Stop with the endless crunches and try these exercises to achieve real results.
Photo by Sergio Pedemonte on Unsplash
Many people have come to associate doing crunches with getting abs. Day after day, they sit on the floor performing the exercise hundreds of times, hoping to get a six pack. The truth is, crunches alone aren’t going to make that happen.
When I was in high school, I used to believe that the crunches I did each day were going to make my core strong and help me become a better, more efficient runner. I was a young, naive high schooler with very little experience lifting weights. Unfortunately, I did not understand the importance of working a number of different muscle groups to become a stronger, more well-rounded athlete. Luckily, I learned through collegiate athletics how to strengthen your core and achieve real results.
Essentially, you have to focus on performing a variety of exercises that will target multiple muscle groups and strengthen your entire core. Your abs, like any muscle group, have to be built up slowly over time. This can be achieved by staying committed and working out regularly. So, here are five moves that are better than crunches in helping you strengthen the entire core.
1. Leg lifts
Leg lifts are a great exercising for targeting your hip muscles and lower abs. They have also been shown to decrease or prevent lower back pain, so they can do a lot more for your body than just help you achieve a certain aesthetic.
I love this exercise in particular because I can feel it working the areas around my core, such as my hips, which tend to get tight since I run often and don't necessarily target these muscles every time I lift.
How to Do Them
Lie on the floor on your back like a pencil. Don’t bend your legs, and slowly lift them up until they are straight up in the air. Then, bring them back down slowly, until they are hovering just above the ground.
Remember not to do the exercise in a fast or jerky manner. If you don't perform the exercise slow and controlled, you will do more harm the good. You won’t get the same benefits because you will be using your momentum to carry you up rather than your hips and core.
2. Twisting Mountain Climbers
Although you may think this exercise is way too simple to have an impact, try it out and you’ll quickly realize how wrong you were. Mountain climbers work muscles from your upper body all the way down to your lower body, including the triceps, shoulders, abs, and back to name a few.
It’s one of the most efficient exercises you can do. Plus, it gets your heart rate up, which is an added bonus. This is an exercise I incorporated into my own routine fairly recently, and I can confirm that I definitely feel the burn.
How to Do Them
Get in a plank position on your hands rather than your elbows, with your hands shoulder width apart. Then, bring your left knee towards your right elbow, return to your initial position, and repeat with the other side. With this exercise, the faster and more explosive you are while still holding proper form, the more you’ll get out of it.
Planks are probably my favorite core exercise. I find them incredibly challenging and beneficial, and I love that I can feel the burn when I’m doing them.
Also, as your core gets stronger, it’s easy to increase the difficulty by forcing yourself to hold the plank for a longer period of time.
How to Do Them
Get on your elbows and toes with your legs straight out. Make sure your arms are shoulder width apart and that they are directly underneath your shoulders. Try to keep your back flat, not arched or hunched. Then, hold the position. You can always start with a 20 to 30 second hold and work your way up from there as your core strength improves.
4. Dolphin Push Ups
If you hate push ups, don’t be scared of this exercise. The name is a bit misleading, because it doesn’t actually involve doing push ups. It does, however, require you to use your arms, shoulders, and core muscles. So, it’s a triple threat, and the perfect addition to your core routine.
How to Do Them
Start in dolphin pose (hence the name), then move into a plank position. Drop your forearms down to the ground, and lift your hips into downward facing dog position. Switch back into a plank position with your forearms on the ground, then go back into downward facing dog position.
5. Hip Dips
No, I’m not talking about the term used to describe the indents below your hips. I’m referring to the exercise, and it’s a powerful one. This exercise provides many of the benefits of a plank, with the added bonus of strengthening your obliques.
Therefore, the hip dip is the perfect exercise to add to your routine to really make those muscles pop.
How to Do Them
Get on your elbows in a plank position. Then, rotate or “dip” your hips side to side, trying to get the side of your hip as close as possible to touching the ground. Again, with this exercise, going faster does not mean you’re doing a bette job. You want to focus on good form and engaging your core. If you can do that, you’ll see better results.
If you really think about it, the abdominal muscles are just like any other muscle group. They can actually be worked in the same manner as your triceps, shoulders, or any other group. They can be torn down and come back stronger with proper recovery.
While our society may place extra emphasis on abs, it’s more important to focus on strengthening the muscles to become healthier and stronger, rather than aiming for some aesthetic result. So, even if you aren’t seeing the results you desire yet, keep working hard, and focus on how working out makes you feel rather than how you look.