Men and women’s muscles are fairly similar, although women do have a tougher job. Biologically, women tend to be wider through the pelvis, have a longer waist and carry more body fat, which can hide abdominal muscles. But don’t worry! It is possible for women to get flat, firm abs with a smart combination of diet and exercise. We’ve put together seven of the best ab exercises for women to help build a strong core and achieve those abs of steel. These exercises make it easy to do your abs workout at home.

Target the four main muscle groups in your core

To get the most from your workout, you need to target the four main muscle groups in your core. These are:

  • External abdominal obliques - extends from the lower half of the ribs around and down to the pelvis
  • Internal abdominal obliques - the stabilising muscles that lie underneath your external obliques
  • Transversus abdominis - the deepest muscles which run horizontally around your midsection
  • Rectus abdominis - run from your sternum down to your pelvis. In other words, your “six-pack”

It’s important to do a range of exercises, and not just the standard sit-ups, to ensure you target all four muscle groups. Training your core muscles will not only make you look good, but it has a whole load of other benefits too. It will help improve your posture and will also stabilize your lower back and pelvis to help prevent injury. It can also help you run faster, enhance flexibility, and improve balance and coordination. So what are you waiting for? Try these exercises 2 to 3 times a week to help build a stronger core and get that washboard stomach.

1. Side crunch

Lie down on a fitness mat on one side of your body. Your legs should be stacked on top of each other. Bend your knees. Place your upper arm’s hand (arm furthest from the mat) behind or at the side of your head. Place your lower arm’s hand either extended straight out from your body, or on your thigh or abdomen.

Exhale and contract your abdominal oblique muscles to lift your upper body off the mat and crunch. Try to crunch to your side as high as possible, aiming to get your elbow as close to your thigh as you can. Pause and hold the crunch briefly, before inhaling and coming back down to your starting position.

Repeat 10-15 times and then switch sides, completing 2 sets of each side.

2. Plank

Get into a pushup position and bend your elbows and rest your weight on your forearms. Your elbows should be directly beneath your shoulders and your body should form a straight line from your head to your feet. Hold this position for as long as you can.

Aim to do 3 sets of 60 seconds (you may need to build up to this).

3. Bicycle crunch

Lie faceup with your legs bent, so your knees form the peak of a triangle. Place your hands behind your head, elbows bent and pointing out to the sides. Use your abs to curl your shoulders off the floor. This is the starting position.

Twist to bring your right elbow to your left knee, while straightening your right leg. Then, twist to bring your left elbow to your right knee, while straightening your left leg. This is 1 rep. Continue alternating sides. Go at a slow and steady pace so that you can really twist and feel your abs working.

Repeat 10-15 reps and 2-3 sets.

4. Mountain climber

Start in a push-up position, so that your hands are directly under your shoulders and only your hands and feet touch the ground.

Engage your core and draw your right knee to your chest.

Return to the starting position and immediately draw your left knee to your chest. Continue to alternate, moving quickly. Make sure to keep your core engaged and back flat throughout. You can use balance equipment (as shown in the video) as you get more advanced.

Repeat 10-15 reps and aim to complete 2-3 sets.

5. Jackknife

Lie face up with your legs extended and arms extended overhead on the floor, keeping them close to your ears. Contract your abs to press your lower back into the ground. This is the starting position.

Point your toes, squeeze your thighs together, engage your glutes, and simultaneously lift your legs and upper back off the ground, reaching your hands forward to meet your feet so that your body forms a V-shape. Keep your core engaged as you slowly lower to return to starting position.

Repeat 10-15 reps and aim to complete 2-3 sets.

6. Boat pose

Begin by sitting upright with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Keeping your legs together, slowly lift them off the floor until they form a 45-degree angle to your torso.

Engage your entire core, keep your back flat, and balance on your tailbone. You can keep your knees bent or straighten them out for more of a challenge. Reach your arms straight out in front of you, parallel to the floor. If you feel that you need some extra support, place your hands on the floor, underneath your hips.

Hold for 30 seconds, and do 3 sets of 10 reps.

7. Squat

Stand with your feet hip width apart, and toes facing forwards. Start to lower your body back as far as you can and sit into a squat position while still keeping your heels and toes on the ground, chest up and shoulders back. Your knees should be bent at a 90-degree angle. Then lift back up to the starting position.

Aim to do 15-20 squats. You can add a weight to your workout as you become more advanced.

Introduce ab toning equipment into your workout

If you’re looking for a little help with your workouts, there are also lots of fitness aids out there to help you tone your abs. Fitness Sales Assistant, Nina, recommends the abs cruncher as it will help tone up and sculpt your abs, and it also has a head rest to relieve your neck while you exercise. She also recommends “balance” apparatus like an exercise ball, to help tone up your core muscles more quickly. And for the more advanced workout, you may want to opt for an abs bench for more in-depth abs training.

Combine your abs workout with a good diet and weekly cardio, and you could reach your goal in no time!