Often times, when we’re feeling more “blah” than “bodacious”, one of the very first body-blasters we turn to is the abdominal crunch. It’s simple, it’s straightforward and it’s probably something we did during fourth grade P.E. However, the traditional “legs-bent, chest-up” crunch only goes so far. For a truly strong core, it is essential to throw some stability training and multi-muscle movement into the mix.
Fact: our “abs” are really a group of six different muscles that help stabilize our every motion. And one little “standard crunch” up and down simply cannot target all those money spots essential to building your very own six pack. While the traditional sit-up is a great starting point, here are a few exercises that, when performed in sequence, will target every muscle in your core and are definitely not your mama’s crunches.
Perform this entire sequence twice through, concentrating on the muscles being worked instead of just swinging through the motions.
Lie on your right side, propping your body up with your right forearm on the ground and perpendicular to your body. Raise your hips so that your body forms a straight horizontal line from your shoulders down to your feet. Engage your abs so as not to dip, lean back or lean forward. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch sides.
Make it harder: Once in position, raise your top leg without compromising good form. Hold for 30.
Make it HARDER-harder: Rest your left hand behind your head, bend your top leg, and try to touch your elbow to your knee with a side crunching motion similar to a more traditional crunch.
Up and Through:
Lie on your back like you would prep for traditional crunches. Raise your legs off the ground about 2-3 feet apart so that they form a V (don’t worry about height if you’re a newbie, just keep them at a horizontal angle and lift as close to 45 degrees as possible). Contract your abs, keep your chin off your chest and lift your torso while reaching your right hand to the outside of your left leg. Come back to center, lower and repeat with left hand-right leg. Come back to center, lower, then lift and reach both hands straight out and through your legs. Lower and repeat the sequence 15-20 times.
Make it harder: Lift those legs a little higher, making sure the lower back stays on the floor.
Side V Crunch:
Lie on your right side, legs extended with feet on top of each other (similar to the side plank) and right arm fully extended onto the ground perpendicular to your body. Rest your left hand behind your head like you would do with traditional crunches. In one motion, contract your abs, bend your knees and lift both legs and torso off the ground up and towards each other with the goal of touching your elbow to your knee. Release. Do 20 on each side, then switch.
Make it harder: Lay your upper body flat onto the floor to add a twist as well as lift n’ “crunch” to touch the elbow to knee.
Reverse Traditional Crunch:
Lie on your back with knees bent at 90 degrees and legs perpendicular to the floor. Spread your arms out by your sides with palms facing down. Exhale, press through your palms for stability and slowly raise your hips off the ground, rolling slowly up the spine as if you were trying to touch your knees to your head. Continue to curl up until your spine cannot roll further without your shoulder blades coming along (we don’t want that; they’re not invited!) and hold for 1-3 counts. Slowly and with control, inhale and lower your spine and hips to start position. Repeat 15-20 reps.
Make it harder: Straighten those legs!