If you want to know 3 exercises guaranteed to sculpt that trouble area, then you want to read this article
Building those upper abdominal muscles takes work but for many of us, working that bottom half of your core can seem nearly impossible to hit.
This is largely due to:
Lacking mind muscle connection
Recruiting your hip flexors, obliques, and upper abdominal muscles
Extending your back too much
Before we go over fancy breathing techniques, first things first, let’s make sure you’re performing the right exercises.
Below, we discuss 3 exercises that will not only increase blood flow to that stubborn area but also improve the functionality of your core in your training. Let’s get started:
Exercise 1: Lying Leg Lifts
Lie with your back flat and your legs extended in front of you. These can be performed on the floor, a flat bench, or decline bench. Think neutral spine as you tuck your pelvis. Keep your hips and back planted and refrain from allowing your neck to come off the floor.
Place your hands either:
under your glutes with your palms down (for beginners)
or out by your sides (more challenging).
This will be your starting position.
Knees slightly bent but locked raise your legs until they make a 90-degree angle with the floor. Exhale as you perform this portion of the movement and hold the contraction at the top for a second. Remember, this isn’t a race.
The more control you have of your limbs, the better connection you’ll have with your lower abs.
If you struggle with your hip flexors taking over the movement: try crossing your ankles and bringing your knees away from each other. Quality reps will go a lot further than doing a handful of sloppy sets.
Variations: You can also add weight by holding a medicine ball in between your feet as you get more advanced.
Exercise 2: Captain Chair Leg Raises
Also Known As: Vertical crunch, hanging knee raises, captain's chair hanging leg raises, Roman chair leg raises
One of my go-to’s to fire up my core!
Stand in the frame with your back planted flat against the pad.
Inhale as you engage your abdominal muscles to prepare for the leg lift.
Lift your legs by bending at the knees. Bring your legs slightly higher than your waist. Think about bringing your legs in as opposed to straight out.
The further out your legs are, the more your hip flexors will try to help with the movement. Similar to the lying leg lifts, if you find your hip flexors are taking over the movement, try crossing your ankles and externally rotating your hips.
Aim for 8 to 10 raises before resting (one set). Work up to 3 sets of 10 raises.
Avoid arching your back, relying on momentum, and lastly, make sure you breathe!
While most gyms have the frame needed to perform this, if yours unfortunately doesn’t, don’t worry! Do these hanging from a bar with a narrow/neutral grip.
Exercise 3: Dead Bugs
So simple, yet deadly when done correctly.
Not only do deadbugs strengthen your lower abdomen, they also force you to reduce the recruitment of your lower back.
To do them, lie on your back and maintain a neutral spine. Eyes straight up, chin pulled toward your chest, and most importantly, keep your lower back in contact with the ground. Start by bringing your heels off the ground and your knees back over your hips.
Begin moving your legs slightly away from you and then back towards your abdomen. When your lower back is anchored to the ground, this will naturally cause your pelvis to tuck and the muscles deep with your stomach to contract.
Reach both arms and knees toward the ceiling, and slowly extend one arm overhead while simultaneously extending the opposite leg out.
Return to the starting position and do the same thing with the other arm and leg.
Fight to keep your back still, and your movements and breathing controlled. Don’t rush. Deadbugs are deceptively challenging, and when practiced regularly will improve your mind muscle connection.
The Bottom Line:
If you really are looking to develop and tone your core, the most effective way to do this is by performing the right exercises. Here’s a look into my core routine:
Start with 10-12 reps of Lying leg lifts
Directly into captain chair leg or knee raises, to failure
Directly into deadbugs, to failure
Rest 2-3 minutes