Whether you are a pro bodybuilder, or an amateur fitness junkie, ab exercises are often considered the Holy Grail of fitness. They get included in every workout whether it is leg day or chest day. Superficially, ab exercises for women and men, target the muscles that make us look amazing in a bathing suit. But abdominal muscles do so much more than make us look good. As the primary muscles that comprise the core muscle group, abs are not only used to carry our entire body around. They literally assist with respiration and breathing.
How Do the Abdominal Muscles Work?
The rectus abdominis is the largest and most prominent abdominal muscle. It is long and flat and runs from the ribs down to the pubis. It connects to the xiphoid process which is at the bottom of the sternum. This muscle supports the body when moving the head, arms or legs.
The transverse abdominis is the deepest layer of the abdomen. It wraps around the body from front to back. The best way to picture the transverse abdominis is like wearing a belt that works its way around the width of the body. Despite wrapping around the entire body, the transverse abdominis muscle does not do anything to help with movement. Instead, it assists with respiration and breathing.
The internal and external obliques run alongside each other on either side of the rectus abdominis. They support movement of the spine, bending sideways and twisting.
Are All Muscles Created Equal For Men and Women?
The answer to that is – definitely not. While theoretically, men and women have the same muscles, the way a woman carries weight impacts how those muscles can be sculpted. Hence the need for focused ab exercises for women.
Body composition is the mass ratio of fat and non-fat in the human body. The non-fat mass are bones, muscles and organs. One is considered to have a healthy body composition when they have a lower percentage of body fat and a higher percentage of fat free mass.
Women have less muscle mass than men (men have 61% more). Women require more body fat in order for their bodies to function optimally. While this is great for their health, it can be frustrating because the female body wants to hold onto fat much more than the male body does, making weight loss, body sculpting and maintaining an aesthetically pleasing body composition more challenging. Because of this, ab exercises for women are critcal in order to target their muscles differently especially when they are looking to enhance their physique.
How To Determine Body Composition
Body Mass Index is the common way that both men and women calculate how fit and healthy they are. This is determined by the formula: [weight, in pounds / (height, in inches x height, in inches)] x 703. In contrast, body composition does not look at weight. Instead, it measures how much weight comes from lean muscle or fat.
Weight Loss for Women
For many women, getting their mid-section lean and trim is very difficult. This is particularly true for middle-aged women because this is a time of life when the body holds onto more belly fat. Reducing fat in women requires a very detailed approach of diet and exercise.
Low or No Carb Diets such as the Atkins Diet have proven very successful for rapid weight loss. However, these approaches can also have detrimental effects on the human body if done incorrectly. Carbohydrates are not a bad thing, despite popular opinion. In fact, carbs are found in in all cells and the tissues of all living things. They are required for life. It is just that too much causes weight gain.
Ab Exercises for Women
Building muscle mass is highly important for women. We all start to show a decline in muscle mass beginning in our 20’s. Between the ages of 20 and 90, the average person can lose 50% of their muscle mass. Because of the factors involved in female body composition, women need to be far more strategic in when they want to target the abdominal muscles. Whole body workouts that address body fat, in conjunction with specific targeted ab exercises for women will yield the best results.
The following are ten of the best ab exercises for women for a better physique and body composition:
Lateral Bear Walk
1. Start with shoulders over wrists and knees under hips
2. Hover a few inches off of the floor.
3. Keep hips stable, head in line with tailbone, and knees lifted off of the floor, move hands and feet left for three steps.
4. Move hands and feet right for three steps.
1. Lie face up on mat with arms in the air above the torso and legs.
2. Ben your knees in a 90 degree angle.
3. Slowly, lower opposite arm and leg toward the floor. Return to center and then repeat on the other side.
1. Place elbows on your mat under your shoulders.
2. Keep feet hip width apart.
3. Keep your back flat and leave the head and neck in a straight line. Drive your elbows into the floor, and squeeze your quads, glutes, and core.
1. Start in the plank position explained previously.
2. Keep arms and feet hip width apart.
3. Engage your abs.
4. Put your hands on the ground, one hand at a time, until you are in a push-up position.
1. Lie flat on the floor with your lower back pressed to the ground. Tighten your core by pulling your belly button into the ground.
2. Put your hands behind your head, then bring your knees in towards your chest and lift your shoulder blades off the ground, but be sure not to pull on your neck.
3. Straighten your right leg out to about a 45-degree angle to the ground while turning your upper body to the left, bringing your right elbow towards the left knee. Make sure your rib cage is moving and not just your elbows.
1. Lay flat on your back.
2. Raise your legs and keep your knees at a 90 degree angle.
3. Use your abs to pull your knees up towards your chest and lift your hips off the floor.
4. Return your legs to the position where yo started.
1. Sit on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Rest your hands on the sides of your thighs.
2. Lean the upper half of your body back and keep your back straight.
3. Keep your legs straight and at a 45 degree angle from the floor.
4. Extend your arms in front of you, parallel to the floor.
1. Start in plank position and rest your feet on an object that will slide such as a towel.
2. Use your hands to walk forward, dragging your lower body behind you.
3. Engage your core and tighten your glutes as you walk forward.
4. After a minutes resting in that position, move backwards with your arms and dragging your legs.
1. Start in plank position. Keep your hands under your shoulders and feet hip width apart.
2. Lift your right knee into your chest, as close as you can possibly lift it.
3. Return your right leg to the starting position and then bring your left knee to your chest.
4. Once you have the movement, continue moving alternating legs at a faster pace.
1. Lunge your right foot forward
2. Bend your knee so that it is at a 90 degree angle. Keep your back leg straight. Make sure your front knee is directly over your foot.
3. Put your hands on your hips.
4. Lean forward and your weight into your front foot. Lift your back foot up off the ground.
5. Straighten your right leg and continue to bring your torso toward a parallel position to the floor. Lean your upper body forward so that it counterbalances your lower body.
6. Move your left hip so that it is parallel to the floor. Do not let it tilt back. Keep both hips level and pointing toward the floor. The left hips tends to want to cock up so keep pointing it toward the floor. Your hands on your hips can help you feel this.
7. Keep the floating foot flexed and keep the toes pointing down at the floor. Actively engage the muscles of the left leg as well as the right leg.
8. Bring your arms back along your sides when you are ready.
9. Bend your right leg to step back to Warrior I.
10. Repeat the pose on the other side.