Are you tired of doing a countless number of crunches and sit-ups without seeing a difference in your abs? Crunches and sit-ups were once seen as the way to a slimmer waistline and 6-pack abs. But, the reality is, crunches and sit-ups are just not that good for you. But these six ab exercises are good for you!
Why Are Crunches Bad for You?
Both crunches and sit-ups require you to push your curved spine against the floor. As a result, they mainly work your hip flexors, the long muscle that runs from your thighs through your groin to the lumbar vertebrae in your lower back. Most people have super tight hip flexors due to desk jobs. When you work your hip flexors it can create lower back discomfort, which is the last thing you want to do.
Crunches and sit-ups are designed to only work a few muscles groups. Both exercises primarily target the rectus abdominis muscles and, to lesser degree, the obliques and hip flexors. But your core is much more than those few muscle groups.
What is Your Core?
Your core is like a box. It starts from the pelvic floor and finishes at the diaphragm. All those muscles in between, like the transverse abdominis, internal and external obliques, and erector spinae muscles, make up your core. A strong core improves your balance and stability, tones your abs, and helps prevent injuries.
What Ab Exercises Should I Do?
While crunches and sit-ups are ab exercises you should not do, here are six ab exercises you should do:
Targets: Transverse abdominis, Rectus abdominis, Oblique muscles, glutes
How to do a plank: Place your forearms on the ground with your elbows directly aligned below your shoulders. Your arms should be parallel to your body and about shoulder-width apart. Keep your palms flat on the ground. Toes should be grounded into the floor. Squeeze your glutes and suck your belly button into your spine. The neck and spine should be aligned with the rest of your back. Pick a spot on the floor about a foot past your hands and look at it. Hold the plank for your desired time or as long as you can.
Targets: Transverse abdominis, Iliopsoas
How to do flutter kicks: Lay flat on your back with your arms by your side. Extend legs out with a slight bend in your knees. While keeping your head on the ground and pressing your lower back into the floor, lift your heels about 6 inches off the floor. Start making small, up and down kicks like you were swimming with your legs. Continue making these kicks for 20-30 seconds.
Targets: Obliques, Rectus abdominis, Transverse abdominis
How to do a russian twist: Sit on the floor with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Hold a medicine ball or dumbbell with both hands. Lean back so your torso is at a 45-degree angle to the floor. Keep your spin straight and your core engaged. Slowly rotate your arms and weight towards the right as far as you can. Pause, and then reverse as far as you can towards the left. Repeat.
Targets: Erector spinae, Rectus abdominis, Glutes
How to do bird dog: Start in all fours position. Your wrists should be directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips. Engage your core by sucking in your belly button to your spine. Lift your left arm up and forward and your right leg back and long at the same time to hip height. Pause. Return leg and arm back to starting position. Repeat with your right arm and left leg. Concentrate on keeping the spine and hips level throughout the movement.
Standing Side Bends
Targets: Obliques, Erector spinae, Rectus abdominis, Quadratus lumborum
How to do standing side bends: Start in a starting position with feet shoulder-width apart and a dumbbell in your left hand. Your right hand should be placed on your right hip. Keep your back straight and your core engaged as you bend at your waist as far as you can towards the left. Repeat for the desired number of sets before switching to the right side.
Targets: Rectus abdominis, Obliques, Triceps, Deltoids
How to do an inchworm: Start in a standing position with your feet shoulder width apart. Slightly bend your bends and place your hands about shoulder-width apart on the floor. Begin to walk your walks forward until you reach the push-up position. Pause. Walk your hands back to the start position.
Next time you hit the gym to work on your abs, skip the crunches and try these six ab exercises that will target your entire core.