Core Workouts For Women: Tone That Tummy!

Written by: Holly Smith, M.D.,

B.S. - Dietetics, NASM-PES Certified Trainer

Writer, The Fit Mother Project

Written by: Holly Smith, M.D.,

B.S. - Dietetics, NASM-PES Certified Trainer

Writer, The Fit Mother Project

core workouts for women

Have you tried core workouts for women? Having a strong core is the foundation of all other strength moves and it helps reduce your risk of injuries.

Toned abs look great and a strong midsection is a sign of overall strength and fitness.

A strong core is a goal that many women strive to achieve, but finding the right core workouts for women isn't always an easy task.

In order to build strong core muscles, you need to focus on all aspects of health, including strength training, cardiovascular fitness, and healthy eating.

But, let's focus on core workouts for women. Ready to tone that tummy? Keep reading!

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What Are Core Muscles Anyway?

When people hear “core” muscles, they think this only means the abdominal muscles.

But really, the core is all of the small muscles from your torso to your pelvis that help stabilize your body.

While the abdominal muscles make up much of the core, there are a number of other muscle groups that contribute, including muscles in the hips, pelvis, and lower back.

These muscles are sometimes referred to as the lumbopelvic-hip complex and they must all be targeted to achieve a strong core.

As women age, muscle mass begins to decrease, a process known as sarcopenia.

This includes the core muscles.

Sarcopenia is a natural process, but luckily it can be slowed and even reversed through resistance training.

Importance of a Strong Core

It may not be obvious at first, but basically every movement you make on a daily basis requires the activation of your core muscles.

Getting up out of a chair, walking, bending, and lifting all require core muscles to stabilize your body and prevent injury.

On top of the muscle loss that comes with age, many sedentary occupations, like desk jobs, lead to poor posture and a weak core.

If you have weak core muscles, you are at a higher risk of developing back pain, or even debilitating back injuries.

Targeting the entire core will lead to improved balance, coordination, and stability.

Numerous studies have looked at the relationship between core strength and low back and lower extremity injuries.

A meta-analysis of these articles came to the conclusion that a comprehensive training program that includes core stabilizing workouts is necessary to meet the demands associated with daily activities, exercise, and sports training.

Lose That Central Fat

Having a strong core is also important for everyday activities.

Building a strong core will also help you lose fat around the midsection, which is extremely important for overall health.

A 2019 study from JAMA found that abdominal fat is related to higher mortality in postmenopausal women, even if they were at a normal weight!

This study also showed that central obesity was correlated with a higher risk for cancer mortality as well as all-cause mortality.

Since core exercises involve both cardio and strengthening muscles in your midsection, you will decrease this central fat and decrease your risk for lifelong health issues.

Weight Train to Build a Strong Core

Building a strong core requires more than crunches or planks.

Just like any other muscle group in the body, the core muscles need to contract against resistance to build strength.

While isometric exercises are great and will definitely add to your core strength, you also want to add in some weighted abdominal and lower back exercises as well.

Your ab muscles need a stimulus for growth, just like all of your other muscles.

Exercises like weighted sit-ups and back extensions can help provide this stimulus for your core.

By combining weighted resistance exercises and isometric moves three to four times a week, you will be on your way to a toned, strong core.

The 13 Best Core Workouts For Women

Choose three to five of these exercises to add to your workout routine three times a week to get the best results.

Like any muscle group, you want to give yourself around 48 hours of recovery between core workouts.

These exercises will hit your core from all angles, including the rectus abdominis, oblique muscles, transverse abdominis, and all of the supporting muscles around your spine and low back.

Aim to complete three sets of each chosen exercise.

1. Bear Crawl Shoulder Tap

This is a great exercise to engage your entire midsection, and even work the shoulders a bit at the same time.

  • Start on your hands and knees.
  • While keeping your back flat and your butt down, lift your knees off the floor about 1-3 inches.
  • Stare at the floor a few inches in front of your hands to keep your neck from arching.
  • Tap your right hand to your left shoulder and then bring that hand back to the ground.
  • Then bring your left hand to your right shoulder, and back down again.
  • Continue alternating sides for 30 seconds.
  • Be sure to keep your back flat and try not to swing your hips while moving your arms.

Looking for more exercises that work your core? Try shoulder taps in push-up position!

2. Ab Wheel Rollouts

Ab wheel rollouts are awesome to strengthen the entire core. You can think of this move as sort of a moving plank.

  • Start on your knees with your hands grasping the handles of an ab wheel in front of you.
  • Allow the wheel to roll forward and your body to move forward with it into an extended position.
  • Then engage your abs to bring the wheel back in towards your body.
  • Be sure to use your abs and not your upper body to do this move otherwise you won’t be getting the core benefits.
  • Try to complete 8-10 reps.

3. Leg Raises

While you can’t completely isolate your lower ab muscles, leg raises are a great way to put more emphasis on these muscles.

Plus, this move will also strengthen your hip flexors, which are a major part of a strong core

  • Start by lying on the ground with your legs extended and hands at your sides or tucked underneath your hips for extra support.
  • Slowly raise your legs, keeping them together and as straight as possible, until the bottoms of your feet are facing the ceiling.
  • Then, slowly lower your legs back down until your feet are hovering a few inches off the ground.
  • Be sure to keep your low back against the floor during this exercise, and don’t let your feet actually touch the floor.
  • Repeat this for 30 seconds.

This leg workout includes 5 joint-friendly exercises!

4. Body Saw

This exercise works the entire core to improve balance and enhance body stabilization.

  • Start in a forearm plank with your forearms on the floor and your elbows directly underneath your shoulders.
  • Rest your toes on a set of glider plates or towels.
  • Slowly push with your forearms and elbows to slide the gliders or towels back behind you.
  • Move back as far as you can without letting your hips sag.
  • Then slowly pull with your arms and elbows to return to the starting position.
  • Repeat this motion in a slow and controlled manner for 30 seconds.

5. Mountain Climber

We all know that planks are an awesome core workout.

Mountain climbers are basically the cardio equivalent and will get your heart rate up as you strengthen your abs.

  • Start in a push-up position with your hands under your shoulders.
  • Drive your right knee to your chest and tap your right foot to the floor then quickly move it back to the starting position.
  • Then repeat this on the left.
  • Continue alternating legs back and forth as quickly as you can for 30 seconds.

Trying to get stronger abs and a flatter stomach? Start with this core circuit for women, an easy beginner ab workout at home!

6. Supermans

Supermans are one of the go-to exercises for strengthening the stabilizing muscles in the lower back.

  • Lie on your stomach on a flat surface and raise both your arms and your legs at the
    same time as though you are flying, like Superman!
  • Hold the position for five seconds.
  • Then repeat 10 times.
  • As your core strength increases you can even hold a small dumbbell in your hands in front of you.

7. Front Bridge to T

This move will strengthen and increase mobility in the lower back.

  • Start in a high plank, (or push-up) position.
  • Engage your core and rotate your body to your right as your right-hand reaches towards the ceiling.
  • Let your feet turn behind you as you roll.
  • Hold for two seconds, then lower your hand back to the floor.
  • Repeat, twisting up to the left side.
  • Alternate sides and repeat for 30 seconds.

This 10-minute workout is great for a busy woman with no time to work out or to go to the gym!

8. Burpees

This cardio and ab exercise serves double duty by working the core and burning a ton of calories at the same time.

  • Start in a standing position and lower your body to place your palms on the floor about shoulder-width apart.
  • Kick your legs back so that you are in a push-up position.
  • Do one push-up, then jump your knees back into your chest.
  • Explode up into the air for one rep.

9. Hip Dips

This intense plank variation will strengthen your transverse abdominis and obliques.

  • Start in a forearm plank with your forearms on the floor, elbows directly underneath your shoulders.
  • Rotate your hips to the left side and tap the floor.
  • Then rotate to the right side and tap the floor.
  • Continue alternating sides for 30 seconds.

This 15-minute HIIT workout can be done at home with no equipment!

10. Russian Twist

This move targets your obliques, and adding a dumbbell or medicine ball adds an additional strength training element.

  • Sit on the ground with your knees bent and your heels about a foot from your butt while holding a dumbbell.
  • Lean slightly back but be sure to keep your back straight.
  • Twist to the left, bringing the weight to your left side, then rotate to the right.
  • This completes one rep.

11. Decline Weighted Sit Up

This exercise is a great way to add resistance work to your core training.

Plus, this movement forces you to also work against gravity and with a greater range of motion.

  • Sit on the bench with bent knees and your feet under the padded bar.
  • Hold a dumbbell, weight plate, or medicine ball across your chest or above your head.
  • Raise your torso up to bring your chest to your thighs.
  • Pause here for a few seconds before returning to the starting position.
  • Repeat 12-15 times.

Learn how to get a flatter stomach with these 5 ab exercises!

12. Bird-Dog

This is a great hip stabilizing exercise that will also strengthen the low back.

  • Start on your hands and knees while your spine and neck are in a neutral position.
  • Simultaneously extend your left leg behind you and reach your right arm forward, while keeping yourself stable and core engaged.
  • Hold for three seconds, then return to the starting position.
  • Repeat, extending your right leg and left arm.
  • Repeat for 10-12 reps.

13. Hip/Glute Bridge

This is a great core exercise for the low back, hips, and transverse abdominis, as well as the hamstrings.

  • Lie flat on your back with your hands by your sides and your knees bent.
  • Keep your feet on the floor about hip-width distance apart.
  • Push your hips up off the floor, keeping your back straight.
  • Slowly lower yourself back down to the starting position.
  • Start by holding at the top position for 15 seconds and gradually try to increase the time as you gain strength.
  • Aim for 8-10 reps.

Build strength in your glutes and hamstrings with the glute bridge!

A Strong Core is the Foundation for Fitness

Core workouts for women involve much more than just targeting the abs.

The core is an entire group of muscles in the abdominals, low back, hips, and pelvis that help stabilize the body for all exercises and activities of daily living.

A strong core is the foundation of overall health and fitness.

Incorporating core work on a regular basis will help you maintain proper form and posture and reduce the risk of injuries or chronic pain.

And working out the core is not just confined to specific “core” days.

Pretty much every weight lifting move you perform involves core stabilization.

Make sure to focus on really engaging the core throughout all of your exercises to maintain proper form.

Whether this is during lunges, shoulder presses, or standing curls, engaging the core will allow you to not only strengthen the core muscles, but also to perform whatever move you are doing to its maximum muscle building potential.

Holly Smith, M.D.
B.S. - Dietetics, NASM-PES Certified Trainer

Writer, The Fit Mother Project

Holly is an osteopathic physician, runner, triathlete, and fitness and nutrition enthusiast.

She is board certified in nephrology and internal medicine, has a bachelors degree in dietetics and is a certified personal trainer with NASM-PES certification.

Holly has completed four full ironmans, twelve marathons, countless half ironmans, olympic distance triathlons, half marathons and numerous other road races.

Holly joined the Fit Father Project in May 2019 as a regular writer, contributing articles on health, wellness, exercise, and nutrition.

She has also recently qualified for the 2020 World Championships for Ironman 70.3, in New Zealand!

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If you’re a busy mom who wants to finally lose weight, get healthy, and actually keep the pounds off for good, this is the simple program you’ll love sticking to…

Our Fit Mother 30X Program (FM30X) is the answer you’ve been looking for. Inside FM30X, you’ll receive:

  • The simple & delicious Fit Mother Meal Plan with easy recipes for you and your family.
  • The metabolism-boosting Fit Mother 30X Workout (under 90 min/week) to kickstart your metabolism for fast fat burning.
  • VIP email coaching where we’ll personally walk you through the program.
Learn More About FM30X

*Please know that weight loss results & health changes/improvements vary from individual to individual; you may not achieve similar results. Always consult with your doctor before making health decisions. This is not medical advice – simply very well-researched info on core workouts for women.

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