Ever since Emily Ratajkowski burst onto the scene, people have been obsessed with getting an ab crack (which, BTW, is just genetic), but focusing solely on your upper abs isn't the best plan for your fitness goals. Aesthetically, you won't get that coveted six-pack if you only work the two abs that live above your belly button. But it's the 21st-century — we know aesthetic "fitness goals" are only a small perk of a healthy diet and regular exercise, and every body is a "bikini body." Strengthening your lower abs helps your posture, gives you better balance, and can alleviate lower back pain, making them key to a happier and healthier you.
The beautiful and terrifying thing about a static hold is that you're the only one who knows how hard you're working. It's really easy to scrunch up your face during a group exercise class and pretend like you're squeezing everything as hard as you can, but there's no external checks and balances to call you on your B.S. When done with a lil oomph, this simple pose warms up your entire abdomen (and your arms... and your legs) while activating your lower core. Lie on your back with your knees and hips bent at 90 degrees. If you don't have a block, you can just press your palms into your thighs and your thighs back into your hands, but placing a block over your thighs and pressing your forearms into that block is an easy way to level-up this deceptively difficult press. If someone were to come try and take the block from you, they shouldn't be able to move it. Lift your head and shoulders off the floor for an added challenge, and make sure you glue your lower back into the floor. Tyra Banks may love a good booty tooch, but that won't help you here.
Shape offers tons of variations and modifications to make this exercise even harder, but a basic L-Sit uses your own body weight to strengthen your body. Who needs to pump iron when you've got a hundred pounds of awesome you can lift anytime, anywhere? Sit on the floor with your legs long in front of you and plant your hands on either side of your upper thighs. Press into your palms to lift your body off of the ground. Another static hold, this pose requires you to tightly pull your core to elevate your body *and* your shoulders and glutes will thank you as well. Hollow your core, almost like you've been punched in the stomach, so you get the most out of this exercise recommended by NBC's Biggest Loser trainer Jen Widerstrom.
Ah, yes. The dreaded mountain climbers. Whether you do them super slowly for precision or amp up the cardio like Barry Allen trying to reset the timeline, correctly done mountain climbers should make it hurt to laugh the next day. Start in plank with level hips, lift your right foot, and draw your right knee into your chest between your hands. Alternate between your left and right sides with a tight core, and don't hike up your hips! Maintaining a straight line from the top of your head through your hips is key to getting the most out of this strengthening, fat-burning plank modification.
Dead Bug can be hard to explain, especially since the name is no help at all. Start on your back with your knees and hips bent 90 degrees and your feet flexed. Honestly, what we're about to explain is a Dead Bug modification that'll give you an added challenge — with your torso and neck on the ground and your arms by your sides, straighten your right leg so it hovers an inch or two above the ground, then raise your leg to the sky. Drop your leg back to hover, then bend your knee and bring your legs back to their starting position. Do this slowly on one side, repeating for thirty seconds, then switch to the other leg (without breaking)! Squeeze your booty and glue your lower back to the ground to engage your core the whole time, and you'll be feeling the burn. Watch this video if you're hella confused.
Burpees f*cking suck, but do you know what hurts even more? Half burpees. Something about staying in a squat with no tall jumping release just makes a burpee ache, especially in your lower core. Instead of starting standing like in a full burpee, begin in a deep squat with your legs shoulder-width apart and your hands in front of your chest. Jump back into high plank, but keep a micro-bend in your elbows to protect your joints and ensure that it's your muscles doing the work and not just bone stacking. Immediately jump your legs back in and return to your starting position. Do that for a few minutes and contemplate why we don't call them "ouchies."
Boat pose fires up your lower abs (and your upper abs, your thighs, and your biceps) even in its more basic iterations, but low boat drills are delightfully mean. Start in a seated position with your legs in front of you and your knees bent. Rock your weight back until you feel your core fire up, then lift your legs so your chins are parallel to the ground. Lift your arms in front of you in line with your chins, and shine your chest forward. This is boat pose. Simultaneously straighten your legs and lower them so they hover one or two inches about the ground as you lower your torso to hover an inch or two above the ground as well. Welcome to low boat pose. Alternating between boat pose and low boat pose is the captain of all crunches.
Leg lifts are a classic lower abdomen workout because you can feel the burn in your low abs way more than in your upper core. Lie on the ground (or, like, a mat preferably) with your arms by your sides and your legs long in front of you. Option to make a pyramid with your hands under your tailbone to help neutralize your spine. Glue your legs together and lift them into the sky, stopping when they're in line with your hips, then slowly lower them back to the ground. Instead of plopping them on your mat, challenge yourself to hover them slightly above the group during your reps.
Forearm plank drills are so effective and fun, it's hard to choose just one. There's the classic forearm plank dips, where you swivel your right hip down towards the ground and hover before bringing it back to center and repeating on the left side (as you keep your torso square to the ground, naturally). Then there's forearm plank toe touches, when you slowly step your right foot out and in, then repeat on the left while keeping your shoulders and hips level, forever. A "body saw" that requires you to use gliders under your feet so you can slide forward and backward in your forearm plank also fires up your biceps, while just rocking back and forth in your forearm plank is a similar move that just hits a little different. A favorite for any of you yogis out there might be walking from forearm plank up into dolphin, which is a down dog on your forearms for an added hamstring stretch. Heck, try them all and have a forearm plank day. Your body will thank you.