Your lower abs are part of your rectus abdominis, or six-pack muscles, and you have them — we promise — they're just harder to see. Why? The region of the midsection where these abs are located is generally one of the final places that the body stores fat, especially as you age, Tom Holland, MS, CSCS, exercise physiologist and fitness adviser for Bowflex, told POPSUGAR. (One endocrinologist further explained in a past interview that women specifically tend to accumulate fat in their lower abdomen.)
How to See Your Lower Abs
You can do as many crunches as you want, but if you don't incorporate key lifestyle changes, seeing lower abs — and abs in general — will be more difficult. "To achieve truly defined lower abs, one must achieve a particularly low percentage of overall body fat by following a consistent program of healthy eating, cardiovascular exercise, and strength training," Tom explained. Got that? Cardio and strength training that will work toward boosting your metabolism, as well as a healthy diet of food like healthy fats (avocados and legumes) and lean proteins (chicken, fish, or tofu), is essential.
Note: you can't spot-reduce — not even belly fat. But losing body fat over all, Tom said, will help you see those abs. And it's also worth repeating that just because you can't see your lower abs doesn't mean you don't have them. "We all have a six-pack," Tom explained. "It's just covered by a layer of subcutaneous fat in many people." (Subcutaneous, meaning the fat you can pinch with your fingers.) So don't be discouraged if it takes a little extra effort to see those lower abs. It doesn't necessarily mean you have a weak core.
How to Target Lower Abs
In terms of exercise, Tom told us it's difficult to isolate the upper or lower regions of your abs because when you do an ab exercise, the entire muscle contracts. He suggested slowing down your repetitions and focusing on proper form because it will "result in the greatest activation of the entire rectus abdominis region, including the lower abs."
NASM-certified personal trainer and Peloton and Pilates instructor Emma Lovewell told us that even exercises that work your six-pack aren't engaging your lower abs as much. For example, when you do a regular crunch, "your bottom half is still and you're crunching the top half of your body," she said. So you'll feel it more in your upper abs. To get the most bang for your buck, Emma said you need to be doing exercises where you're moving your lower body. Here are some moves she suggests trying:
- Hanging leg raises
- Reverse crunches
- Mountain climbers
Another pro tip: focus on engaging your core while you're working out in moves that aren't just for your abs. This is a best practice for any type of exercise. For instance, you need to engage your core in deadlifts, squats, and even bicep curls. This engagement helps support your spine and prevent injury. Ahead, check out the three moves Emma listed, and if you want more, you can find additional lower-ab exercises here (also here!).