There are endless ways to work your abs, but lower abs exercises are usually the hardest to come by. The upper abs and obliques tend to get all the love from many popular exercises, while the lower abs are harder to target.
For the record, there’s technically no such thing as “upper abs” and “lower abs.” When people refer to these, they’re actually talking about the rectus abdominis, or “six-pack muscle,” which runs from your sternum to your pelvis. But it is possible to activate one part of the rectus abdominis—say, the upper part—while the lower section just chills out. The movement you’re doing will determine which areas of the muscle (and the rest of your core, for that matter,) are involved.
It’s important to work all of your core muscles, including targeting the lower section of the rectus abdominis. If a portion of your core is weak, this can cause other areas to become overactive as they try take on more of the work, Jason Loebig, an NASM certified personal trainer and the founder of Live Better, tells SELF. Your hips and lower back are particularly vulnerable to taking over, especially if you spend a good part of your day at a desk.
“As a result of sitting with poor posture for lengthy periods of time, the hip flexors and lower back may suffer,” says Loebig. “A strong core, specifically the ability to maintain a small amount of tension in the abs while sitting, helps to relieve tight hips and lower back pain by keeping the spine and pelvis in the correct posture position,” he says. So, even if you’ve got strong upper abs and obliques, strengthening your lower abs is important for making sure your core is putting in all the work it should.
To get familiar with where your lower abs are and how to engage them (along with the rest of your core), Loebig recommends a simple breathing exercise. “Start laying down on your back and take some deep breaths through the belly. If you put your right hand on your chest and your left hand on your belly, your left hand should be rising and falling. Each time you exhale, you want to engage your abs like you’re going to take a punch to the gut.”
This starts to warm up your core, so you can bring on the real work, no matter what type of abs exercises you’re doing. Here are some of the best lower abs exercises to get your whole core working more efficiently.