Strong abs not only look great, they also help you perform better at sports, lift more weight in the gym, maintain good posture and even prevent back pain. So how do you get them without endless crunches? Try any or all of these ab moves individually, as an add-on to your workout or all together as an abs-centric circuit. If you’re performing them as a circuit, do one set of each move sequentially with 15 to 30 seconds in between exercises, repeating the full circuit up to three times total. And remember: Amazing abs begin in the kitchen, so it’s crucial to pair these moves with a healthy diet (and a good dose of fat-torching cardio).
1 Bird Dog
Build better core strength in both your abs and lower back (in addition to your glutes and thighs) when you do the bird dog. HOW TO DO IT: Begin on hands and knees with your hands positioned under shoulders and your knees directly under hips. Engage your abs and extend right leg behind hip as left arm extends by ear, palm facing down. Return to start, keeping your torso as steady and still as possible during the entire exercise. Do three sets of 20 alternating reps.
2 Mountain Climbers
Pump up the cardio while activating your abs with this multi-tasking, calorie-blasting move. HOW TO DO IT: Begin in a full plank position with arms extended under shoulders and legs extended straight with feet hip width and abs drawn in tight (body should create a diagonal line from head to heels). Quickly bend right knee into chest (without rounding back) then immediately return to start. Do 3 sets of 20 quick (almost at a running pace), alternating reps.
3 Boat Pose
This exercise is harder than it looks! Build strength, stamina and flexibility all at the same time with this challenging move that comes to us from yoga. HOW TO DO IT: Begin seated, balancing on your butt with your knees bent into chest. Keeping your spine naturally straight, extend your legs and hinge slightly back (avoid rounding your spine), engaging your abs to lift your legs until body resembles a letter V with arms extended on sides of thighs. Make it easier by keeping knees bent in V position if needed. Hold for 30 to 90 seconds. Do three sets.
4 Side Hip Raise
Fire up your obliques during this total-body exercise that provides a great complement to traditional crunch-style abs moves. HOW TO DO IT: Begin lying on one side, with your bottom elbow bent under your shoulder and your legs extended straight with hips and heels stacked and your top hand on your hip. Engage your abs and lift your hip off the floor and press up into a side plank position. Lower your hip lightly to the floor and then immediately repeat. Do three sets of 12 reps on each side.
5 Hollow Rock Hold
Develop some serious abdominal strength and stamina with this move that’s often seen in CrossFit-style workouts. HOW TO DO IT: Begin lying face up with legs fully extended and arms overhead, one palm stacked on top of the other. Engage your abs and round your spine, lifting your head, neck, shoulders and legs off the floor to make a C shape with your body. Your arms should stay extended by ears. Hold for five to 15 seconds, and then return to start. Do three sets of five to eight reps.Related: 13 Gymnastics Exercises to Unleash Your Inner Child
6 Reverse Crunch
This move effectively targets the abdominal wall, with an extra emphasis on the lower region (often referred to as the lower abs). HOW TO DO IT: Begin lying face up with your arms extended by your sides and your knees at a 90-degree angle above hips. Draw your abs into your spine and lift your hips and lower back off the floor, tucking your knees in toward your chest. (Use your arms to help lift your hips.) Slowly and with control, lower your back and hips to the starting position. Do 3 sets of 15 reps.
7 Bear Crawl
This MMA-style move may not look like it’s doing much for your abs, but it will have your core muscles activated like crazy while also pumping up your heart rate and chiseling your arms, shoulders, legs and glutes, too. HOW TO DO IT: From an all-fours position with your toes tucked under, engage your abs and lift your knees slightly off the floor. Your hips should stay in line with your shoulders. Keeping your shoulders and hips in a straight line, take a step forward with your left hand and left foot. Immediately repeat on the right side. Crawl forward as quickly as possible with good form taking 20 “steps” forward at a time. Try up to three sets.
8 Bicycle Crunch
A twist on the traditional crunch, the raised leg position in this move makes it impossible to cheat by using the glutes or legs, which can help deepen the contraction of the abdominal wall. HOW TO DO IT: Begin lying face up with your knees bent at 90 degrees over your hips and your hands clasped behind your head. Exhale and round your spine, lifting your head and shoulders off the floor. Twist your torso and draw your left knee in so that your right elbow touches it. Twist the opposite way so that your left elbow meets your right knee. Continue alternating sides for three sets of 15 reps (both sides equals one rep).
This advanced move is a challenge for the abdominals and requires some flexibility, so feel free to modify by bending the knees as much as needed to build strength and mastery. HOW TO DO IT: Begin lying on your back with your arms extended overhead and your palms facing up and legs out straight with your feet hip-width apart. Engage your abdominals and sit all the way up into a V position, lifting your legs and trying to touch the tops of your feet with your fingertips. Lower with control back to starting position. Try up to three sets of 10 reps.
10 Standing Rotational Chop
This functional exercise works the abdominal muscles and lower back together, with an extra emphasis on the obliques. HOW TO DO IT: Begin standing with your feet wide and your knees slightly bent, holding onto the handle of an anchored cable or resistance band with your arms extended out in front of your lower chest. Brace your abs tightly and begin to move your arms across your torso from side to side, keeping your hips steady while rotating your torso through the shoulders. Do four sets of 15 reps (two sets on each side).
But all of this is just advise. You can do whatever the f**k you wanna do.
Your friend and coach,
Crystal aka Barbell_Barbie.NY