Crunches are one of the most popular exercises for the abdominal muscles, but they are not the most effective or safe. Crunches can cause neck and back strain, target only a limited range of core muscles, and do not improve functional strength. If you want to build a stronger, more balanced, and more injury-resistant core, you need to diversify your ab workout routine with exercises that challenge your muscles in different ways.
In this article, we will introduce you to five alternative ab exercises that are better than crunches for developing a powerful and aesthetic core. These exercises are recommended by BOXROX, a leading online magazine for fitness enthusiasts. You can find the original article with detailed instructions and videos here.
The Plank and Its Variations
The plank is a simple but effective exercise that engages all the core muscles, as well as the shoulders, arms, and legs. It requires you to maintain a straight line from your head to your heels, while balancing on your hands or forearms and toes. The plank strengthens your core stability, posture, and endurance.
There are many variations of the plank that you can try, such as the side plank, the forearm plank, and the reverse plank. Each variation targets different aspects of your core and adds more challenge to the exercise. You can also modify the plank by lifting one arm or leg, adding movement, or using props.
To perform a plank correctly, you need to keep your body aligned, your abs braced, your shoulders stacked over your wrists or elbows, and your glutes and quads engaged. You should avoid sagging your hips, arching your back, or dropping your head. You can start by holding the plank for 15 to 30 seconds, and gradually increase the duration as you get stronger.
Hanging Leg Raises
Hanging leg raises are a great exercise for the lower abs, which are often neglected by crunches. They also work the hip flexors, the upper abs, and the grip strength. Hanging leg raises require you to hang from a pull-up bar or a pair of rings, and lift your legs up to your chest or above, while keeping them straight or slightly bent.
To perform hanging leg raises properly, you need to keep your shoulders down and back, your core tight, and your legs together. You should avoid swinging your body, using momentum, or bending your knees too much. You can start by doing knee raises, and progress to straight leg raises, toes-to-bar, or windshield wipers.
Russian twists are an excellent exercise for the obliques, the muscles that run along the sides of your waist. They also work the rectus abdominis, the transverse abdominis, and the lower back. Russian twists involve sitting on the floor with your legs bent and lifted off the ground, and twisting your torso from side to side, while holding a weight or a medicine ball.
To perform Russian twists correctly, you need to keep your back straight, your chest up, and your core engaged. You should avoid rounding your back, dropping your shoulders, or moving your legs. You can adjust the difficulty of the exercise by changing the weight, the angle of your legs, or the speed of your twists.
Bicycle crunches are a variation of crunches that are more effective and dynamic. They target the rectus abdominis, the obliques, and the hip flexors. Bicycle crunches involve lying on your back with your hands behind your head, and bringing your opposite elbow and knee together, while extending the other leg, in a cycling motion.
To perform bicycle crunches correctly, you need to keep your lower back pressed into the floor, your elbows wide, and your core contracted. You should avoid pulling your neck, jerking your body, or bending your knees too much. You can vary the intensity of the exercise by changing the angle of your legs, the distance of your elbow and knee, or the pace of your cycles.
Dead Bug Exercise
The dead bug exercise is a low-impact but challenging exercise for the core stability and coordination. It works the rectus abdominis, the transverse abdominis, the obliques, and the lower back. The dead bug exercise involves lying on your back with your arms and legs in the air, and lowering your opposite arm and leg to the floor, while keeping the other arm and leg still.
To perform the dead bug exercise correctly, you need to keep your lower back flat on the floor, your core braced, and your limbs aligned. You should avoid arching your back, lifting your head, or touching the floor with your arm or leg. You can make the exercise harder by using a resistance band, a stability ball, or a weight.
These are some of the best ab exercises that are better than crunches for building a strong and functional core. By incorporating these exercises into your fitness routine, you will not only improve your core strength, but also your posture, balance, and performance. You will also reduce the risk of injury and boredom that can come from doing the same exercise over and over again.