How to Get Abs: Best Tips and Exercises for Women
by Evelyn Valdez·
Creating muscle definition in our bodies is challenging, especially when it comes to our abs. Getting a toned midsection is much harder than it seems and can depend on factors you have no control over, including your own biology. While diet and exercise matter, so does genetics and your body composition.
Remember, sculpted, six-pack abs aren’t just for the men anymore, ladies! However, working out isn’t just about aesthetics. Overall body health is based on more than how you look. Luckily, a toned core can easily be part of the package.
Best Tips for Helping Women Get Abs and a Stronger Core
Women athletes and trainers swear by many different techniques for achieving their strong, chiseled core; none of which include doing 100 ab crunches every day. These tips listed below have helped many women who struggle with toning their core and reducing body fat around their midsection. Take a look at what’s missing from your fitness plan to see what’s preventing you from getting the defined abs and a strong core you want!
Increase your level of cardio
There’s no better way to burn fat than ramping up your cardio. Cardio is a key factor for burning fat. Not only are you working out close to 80-90% of your maximum capacity, but you’re also moving more than one major muscle group. Several clinical trials support the evidence that an increase in aerobic exercise is connected to more fat loss. The best part is that there are plenty of ways to get in your weekly cardio workouts aside from running on a treadmill for 30 minutes. You can also swim, bike, hike, or play a sport.
Incorporate more HIIT workouts into your weekly routine
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a combination of cardio and strength training. Talk about the best of both worlds! While you’re building lean muscle mass, you’re also burning a TON of calories, and you’ll keep burning calories long after you’ve finished working out. You don’t always need gym equipment for HIIT workouts. Bodyweight exercises are just as effective and you can modify them to work with your fitness level. If you’re doing HIIT at least three times a week, you definitely notice a difference
Load up on protein
How many times have you heard a fitness trainer mention you need to be consuming a diet that’s high in protein, fiber, and healthy fats? Well, they don’t say this for no reason. Protein is what drives muscle growth, recovery, and helps keep us fuller, longer. When you don’t eat enough lean protein, you have lower energy, get sicker often, and have a harder time increasing muscular hypertrophy. Your diet should have a variety of protein-rich foods, such as:
Lentils and beans
Nuts and seeds
Another easy way to get a ton of protein fast is by using protein powder! Protein powder is a great supplement to have on hand, especially for people who don’t always have the time to prep or cook all of their meals. Simply mix it in with water or a smoothie and drink it throughout the day or before your workout!
Water, water, water
It can’t be said enough how important it is to drink water. It keeps us hydrated, helps suppress our appetite, and flushes waste from our bodies. But did you also know water can boost metabolism? A study showed that drinking 17 ounces (500ml) of water increases our energy expenditure by nearly 24% for at least an hour.
The best thing to do is avoid drinking alcohol and fruit juices as much as possible. These can cause bloating and often contain high amounts of sugar. A good workaround is buying flavored water or packets that can be added in whenever you want. Just double-check that these alternatives are made with zero sugar, zero sweeteners, and have no extra calories.
Work on lowering your body mass index (BMI)
Most women have less muscle and more body fat compared to men. In order to get those abs popping through, the average body mass index (BMI) a person needs is 20% or lower. The first step in lowering your BMI is going into a calorie deficit and maintaining it until you’ve lost the necessary fat throughout your body.
One thing to note when lowering your body fat percentage is that the fat loss may not be as visible in your midsection when you’re first starting out. Many people tend to notice the weight loss in their face or arms first. Genetics also affect where your body will drop fat the quickest, and unfortunately, the slowest. As long as you continue following a regular diet and fitness routine, you’ll start seeing more abdominal fat loss over time.
Find ways to manage your stress levels
Hormones, especially excess cortisol, are considered the number one cause for why women gain weight in their midsection. High cortisol levels raise our blood sugar and insulin. And do you know what one of the main functions of insulin is? Storing fat and preventing our bodies from breaking it down. It’s why weight gain is such a common symptom in people with diabetes. Insulin’s role in maintaining our health is far more complex and is a vital hormone for helping our organs and tissue function properly. However, as the saying goes, you can always have too much of a good thing.
Stress can derail your fitness goals, so try finding activities or hobbies that will help you relax. Yoga and meditation are two great choices for managing stress. It may also help to keep a journal so you can write about whatever is frustrating you.
It takes more than doing crunches
Trust us, that 30-day ab workout challenge you’re doing won’t matter much in a month or two. Losing belly fat requires consistency, patience, and performing exercises that target ALL of the core muscles. This includes the transverse abdominals, internal stabilizers, and internal and external obliques. Sit-ups and crunches only isolate a small group of muscles and won’t help tone your entire core. A balanced workout routine should include full body and HITT workouts, strength training, and some form of cardio.
6 Ab Exercises for Women for a Toned Core
It takes hard work to strengthen your core. That's why you need to dedicate at least one day a week strictly to working on your abdominal muscle groups. These 6 ab exercises will definitely target your abs in a way you never could before! You can also read our other blog to see some of the best at-home core exercises that we recommend for any fitness level.
- Start in a plank position and keep your hands and wrists aligned with your shoulders.
- Tighten your core, keep your back straight, and bring either your left or right knee up close toward your chest.
- Bring your leg back behind you, and as your foot hits the floor, quickly switch to the opposite leg and repeat the same action.
- Gradually increase the speed so you’re continuously alternating between bringing both legs to your chest.
- Get down on your knees and hands and then place your forearms on the floor, directly underneath your shoulders.
- Extend your legs out behind you hip-width apart and raise yourself onto your toes. Make sure your lower body isn’t sagging down or that you aren’t overarching your back. Your body should make a straight line leading from your toes to the crown of your head.
- Tighten your glutes, core, and quads, and then hold this pose for 10-30 seconds. That’s it! And the more you practice planking, the longer you’ll be able to hold it.
Lying leg raise
- Lie on your back and straighten out your legs while keeping your arms at your sides with the palms are facing the floor.
- Point your toes and slowly lift your legs off the floor so your body comes to a 90-degree angle. Try keeping your legs as straight as possible. If you need extra support, you can put your hands underneath your glutes.
- Hold at the top for 2 to 3 seconds and lower your legs back down to the starting position.
- Lay flat on your back and extend your arms and legs straight out. Keep your arms close to your ears.
- Brace your core and lift your arms and legs slightly off of the ground. You’ll want to keep them this way throughout the movement.
- Contract your abs, lift your head, and bring your legs and arms to meet at your core so they form a V-shape.
- Bring the arms and legs back down while continuing to elevate them a few inches from the floor.
Jackknife sit-ups are a pretty advanced core exercise for most beginners. You can start off with keeping your knees bent or alternate one leg at a time until you get a feel for it.
- Lie on your back and put your hands behind your head to support its weight. You can start off either with your legs extended in front of you or with your knees bent so your calves are parallel with the floor.
- While keeping your shoulder blades lifted off the floor, bring one knee towards your chest while extending the other leg straight out. Engage your core and rotate your torso towards your bent leg while trying to bring the opposite elbow to your knee.
- Twist to the other side and alternate your legs so you’re performing the same movement on both sides of your body. It should feel like you’re actually peddling a bike with your legs. When you’re comfortable, try speeding up the exercise without compromising your form.
- Sit on the ground with your legs out straight.
- Lean back slightly and lift your legs up while keeping your knees bent so your body forms a V-shape. Root deeply into your sit bones and keep your core engaged continuously so your back and spine stay straight.
- Clasp your hands together close to your chest and slowly twist your torso from side to side. Hold the twist for a second or two before rotating to the other side, all without moving your legs. For an added challenge, you can use a medicine ball or a dumbbell to get your core really fired up!
There are no shortcuts when it comes to having a strong and toned core
Abs can be one of the hardest muscles to train, especially for women. Sadly, there’s not a quick solution to getting a toned core or visible abs. The only fitness strategy that works is healthy eating, strength training, cardio, and engaging all of the abdominal muscles.
Need help creating a kickass ab workout? Download the Fit with Iulia fitness app to start hitting the gym HARD with your new, personalized workout routine!