Your upper abs are like that eager beaver friend who’s always ready for a workout, but your lower abs are quite the opposite – the shy, introverted pal in the group. Building those elusive lower abs takes some effort. But there are effective exercises which can turn things around, say experts.
The lower abdominal muscles, specifically the rectus abdominis, have a thicker layer of connective tissue and less blood flow compared to their upper counterparts. This makes them less responsive to growth stimuli. They’re also the last to engage in most movements, so they often end up underdeveloped.
“Additionally, some struggle with a weak mind-muscle connection, making it challenging to engage the lower abs effectively,” says Mohini Kulkarni, consultant physiotherapist at SRV Hospital Goregaon, Mumbai. “Proper technique and a focused effort are crucial for targeting this specific area.”
The fact that we can’t spot-reduce fat makes things more complicated. Lower belly fat is usually the last to bid us farewell and the first to barge back in at the slightest hint of an unhealthy lifestyle.
“Genetics play a significant role in how the abdominal muscles are structured and how fat is distributed in the abdominal region,” says Kulkarni. “Some are naturally blessed with a more defined lower abs area, while others may encounter greater difficulty in achieving this.”
Why train your lower abs?
1. Posture enhancement
Your lower abs act as the body’s natural corset. They ensure you stand tall and confident, reducing the chances of slouching. “The lower abdominal muscles play a crucial role in core stability and overall body function contributing to balance and coordination. Their primary functions include providing support to the spine and maintaining posture,” says Kulkarni.
2. Spinal protection
The lower abs, especially the transverse abdominis, serve as a protective shield for your lower back. By bracing your spine, they reduce the likelihood of injuries and pain in the lumbar region. “Lower abs also aid in controlling the diaphragm, which is essential for proper breathing and efficient oxygen exchange,” adds Kulkarni.
3. Functional movement
Everyday movements like bending, twisting, and lifting, rely on the strength of your lower abdominal muscles. “Strengthening the lower abs contributes to overall core strength, which is essential for stability and balance in various activities, from everyday tasks to sports and fitness,” explains Kulkarni.
4. Athletic performance
A strong lower ab region is a performance enhancer. It provides stability during explosive movements like sprinting, jumping, or heavy lifting, allowing you to excel in your chosen sport. “Improved control of the lower abs can enhance breathing patterns, aiding in building the overall lung capacity and respiratory function,” says Kulkarni.
Beginner-friendly lower abs exercises
1. Leg raises
Lie flat on your back with your hands under your hips or by your sides. Lift your legs while keeping them straight and raise them as high as you can. Lower your legs back down, but don’t let them touch the ground, this ensures constant tension on the lower abs.
2. Reverse crunches
Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Place your hands by your sides or under your hips. Contract your lower abs to lift your hips off the ground, bringing your knees toward your chest. Lower your hips back down without fully resting them on the floor to maintain constant tension in your lower abs.
3. Bicycle crunches
Lie on your back with your hands behind your head. Bend one knee toward your chest while simultaneously twisting your torso to bring the opposite elbow toward that knee. Alternate sides in a pedalling motion for 30 seconds to a minute.
Lie flat on your back with your arms extended above your head. Simultaneously raise your legs and upper body to form a “V” shape, targeting the lower abs. Either hold or do it for reps.
5. Mountain climbers
Begin in a push-up position with your hands directly under your shoulders. Bring one knee toward your chest, then switch to the other knee in a running motion. Keep your core tight and aim for 20-30 seconds of continuous movement. Ensure your elbows are not locked, this is to avoid any elbow tension.
- The lower abdominal muscles have a thicker layer of connective tissue and less blood flow compared to the upper abs. They’re also the last to engage in most movements. Some people have a weak mind-muscle connection with them. This makes them less responsive to growth stimuli.
- Training the lower abs is important for posture alignment, spinal protection, functional movements, and athletic performance.
- Leg raises, reverse crunches, bicycle crunches, V-ups, and Mountain climbers are great options for beginners to start targeting their lower abs.