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Ab Workouts for Women

7 Moves For Fab Abs

Oxygen asked experts for the best ways to hammer your midsection. These seven exercises mimic the way you move in real life and will fry you to the core.

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“Some of the most beneficial exercises for the abs are total-body moves that work to stabilize the core and support the body,” says CrossFit coach Darcy Giaquinto, owner of Rx Elite Fitness in Rincon, Ga. “These total-body movement patterns place a greater emphasis on the abs working in conjunction with the rest of the body and will result in stronger muscles than the traditional isolated abdominal exercises.”

At first glance, the following seven exercises, offered up by four different experts, may not look like midsection moves, but they’ll hammer your abs and core just as hard, if not harder, than any crunch or leg raise. Give them a try and you’ll see — and feel — what we mean.

One-Legged Stand-Up


This movement targets the abs in addition to the glutes, quads and hamstrings,” says Heather Drake, a WNBF Pro Figure competitor who is working toward her CSCS. “Because it requires balance, you’re forced to activate the entire core with each repetition.”

Setup: Sit on a flat bench with your feet hip-width apart and flat on the floor. Extend one leg straight in front of you, parallel to the floor, and reach your arms in front of you at chest level.

Action: Stand all the way up using one leg, keeping your other leg raised in front of you as high as you can. Slowly reverse the motion to sit back down. Do all reps on one side before switching.

Tip: “If the reps become too easy, add weight by holding a plate, dumbbell or kettlebell to really burn the core,” Drake says. Alternately, use a lower bench or platform.

Workout RX: Do two to three sets of 12 reps per leg as part of a lower-body workout.

Turkish Get-Up


“The core and abdominal regions are the essential components being challenged throughout this entire movement,” says Giaquinto, a CrossFit Level-1 trainer. “From the initial ‘sit up’ all the way through the decent back to the start, the core is engaged and challenged by balance and stabilization.”

Setup: Lie on your back and hold a kettlebell in one hand with your arm extended over your shoulder perpendicular to the floor. Bend that same-side knee and place your foot flat on the floor. Extend your other arm to the side for balance and your other leg along the floor, foot flexed.

Action: Sit up, propping yourself up on your elbow, then lift your butt off the floor and balance on your hand, working-side foot and opposite heel. Bend your nonworking leg underneath you and kneel on it, sitting upright so you’re on one knee facing forward in a lunge-like position. Stand up to finish with the kettlebell still straight up overhead. Go back the way you came to complete one rep. Do all reps on one side before switching.

Tip: The working arm should be perpendicular to the floor throughout the entire move.

Workout RX: Do three sets of three to five reps per side as part of a full-body workout. As you get stronger, work up to 10 to 12 reps per side.

Sumo Deadlift


“Engaging your core and abs is crucial to protecting your spine and deadlifting properly,” says Christa McLane, CPT, and an amateur figure competitor from Dubuque, Iowa.

Setup: Stand with your feet just outside shoulder width, toes pointed outward. Squat down with a flat back and take an overhand grip on a barbell with your arms positioned inside your legs. Keep your head up and your core tight.

Action: Extend your knees and hips to stand up with the bar in one powerful motion. At the top, stand tall with your chest out and your shoulders back for a count, then bend your knees and hips and lower the barbell back down to the floor.

Tip: If you’re going heavy, use a staggered grip in which one palm faces forward and the other faces back.

Workout RX: Do three to four sets of eight to 12 reps as part of a leg workout.

Barbell Overhead Walking Lunge


“When you elevate a weight overhead, the core works overtime to keep a balanced body, an erect spine and a stabilized torso,” Giaquinto says.

Setup: Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold a barbell overhead with your hands shoulder-width apart.

Action: Step forward with one foot and drop down carefully into a lunge, keeping your front knee over your toes. Lightly tap your rear knee on the floor, then extend both legs and bring your rear foot up to meet the front foot. Continue, alternating sides.

Tip: Holding a weight overhead can be awkward. Begin with a light weight, a body bar or even a broomstick to get used to it before moving to heavier weights.

Workout RX: Do two to three sets of six to 10 reps per leg as part of a lower-body workout.

Front Squat


“With the weight racked in the front position, you must keep your core muscles locked and tight in order to keep it in place,” says Leah Miller, a trainer and coach at CrossFit West Jax in Jacksonville, Fla.

Setup: Position a barbell across the front of your shoulders in the “clean” position — hands shoulder-width apart, palms facing up and elbows pointed straight forward, not down.

Action: Keeping your core tight and your elbows up, squat down until your quads are parallel with the floor, weight in your heels. Extend your legs to return to the start and repeat right away.

Tip: Keep your elbows lifted to keep your torso upright.

Workout RX: Do three sets of eight to 10 reps as part of a lower-body workout.

One-Arm Dumbbell Snatch


“Swinging a weight overhead and controlling it at the top and then lowering it back against gravity requires constant abdominal wall contraction and stabilization,” Giaquinto says.

Setup: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold a dumbbell at arm’s length at the midline of your body (not shown).

Action: Hinge forward at the hips and bend your knees to lower the dumbbell between your legs. Without pausing, extend your hips and knees explosively, shrug your working shoulder, rise up onto your toes and quickly drive the dumbbell overhead. Steady the weight directly over your shoulder, then bring it back down to the start. Do all reps on one side before switching.

Tip: Never round your back; keep it flat and solid throughout.

Workout RX: Do two to three sets of 12 reps per leg as part of a lower-body workout.

Prowler Sprint Suicides


“This is a burnout for the entire core because of the angled body position you need to push the Prowler,” Drake says.

Setup: Stand in front of a Prowler (or equivalent weight sled) and grab the handles with your arms extended. Lean forward and position your feet in a sprinter’s stance: one foot forward, one foot back, knees bent.

Action: Drive forward as fast as possible in a powerful running or fast walking motion for distance. Stay on your toes and bring your knees up and forward with each step.

Tip: To engage the core more, place your hands lower on the handles.

Workout RX: Set 10 cones in a line spaced 10 to 15 feet apart. On the first sprint, push the sled to the farthest cone and back; sprint No. 2 goes to the ninth cone and back and so on. Do as many rounds as possible in 10 to 15 minutes, minimizing your rest periods between sprints.

Photography by Robert Reiff. Fitness Clothing by Elisabetta Rogiani. Hair and Makeup by Nancy Jambazian. Model Ingrid Romero.