If you're looking for a flatter midsection, you might be disappointed to find out there aren't any magical lower belly fat exercises. That means, no matter how many crunches you do or how much you "feel the burn," you can't melt away excess body fat from your lower abs.
As explained by the American Council on Exercise, spot reduction — exercising a particular area of the body to burn fat in a certain spot — doesn't work. But don't give up on your goal!
Losing overall body fat with a healthy, calorie-reduced diet and cardio (see below for more on that, as well as strengthening the muscles in your midsection with the exercises below can get you the results you want.
Try These 7 Exercises to Sculpt Your Lower Abs
While you're reducing your overall body fat to help uncover your abs, strengthening exercises can add definition to your midsection. These exercises can be performed several times a week, but you should allow at least one day of rest between strength-training workouts to give your muscles a chance to recover.
The main abdominal muscle in your lower belly actually spans from the bottom of your ribs and breastbone down to your pubic bone, according to ExRx.net. Strengthening this muscle — called the rectus abdominis — is what gives a person the coveted "six-pack abs."
Exercises that target your core expand well beyond the basic crunch or sit-up, according to ExRx.net, although when performed with proper form, they can help strengthen your midsection.
Add some arm and leg movements to your ab exercises to further challenge your muscles, per Princeton University Athletic Medicine. And don't forget isometric exercises strengthen your abdominals in a stationary position, since your abdominal muscles are stabilizers that hold your torso upright.
Do: each exercise 20 times, working up to 3 sets in a row.
Move 1: Sit-Up
- Lie on your back. Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor.
- Clasp your hands behind your head and rest your elbows out to the sides.
- Tighten your lower abs by flattening your lower back against the ground.
- Lift your upper body off the ground and sit up. Don't pull on your neck — keep your elbows pointed out to the sides.
- Slowly lower back down and repeat.
Move 2: Medicine Ball Crunch
- Holding a medicine ball at your chest, sit on the ground with your knees bent and feet on the floor.
- Roll down onto your back, keeping the medicine ball at your chest.
- Lift your head, neck and shoulders off the ground, using only the strength of your abs.
- Lower back down to the ground.
Move 3: Reverse Crunch
- Lie on your back. Place your hands under your tailbone if you need extra support.
- Bend your knees and curl your lower body up toward your chest, lifting your lower back off the ground.
- Lower your upper body back down.
Don't rely on momentum to swing your legs up and back. Focus on only using the strength of your abs.
Move 4: Mountain Climber
- Begin in a high plank with your hands under your shoulders and your body weight supported on the balls of your feet and hands.
- Bend one knee, bringing it up toward your chest, while keeping the opposite leg straight.
- Push off the balls of your feet and switch legs. Bend the knee on your straight leg to bring it forward while kicking the other leg back into a straight position, landing on the balls of your feet.
- Repeat this pattern for 20 reps.
Move 5: Forearm Plank
- Lie on your stomach.
- Prop your upper body up onto your forearms. Position your elbows in line with your shoulders.
- Tighten your abs, butt and thighs.
- Lift your torso off the ground until you are supported on your forearms and your toes.
- Hold for 30 seconds, increasing time as your strength improves.
Move 6: Side Plank
- Lie on your side with your legs stacked on top of each other.
- Prop yourself up onto your elbow, resting your forearm on the ground.
- Tighten your abs, butt and thighs and lift your hips off the ground.
- Raise up until your body weight is supported on your forearm and the side of your bottom foot.
- Hold for 30 seconds, increasing your time as you're able to do more.
- Repeat on the opposite side.
Move 7: Side Plank With Knee Tuck
- Perform a side plank.
- While holding this position, bend your top knee and elbow and crunch them toward each other.
- Lower your leg back down and reach your arm straight up in the air or overhead.
- Perform 20 crunches before releasing your side plank position and repeating on the other side.
Now, Turn Up the Intensity
While any type of exercise burns some calories, one type of exercise has been shown to help reduce abdominal fat by reducing overall body fat and maintaining lean muscle tissue. It's high-intensity interval training, or HIIT.
Not only is HIIT effective, it's also efficient. As explained by the American College of Sports Medicine, HIIT workouts combine short bursts of high intensity exercise followed by a short period of rest. Total workout time typically ranges from 20 to 40 minutes. For example, you might sprint for 30 seconds, then walk for 2 minutes, repeating this pattern for 20 minutes.
In addition to helping to reduce abdominal fat, your calorie burn can be elevated for up to two hours after a HIIT workout. This is caused by excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, or EPOC, while your body recovers from your workout.
Don't Forget to Create a Caloric Deficit
But perhaps the most important part of losing body fat is creating a caloric deficit, which means you must burn more calories than you consume throughout the day. This can be accomplished through exercise, dietary changes or, ideally, both.
According to the Mayo Clinic, you need to burn approximately 3,500 calories to lose 1 pound of fat. To lose weight at a healthy pace of 1 to 2 pounds per week, you'll need to cut 500 to 1,000 calories from your diet. Or add exercise to burn off the additional calories.
The amount of calories burned during exercise depends on your body weight and the intensity of your workout. For example, a person weighing 155 pounds can burn about 298 calories in 30 minutes of jogging at a 12-minute-mile pace, according to Harvard Health Publishing. A person who weighs 185 pounds will burn 355 calories in that same amount of time.
- American Council on Exercise: "Myths and Misconceptions: Spot Reduction and Feeling the Burn"
- Mayo Clinic: "Counting Calories: Get Back to Weight-Loss Basics"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Calories Burned in 30 Minutes for People of Three Different Weights"
- Department of Health and Human Services: "Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd Edition"
- American College of Sports Medicine: "High-Intensity Interval Training"
- ExRx.net: "Rectus Abdominis"
- ExRx.net: "Waist Exercises"
- Princeton University Athletic Medicine: "Lumbar/Core Strength and Stability Exercises"