Ab Exercises Without Equipment for Women
Your bodyweight is enough to provide a quality abs workout.
You don't have dumbbells, medicine balls, stability balls, ab rockers or vibrating belts to train your core, and that's OK. All a gal really needs is a comfortable floor, a little space and determination — no extra equipment necessary.
For a solid ab workout, you don't even need a special regimen that differs from that followed by the men in your life, either. Men and women have similar muscles.
Yes, men's muscles tend to be a little thicker and a bit stronger, pound for pound, but a woman's muscles generally react to training in the same way as a man's, explains strength and conditioningspecialist and author, Lou Schuler in "The New Rules of Lifting for Women: Lift Like a Man, Look Like a Goddess."
Your abs won't likely get as big and bulky as a man, but train with similar movements to promote good posture, support a healthy spine and, of course, to get abs you can't wait to sport in your swimsuit.
The key is to work all of your ab muscles, not just the obvious ones that show in the mirror. This means you'll target the deep transverse abdominis and the obliques, along with the rectus abdominis. The following exercises do this effectively with just your bodyweight.
Warm up with about 5 minutes of light marching or stair-stepping to get your blood flowing before performing the moves in the order provided.
1. Ab Prep
The ab prep is an extension of your warm-up and gets your ab muscles ready for the challenge of the harder moves.
HOW TO DO IT: Lie on your back, bend your knees and plant your feet flat on the floor. Tuck your chin to your chest as if you were holding a small lacrosse ball there. Lay your arms on the floor next to your hips.
Exhale and curl your head, neck and shoulders up off the floor as you reach your arms up off the floor toward your feet. Keep the crunch minimal, focus on pressing your spine to the floor. Release your head back to the mat. Repeat eight to 10 times.
While prepping your abs, practice a kegel exercise to also strengthen your pelvic floor and make your whole core -- from your hips to your shoulders -- stronger and more functional.
Squeeze the vaginal muscles -- the ones that stop your stream of urine -- for about three counts and release. Repeat during the ab prep repetitions (above) to strengthen urinary continence and, potentially, give a little boost to your sex life.
2. Reverse Crunch
Women tend to acquire that tiny pooch right below the belly button and above the pubic bone and, no matter what you do, it won't go away. Although the reverse crunch won't whittle away the extra fat storage, it will help tighten this lower part of your ab muscles to create the illusion of a slimmer belly.
HOW TO DO IT: Lie on your back with your arms alongside your hips. Bend your knees and lift them up so that they are at a 90-degree angle with your hips and the floor. Pull your abs in as you draw the knees toward your chest and rock your hips and lower back up off the floor.
Feel the contraction in the lowest portion of your rectus abdominis, the six-pack muscle. Pause for one to two counts.Relax the reverse crunch to complete one repetition. Do 10 to 12 repetitions of this move.
Arch your hips away from the floor in the side plank.
3. Side Plank with Rotation
A side plank works your internal obliques, which help provide stability for posture and back health, while also sculpting your external obliques. These muscles are critical for healthy rotation of the spine for when you turn to close a door or twist on the dance floor.
HOW TO DO IT: Get into a side plank propped on your right forearm and elbow by stacking your feet, hips and shoulders. Put your left arm behind your head, elbow pointed to the ceiling. Draw your abdominals in and tighten your pelvic floor in a kegel.
Hold the plank as you rotate your elbow and rib cage toward the floor. Pause and squeeze your navel to your spine. Rotate back to the starting position to complete one repetition. Do about 10 reps on each side.
4. Double Leg Stretch
The double leg stretch is borrowed from Pilates. It's equally effective in targeting the rectus abdominis when compared to the classic crunch, but activates the obliques 103 percent more effectively, showed a study published by IDEA Health and Fitness in 2005.
HOW TO DO IT: Lie on your back with your knees bent into your chest, hands by the knees and head lifted slightly. Imprint your back to the floor. Keeping your legs together, extend them out at a 45-degree angle with the floor as you simultaneously reach the arms up past the ears, also at a 45-degree angle with the floor.
Circle the arms around to the sides of the room to meet the knees as they bend back into the chest. Keep your head lifted as you complete about 10 repetitions.
Keep your shoulders relaxed during the bridge.
5. Glute Bridge
The bridge adds extra oomph to your abs workout. It activates not just your abs, but your butt, hips and lower back.
HOW TO DO IT: Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet planted hip-distance apart. Allow your arms to rest alongside you. Draw your abdominal muscles in as you lift your hips up off the floor to create a "bridge" from your knees to your shoulders.
Squeeze your buttocks and your abs as you hold for 3 to 5 seconds. Relax your hips to the floor and repeat eight to 10 times total.
Andrea Boldt has been in the fitness industry for more than 20 years. A personal trainer, run coach, group fitness instructor and master yoga teacher, she also holds certifications in holistic and fitness nutrition.