Whether it's caused by pregnancy, age or simply too much time sitting at a desk, a flabby belly is the bane of many women. While exercises such as situps or crunches target the upper abdominal muscles, it can be more of a challenge to work the lower abs. By adding a few easy exercises to your regular workout routine, you can strengthen the lower abs and tone your mid-section.
The plank position is not a difficult yoga pose, but it does require concentration for the best results. Lie face down on the floor. Place your elbows near your chest. Your hands and forearms should be flat on the floor and parallel to each other. Turn your toes under so your heels are pointing up. Using mainly your abs, push your body up from the floor. Keep your back and hips flat and your head in a neutral position. Hold the pose for a count of 10; build up to a count of 30. Slowly lower yourself back down to the floor. During the hold, focus on keeping your lower abs contracted to support your back. Avoid letting your shoulders or rear end sag as you hold the pose. To make the exercise more challenging, come up on your hands and toes as if doing a push up.
This exercise is a relaxing way to tone your lower abs. Lie face up on the floor with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Focus on contracting the lower abs to create a hollow feeling in your belly. Maintaining this contraction, slowly lift your right foot 6 inches off the floor, lower it and then repeat with the left foot. Repeat 10 times on each foot. To make this exercise more challenging, keep the right foot raised 6 inches off the floor as you slide the left foot out until the left leg is straight. Focus on using your lower abs to drag the left foot back in and then switch sides. Repeat 10 times on each leg.
Seated Reverse Crunch
You can do this exercise while watching TV or at your desk. Sit at the edge of a sturdy chair with your feet flat on the floor. Hold onto the edge of the chair with your hands. Keeping your upper body straight, lean back slightly. Use your lower abs to bring both legs up until your feet are 12 to 18 inches off the floor. Slowly lower your feet back to the floor. Repeat the lifts 10 to 15 times. Throughout the exercise, keep your upper body lifted, not slouched. If lifting your feet 12 inches off the floor is too challenging, begin with lifting them 6 inches, 4 inches or even 2 inches. Eventually, you'll build strength in your lower abs and will be able to lift higher.
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The boat pose can be modified as your lower abs get stronger. Sit on the floor with your legs bent at the knees and your feet flat on the floor. Hold your upper body straight. In the beginner pose, simply lean back to the point that when your arms are extended, your hands can still touch the back of the thighs. For the next level of difficulty, lean back as you raise your feet off the floor so the shins are parallel to the floor. Once you feel up to it, raise your feet and extend your legs as you lean back so you look like a "V." In any of the positions, you can hold the back of your thighs for support, but aim to extend the arms in front of you without touching the thighs. Regardless of which level you choose, hold the pose for 10 to 30 seconds and keep your back straight and chest lifted as you lean back.
Based in Portland, Ore., Tammie Painter has been writing garden, fitness, science and travel articles since 2008. Her articles have appeared in magazines such as "Herb Companion" and "Northwest Travel" and she is the author of six books. Painter earned her Bachelor of Science in biology from Portland State University.