You can’t have a well-defined six-pack if you’re not training your lower abs. In this article, I’ll show you how to work lower abs with three of the best lower ab exercises.
If you want to get an attractive-looking six-pack, you need to develop your lower abs. But if you’ve dedicated significant time to all kinds of abs workouts, you’d know that the lower abs region is one of the most challenging parts to reveal.
Why so difficult, though? Well, it’s primarily because muscle definition, especially in the abdominal area, and excess body fat doesn’t go well together.
You’d have to lose quite a bit of body fat before your abs begin showing up. And that would be something that your diet will be mostly responsible for.
But even though nutrition plays a significant role in revealing the lower abs, you can still prioritize and develop the region, so it becomes more visible – even at a higher body fat percentage.
So, how to work lower abs? Well, you can do this by choosing the right lower abs exercises, performing, and then correctly progressing them.
Isn’t the abdominal muscle just one muscle?
Okay, I need to address a common misconception before diving into the various exercises to tone your lower abs. Many people believe that it’s not possible to selectively target the lower abs.
But research indicates that it is indeed possible. Different nerves innervate the upper and lower abs and, therefore, this provides them with a mechanism for selective activation.
Researcher Bret Contreras has performed extensive research on this very topic. And his EMG findings conclude that the upper and lower abs – beyond a shadow of a doubt – can be selectively emphasized.
Of course, it all depends on the type of ab exercises you do. For example,
- Upper abs – Top-down ab exercises that involve bringing your shoulders toward your hips, such as crunches.
- Lower abs – Bottom-up ab exercises that involve bringing your hips towards your shoulders, such as leg raises.
How to work lower abs?
“How to work lower abs?” is one of the most common questions I get. Followed by, “what exercises best target lower abs?” Well, now that you understand how different movements affect specific ab muscle groups, we can now move on to three of the best – and simple – exercises for lower abs.
1) Reverse crunches
The first exercise enables us to target the lower abs by bringing the pelvis up towards the shoulders. Sadly, even though this is a well-known exercise, many people don’t perform it in a way that targets and activates the lower abs.
A mistake I commonly come across is that they’d aimlessly swing their legs up and down. Instead of the lower abs driving the movement of the exercise, the momentum generated from the swinging is now helping them complete the reps.
Ultimately, this turns reverse crunches into a hip flexor exercise, rather than a lower abs exercise. Not good. Don’t believe that reverse crunches can become hip flexor exercises? Here’s some proof.
In a study that looked at the reverse crunch, investigators found that participants who aimlessly swung their legs up and down were unable to work the lower abs. On the contrary, those who performed the exercise with proper form (I’m going to show you this in a bit) were able to activate their lower abs to a significantly higher degree.
How to do reverse crunches
So, you don’t want to swing your legs mindlessly. Here’s what you’ll want to do instead.
First, lay on a flat bench or the floor with your hands held behind the bench for support.
Next, raise your legs and bend to roughly 90 degrees. And – here’s the crucial part – you need to initiate something called the posterior pelvic tilt.
You can do so by squeezing your glutes and contracting your abs. If you perform both movements simultaneously, your pelvis will tilt upwards. As a result, your back will be flattened entirely onto the bench or ground. Maintain this posterior pelvic tilt throughout the movement.
Next, lift your pelvis off the bench. Do so by thinking about raising it and curling towards your belly button. As you do so, think about contracting your lower abs.
Then, slowly lower back down to the starting point. Always ensure that you maintain that posterior pelvic tilt and flat lower back every time you come back down for the next rep.
When done correctly, you should feel a forceful contraction in the lower part of your abdomen. Feel it? Congratulations – you’re now successfully working the lower abs!
How to progressively overload reverse crunches
Once you’re able to perform over 15 reps or so of reverse crunches, you’ll want to overload with it progressively (progressive overload). As you would with any other exercise, to further stimulate the growth of the lower abs.
You can do so by squeezing a weighted ball between your knees as you perform the movement. And there’s a bonus to doing this as well. You’ll further boost your core activation. But be careful with this: I assume you wouldn’t want the ball to end up smacking you right in the face! Ouch.
Another option you have is to move onto a decline bench when performing the reverse crunches. Either way, you must overload the movement in one way or another over time.
2) Hanging leg raises
Now that you know how to work lower abs with the reverse crunches, it’s time to move on to the hanging leg raise. This exercise is another bottom-up ab movement and is one of the best lower belly abs exercises you can do.
However, similar to the reverse crunch, its effectiveness as a lower ab exercise is dependent on how you perform it. And again, it can quickly become a hip flexor dominant movement when done incorrectly.
How to do hanging leg raises
Start by hanging onto a bar. Or, if the hanging version is too challenging for you, you can set up a captain’s chair leg raise.
Either way, you should move into a posterior pelvic tilt once again before initiating the movement. You should flex your core and tilt the pelvis upwards; your lower back’s curvature will naturally flatten out as a result.
From here, I want you to think about raising the pelvis and curving it towards the belly button as much as your ab strength allows. You’ll find that your legs will be brought up as a result.
By consciously thinking about raising your pelvis, you’ll prevent your hip flexors from taking over the work from your lower abs.
If this movement is too difficult for you, you can start with bent knees. Use the same cues I previously went through.
As you get stronger, you can both gradually straighten the knees more and lift the pelvis and legs higher to enhance the difficulty of the movement.
How to progressively overload hanging leg raises
Once you’re able to do 15+ reps of hanging leg raises consecutively, you can load the movement with a weighted dumbbell or ball. Doing so ensures that you’re continuously progressing and growing the lower abs over time.
3) Ab wheel
Finally – we’ve come to the last exercise when it comes to learning how to work lower abs. In addition to being one of the best lower abs workouts available, the ab wheel roll-out also targets other muscles as well.
You might have noticed that this exercise isn’t technically a bottom-up movement. How smart! But see: when it’s performed correctly, the ab wheel roll-out highly activates the lower abs.
But once again, its effectiveness depends on proper execution. Which, sadly, many people don’t do.
How to use the ab roller exercise wheel
First, you’ll want to get into the correct starting position by moving into the posterior pelvic tilt. So – you want to contract your abs to tilt your pelvis towards your belly button. By doing so, you’ll slightly flex your spine.
As a result, you’ll not only be better able to engage the lower abs during the roll-out, but you’ll also put your lower back in a safer position.
From here, you want to maintain this position with your abs contracted as you begin to roll-out. Go out only as far as you can, while maintaining the posterior pelvic tilt.
You’ll know you’ve reached the limit of the strength of your abs once your lower back begins to cave. So, start with short roll-outs first. Gradually progress further out as your ab strength improves.
And on the way back, you want to avoid merely bending at the knees; this is cheating. Instead, you want to maintain that posterior pelvic tilt and pull-up with your mid-section to roll back in.
A helpful cue is to visualize a string pulling your mid-back up to the starting position. When correctly executed, you should feel a strong contraction – especially in the lower abs.
To sum it all up
Alright, that’s all the exercises I have.
I hope that you were able to see that when it comes to how to get lower abs and a well-defined six-pack, you need to not only choose the right exercises, but you need to ensure you’re performing them optimally as well.
Doing so, together with the implementation of the right nutrition plan, is going to be the key to dropping your body fat, and developing those much-coveted six-pack abs.
And for a step-by-step science-based nutrition and workout plan designed to get you lean and develop your six-pack as quickly as possible:
Click the button below to take my analysis quiz to discover the best program for you:
I hope you enjoyed this article and have successfully learnt how to work lower abs! Also, make sure you don’t sabotage your abs goal by making these fat loss mistakes. Don’t forget to give me a follow and connect with me on Instagram, Facebook, and Youtube as well, in order to stay up to date with my content.
P.S. A quick shoutout to Vincent who ran the program for just a few months – as you can see, he was able to achieve the six-pack he was after in record time. Anyways, thanks for reading!