Unless you’ve got a trainer putting together custom workouts and making sure you actually do them (ah, the good life), one of the toughest body parts to tackle is the lower stomach. It’s like there aren’t enough crunches in the world to get us where we want to be—so what gives?!
We sort of knew this already, but there are other things we could be doing instead, and they probably bode better results anway. According to pro Kemaro Miller, whatever we choose should be versatile enough to execute in a traditional gym setting or home too. He regularly works with Belleon Body, a gym that specializes in everything from corrective exercises and injury rehabilitation to functional training, general fitness and strength training, so we know we’re in good hands.
Ahead are three foolproof moves he recommends working into your regular routine.
Looking for a lower abdominal workout in a pinch that’ll get the job done? Heads up—you’ll need a doorway pull-up bar to do this at home.
Start at shoulder position, gripping the pull-up bar with hands shoulder-width apart and your feet slightly off the ground. Lift your right knee to your left elbow. Make sure to pull the knee all the way into the elbow to focus on the lower abdominals and obliques, which innervates with the adductors, your inner thigh muscles, helping to stabilize the pelvis.
Slowly lower your leg back down to a relaxed hang. Repeat this with your left knee to your right elbow. Do this 15 times on each side. To activate the lower abdominals even more, hold the knee at the elbow before lowering.
Surprisingly different from the previous exercise despite sharing its name, this is another challenging exercise that’ll whip your lower abs into shape.
Once in shoulder position, push your shoulders back into the shoulder blades to stabilize the upper abdominal wall. From there, go into a posterior pelvic tilt—roll your pelvis slightly backward. This activates the lower abdominal wall, helping to overload your lower abs.
Exhale while slowly drawing your knees up into your chest, holding a 90-degree angle. Then, inhale as you slowly return to shoulder position. Repeat this 15 times. To achieve maximum results, keep your body stable throughout the duration of the workout—do not let your legs drop or swing.
Breaking a sweat yet? Challenge your lower abdominals in an entirely new way using added weight from a medicine ball. This will give you an upper-body workout as an added bonus!
Find somewhere you can lie face up with arms extended overhead, parallel to the floor and legs in a 90-degree chair position with a medicine ball resting on your shins, also parallel to the floor. Tuck your pelvis in and press your lower back down into the ground. Exhale as you curl your chin slightly forward, remaining relaxed through the back of the neck, and lift your upper body, extending your arms overhead and forward to reach for the medicine ball resting on your shins. Gently lower back to the ground while holding the medicine ball with outstretched arms, as your legs extend and straighten to the ground.
Lift the medicine ball and place it back on your shins, then lower to start position with arms extended overhead. Repeat 15 times, maintaining a pelvic tilt at all times. For maximum effect on the lower abdominals and to avoid lower back pain or injury, the pelvic tilt is crucial. Also, start lighter, with 5- or 8-pound balls to avoid straining your neck or back. As you notice your strength improve, switch to a heavier weight.