Ab Workouts for Women

12-Minute Abs Program

Sculpt your midsection with this express routine.

Unlike that puffy parka you might be rocking this month, a strong, sexy core is in style 365 days a year. With the help of this four-move routine, you’ll be heating things up come summer — or your next tropical vacay — when you reveal that hot set of abs. Do these moves three to four times a week, and you should see results in as little as two weeks!

Plank With Cross-Body Knee Drive


Target Muscles: rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, erector spinae

Set Up: Start in a push-up position with your hands under your shoulders.

Action: Bring one knee towards your chest, crossing it towards your opposite elbow. Hold for three seconds, then return to the start. Do two to three sets of up to 10 reps on each side.

Tip: When you set yourself up, your fingers should be spread and pointing forward to distribute your weight evenly and help reduce wrist strain.

Sit-Ups With Rotation


Target Muscles: rectus abdominis, obliques, hip flexors

Set Up: Lie on your back with your legs bent and feet flat on the ground.

Action: Flex from your hips to lift your torso. Twist one elbow towards your opposite knee, then slowly lower. Do three sets of 10 to 12 reps, alternating the direction of the twist with each rep.

Tip: The closer your feet are to your body, the harder this move becomes. The key to this move is the downward motion. Stay rotated as you lower, to challenge your obliques.

Crunch With Leg Extension


Target Muscles: rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, hip flexors

Set Up: Lie on your back with your hands placed lightly beside your ears. Keep your knees bent, with your calves parallel to the ground.

Action: Slowly lift your upper back from the mat. Extend your legs to 45 degrees, hold, then reverse. Do two to three sets of 10 to 15 reps.

Tip: The lower you get your legs to the floor during the extension, the more challenging this move will be. Keep your lower back glued to the mat, and try not to rock your hips back and forth.

Windshield Wipers


Target Muscles: rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, erector spinae

Set Up: Lie on your back with your arms extended as shown. Lift your legs so that your toes are pointing at the ceiling. With your lower back pressed into the mat, raise your butt slightly to engage your pelvic floor.

Action: Slowly lower your legs to one side, keeping your back planted on the mat. Return your legs to the center and repeat on the opposite side for one rep. Do 10 to 15 reps, and repeat twice for a total of three sets.

Tip: If you feel like you’re falling over as you move, you’ve gone too far; reduce your range of motion.

Move Mindfully

The key to success in this routine is keeping your core contracted, says Irene Lewis-McCormick, author of A Woman’s Guide to Muscle and Strength. As you twist through your core during the sit-ups, for example, “imagine your torso as a dishrag, and you’re wringing it out in the sink.” Making this mental connection will help you focus the intensity on your obliques.

Change It Up

To really burn fat and tone your midsection at the same time, Lewis-McCormick recommends doing 30 seconds of high-intensity cardio, like jump squats or burpees, at least three times during this workout (after each exercise or between sets of an exercise would work perfectly). And you beginners don’t need to worry — the tougher moves included here are modifiable. For example, Sammie Kennedy, creator and CEO of Booty Camp Fitness in Toronto, Canada, suggests bending your knees to a 90-degree angle during the windshield wipers to help reduce lower-back strain.