7 Exercises to Tone Your Lower Abs

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Muffin top, gut, beer belly—call it whatever you like. Many are able to make the top row of the desirable 6-pack visible, but the dreaded lower abs can be challenging to develop.

You can't necessarily isolate one section of the rectus abdominis muscles, but you can target one area more than another. An effective way to do this is by performing exercises that move the lower body toward the upper body, as opposed to traditional movements (crunches and sit-ups), where the upper body moves toward the lower body.

A popular fitness saying is "abs are made in the kitchen, not in the gym." When it comes to lower abs, this quote holds especially true.

You can perform ab exercises every day, but if you follow your workout with a trip to the local fast-food restaurant, your six-pack will remain a mystery.

Most individuals need to get their body fat percentage into the single digits to reveal the midsection. The solution is a combination of a healthy, clean diet consisting of eating real food, higher intensity workouts to help shed fat, and safe, effective ab exercises.

1. Hanging Leg-Lifts

Grab a pull-up bar firmly. Keeping your shoulders and back active, let your feet hang. Begin the exercise by bending your knees and bringing them up toward your armpits. Pause for a count at the top of the movement, and lower your legs down under control.

Equipment Options: pull-up bar, ab slings, dip bar

Variations: straight legs, bent knee, weighted, rotations ("hanging wipers")

Sets/Reps: 2 to 3 sets of 15 reps

2. Body-Saws

Begin in a forearm-plank position with your feet in the TRX cradles. Initiate the movement from your torso and shoulders by pushing your body back from your elbows (think about pushing your heels behind you). Bring your knees toward your chest to complete one rep.

Equipment Options: TRX, stability ball, sliders

Sets/Reps: 2 to 3 sets of 15 reps

3. Slider Seal Walks

This exercise requires a pair of sliders for your feet and a turf or hardwood surface (towels can be used on hardwood) that allows sliding. Begin in a push-up position with the sliders under your feet.

Keep your abs braced and be sure to not fully lock out your elbows. Walk forward on your hands as your feet drag along behind you.

Note: This is a great anti-rotation movement because the goal is to minimize side-to-side rotation of the pelvis.

Sets/Reps: 2 to 3 sets of 10 to 20 yards

4. Stability Ball Reverse Crunches

Begin on your back with your arms by your side, palms flat on the ground and a stability ball in between your legs. Squeeze your heels hard into the ball and bring your knees up toward your shoulders. Lower your legs back down under control to complete one rep.

Note: In addition to working the lower ab muscles, the reverse crunch has postural benefits as well.

Sets/Reps: 2 to 3 sets of 15 reps

5. Ab Wheel Rollouts

Start with your knees on a pad or mat with an ab wheel in your hands. Slowly roll straight and forward. Be sure to bring your hips along and don't just extend the arms. Extend far enough to engage the abs, and focus on bracing the core as you use your abs and hips to pull yourself back to the starting position.

Note: It's important to not go too far out on this movement and drop into excessive lumbar extension.

Sets/Reps: 2 to 3 sets of 8 to 10 reps

6. Dragon-Flags

Made popular by Bruce Lee, this advanced exercise requires a great deal of core strength. Lie on your back on a flat bench and reach your hands behind your head to grab the top of the bench for support.

Lift your legs up toward your head, attempting to keep them straight. Pause for a count at the top of the movement, and lower your legs in a slow, controlled motion. Maintain control and a neutral spine; try to avoid excessively arching the back.

Note: At the top of the movement, make sure you're supporting your weight with your upper back and not your neck. Additionally, apply constant tension by gripping the bench firmly.

Sets/Reps: 2 to 3 sets of 6 to 8 reps

7. Pull-Ups

In addition to training the upper-body muscles, pull-ups and chin-ups are an effective exercise for activating the lower abs. On each rep, fight the urge to go into extension and maintain a slow and controlled tempo.

Sets/Reps: Vary greatly depending on strength. Begin with 2 to 3 sets of 5 to 8 reps.

READ THIS NEXT: 7 Exercises to Tone Your Oblique Muscles

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