For many people a place where tends to get stored is over the lower part of their abdominal muscle. While there is no separate ‘lower’ and ‘upper’ abdominal muscles and the entire muscle wall is known as the rectus abdominis you can perform exercises that works the lower end of this muscle group. The goal for abdominal workouts is not to lose fat but rather to tighten, shape, and strengthen your core muscles so that when you have your diet in order and the fat starts to melt off it will reveal a chiseled six pack and not a scrawny and underworked midsection. Creating an effective abdominal workout means hitting the rectus abdominis in different ways, in order to fully develop that six pack look, so we will need exercises that specifically target the lower abdominals. In this post I want to cover what exercises are best for working the lower abs directly.
Leg raises are the best exercise for developing the lower abs because it is highly functional and there are so many variations of the movement that the degree of difficulty can be heightened as a person progresses in fitness level. I started for instance with the lying leg raise variation of this movement in which you lie flat on your back with your hands at your sides and feet together. Next, you raise your legs until they are at a 90 degree angle before lowering them down and starting again. For a more effective workout, I keep my feet 2-3 inches from the ground on the lower part of the movement and don’t let them touch the floor until I have completed the last rep, which helps to keep the muscle engaged throughout the entire exercise.
Leg raises can also be performed on the Roman Chair or on pull-up bars by using ab straps. These hanging leg raises are much more difficult than the lying variation and as such will do a much better job at developing the abs. However, beginners may not have the strength to complete hanging leg raises and as such can progress from lying leg raises until they have the capability. Some people also like to hold a light dumbbell or wear ankle weights for further resistance while doing leg raises. I don’t personally like this because I feel that it puts too much strain on my hip joints.
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Bicycle crunches are an exercise that I like to use as a part of an abdominal training circuit because they really hit the lower abs effectively. To really increase the intensity of this exercise (and most of the other exercises in my circuits) I like to hold a weight either a medicine ball or a light dumbbell in my hands while doing the bicycle movement with my legs because it forces my core to stabilize and work harder to make it through. I also tend to do this movement until failure, meaning until I cannot perform another rep with proper form which makes my abs scream from all of the stimulation.
Jack Knife Sit-Ups
This exercise is tough, which is why when I include it in my workout I perform it first so that I have already reached some level of fatigue before I get into the rest of my exercises. Jack knife sit-ups not only target the lower part of your abdominal muscle, but indeed the entire muscle as a whole. The movement starts by lying flat on the floor with the legs straight and the arms straight back behind your head (almost looking like an arrow). From there the arms and legs are lifted until they meet in the air above your body (this will look like the shape of the letter ‘v’ which is why this movement is also sometimes called a v-sit up). I usually hold a 10-15 pound dumbbell in my hands during this movement for extra resistance and as always make sure that your form stays correct because the back muscles can be in a vulnerable position during this exercise.
Reverse Crunches/Sit Ups
There is a lot of variation with these. They can be done both on the floor or on an incline bench or even on a flat bench. Like the leg raise this movement engages the lower abdominals by utilizing leg movement towards the core. I don’t always use these but they can be a great change up in a workout.
I got this move from Insanity: The Asylum’s Back to Core DVD. At first I had trouble with it because I couldn’t stabilize my weight that well with my bum shoulder but I eventually found a comfortable position for my arm so that I could execute this move. Like a regular plank this move forces your entire core to work, however, instead resting on your elbows with you belly facing the ground, you are now almost in a crab walk like position with your hands reversed and holding up your body weight. It’s difficult for me to describe this move but just Google ‘asylum reverse planks’ and you’ll see exactly how it’s done. This exercise is no joke but works so well that you can’t just ignore it.
Like all exercises different people will have different preferences but these are the ones I consider to be the best lower ab exercises from my own experience. Remember that abdominal exercises are useful for developing the look but not ridding yourself of the fat that may currently reside over your abs, the whole thing requires a clean diet and proper training to reveal fully and have ripped six pack abs.