The lower abdominal region is notoriously difficult to tighten and firm in women. While aggravating, there is a biological reason. According to Mayo Clinic, after menopause body fat begins to accumulate along the abdomen. Although abdominal exercises will not fully eliminate fat stores along the lower abdominal region, these exercises will tighten underlining muscles and provide health benefits such as lower back protection from injury and torso stabilization.
Lower Abs Isolation
A common misconception in the fitness industry is the notion of being able to completely isolate the lower abs by performing specific exercises. While it is physiologically impossible to engage the upper and lower abs independently from one another, the University of New Mexico states it is possible to cause a higher degree of fatigue in the lower abs by performing certain exercises.
Lower abdominal bodyweight exercises use your own weight for resistance. These workouts focus on lifting the lower body to call upon the front lower abdominals. For example, the supine reverse crunch targets the front abdominal region while calling upon the lower abdominals to control the movement. Another effective lower abdominal exercise is known as bicycle crunches. This exercise works the entire abdominal region, which includes the upper, lower and oblique muscles. During this exercise, your legs are extended and as you crunch up and to the left you bring your left knee up to meet your left elbow, and then repeat the movement on the right side. All bodyweight exercises for the lower abdominal area involve lifting the legs in some fashion to fatigue this region of the body.
Although the lower abdominals may be fully targeted without the use of equipment, combining equipment-based exercises helps create muscle confusion and prevents the abdominals from becoming adapted to a specific workout routine. Exercises such as the hanging leg-hip raise and the vertical leg-hip raise isolate the abdominal region by keeping your feet off the ground and lifting the legs up toward your chest. Those who seek an advanced-level exercise, the plate-loaded lying leg-hip raise works in the same fashion as the previous exercises, but instead of positioning yourself vertically on an exercise apparatus, you’re lying horizontally and the abdominals are fatigued through added resistance.
While you can increase the intensity of a lower abdominal exercise by adding ankle weights or using weight machines, only do so if you are no longer challenged through traditional bodyweight exercises. Focus on training the entire abdominal region, which includes the lower abs, at least three to five days per week, according to the training recommendation outlined by the University of New Mexico. As for repetitions and sets, the American Council on Exercise suggests performing one to three sets of 10 to 25 repetitions.
- Mayo Clinic: Belly Fat in Women: Taking – and Keeping – It Off
- St. John Providence Health System: Benefits of Strong Abdominal Muscles
- University of New Mexico: Super Abs Resource Manual
- American Council on Exercise: Supine Reverse Crunches
- American Council on Exercise: Supine Bicycle Crunches
- ExRx: Hanging Leg-Hip Raise
- ExRx: Vertical Leg-Hip Raise
- ExRx: Lever Lying Leg-Hip Raise (Plate Loaded)
- American Council on Exercise: Should I Train My Abdominal Muscles Every Day? Also, How Many Repetitions of Crunches Should I Optimally Perform?
- Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images