This article was originally published on February 6, 2017.
The truth about crunches is that while your abs may burn while doing them, they’re not effective in strengthening your core, which includes the deep abdominal, back and pelvic floor muscles. We use our core to initiate movement and stabilize our body. A strong core is imperative for a healthy spine and preventing injuries. Crunches only activate the rectus abdominis, the exterior ab muscle that runs vertically along the front of the stomach. An more effective ab exercise will recruit all of the core muscles. Properly working your core will also create a leaner, more defined look as you are tightening the entire midsection. Here are 5 no-crunch ab exercises for a strong core:
1. Single and Double Leg Toe Taps– Lie on your back with your legs at a tabletop position. Squeeze your inner thighs together and keep your shins parallel to the ceiling. Keep the knees directly over the hips and point your toes. As you pull your navel into your spine, slowly lower one foot to the ground without changing the tabletop shape in your legs. You are practicing moving your legs from your core while maintaining a neutral spine supported by your abs. Do not disengage your abs as your toes get lower to the ground. Once your toes tap the ground or reach their maximum level before your back starts to arch, dig even deeper into your abs to slowly bring the leg back up to its original position. Do 5-10 reps on each side. For the double leg toe taps, repeat the same movement with both legs squeezing together. Do 10 reps.
2. Hip Circles– This exercise works all angles of your abs, especially the internal and external obliques, while strengthening your back. Lean back onto your forearms with your elbows right under your shoulders. Pull your knees into your chest. Lift your chest to the ceiling so that you do not sink in between your shoulder blades. Straighten your legs to the ceiling with the legs slightly turned out. Circle your legs clockwise and then counterclockwise, never allowing them to dip lower than 45 degrees. Do 3 to each side.
3. Plank with Knee Taps– Get into a plank position on your forearms. Your shoulders should be directly over your elbows and your body in one long diagonal line from your shoulders to your hips to your feet. Prevent your back from sagging by scooping your abs in and up into your back without lifting the hips. Hold this plank position to strengthen the entire body for 10-15 seconds. Begin tapping the knees to the ground by bending the knees without dropping your back or hips. Do 10 knee taps.
4. Down Dog Abs– A great combination that will stretch and strengthen your body. Start in a down dog position on your hands and feet. Press your heels into the mat and lift one leg up to the ceiling in parallel. The goal is to get your torso in one line with your hip and lifted leg. As you use your abs to bring the free leg into your chest, you will transfer your weight forward onto the ball of the foot and round your spine. Your shoulders should be over your wrists and your knee to your nose. Think of pulling your belly button up to the ceiling in this position. Slowly transfer your weight back onto your heel as your press back into your single leg down dog. Repeat this move on one side 5 times before switching to the other leg.
5. Twist and Drop with Leg Lifts– This is an advanced move that will challenge you to initiate all movement from your core. Stand with your feet turned out and slightly wider than your shoulders. Bend forward to place your hands on the floor. If you are tight in your hamstrings, you can keep a slight bend in your knees. Keep your neck in line with your spine at all times during this exercise. Using your abs, lift your left leg and straighten it out in front of your right leg as you bend the right leg. Your left hip will naturally drop towards the ground. Hold your upper body up with straight arms so that your hips never touch the ground. Once in this position, pulse the left leg up 5 times using your oblique and inner thigh muscle. Engage your abs to reverse the movement and bring the left leg back to its original position. Switch sides and repeat 5 times on each leg.
Stop doing regular crunches and start doing these multifunctional core exercises to get a lean, strong and agile body!
Also by Crystal: 4 Moves to Banish Stubborn Inner Thigh Fat Forever (Video)
Related: 4 Toning Core and Thigh Moves
Get more like this—Subscribe to our daily inspirational newsletter for exclusive content!
Video: Crystal Chin; Music: “Massage Situation” by Flying Lotus