?" for the American Council on Exercise, senior health and fitness editor Jessica Matthews says that determining the ideal number of reps varies from person to person. The last few reps of your set should be tough to finish. Matthews says that if you can perform more than 25 reps, you're probably not doing the exercise correctly and need to work on your form