You can tone your abs without ever doing do a crunch again. And the good news gets even better. Standing ab exercises tone your middle while working your entire body, increasing your caloric burn. Try these seven full-body exercises; since they're functional moves, they will make you stronger for activities outside the gym, too.
Number One: Overhead Circles With Medicine Ball
Stabilizing your torso against the weight of the moving medicine ball not only works your abs, but your arms will feel the burn, too. This is great exercise for your entire core.
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart with a slight bend in your knees. Keeping your spine in neutral, lift a five- to eight-pound medicine ball overhead.
- Begin to circle the ball to the right, in the largest circles you can make, while maintaining a still and stable torso.
- Circle eight times to the right; then repeat, circling eight times to the left. Do three sets.
Number Two: Side Bend With Dumbbells
Great for toning the waist and stretching the sides of the body, side bends are a simple move to add to your fitness routine. Don't speed through your reps; doing this exercise slowly and methodically is considerably harder and much more effective.
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart holding five- to 10-pound dumbbells at your sides.
- Bend sideways to the right, squeezing your waist on the right side. Keep your neck as neutral as possible, looking forward not down.
- Pull the left ribs down to return to standing upright. This focuses the work on the left obliques.
- Repeat for a total of 12 bends to the right, then switch sides. Do three sets.
Number Three: Reverse Lunge With Twist
This classic body-weight exercise is made much more challenging when you challenge your balance and work your core. Grab a medicine ball and get twisting!
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width distance apart. Grasp a five- to 10-pound medicine ball between both hands, your arms outstretched in front.
- Keep your core stable and weight on your heels. Take a large step back with your right foot, planting your foot and then lowering your body until both legs are bent in right angles.
- As you sink into the lunge, twist your torso to the left and over your left leg.
- Bring your torso back to center, and exhale as you extend your legs. Bring your feet back together, and then repeat with your left leg, this time twisting to the right.
- This completes one rep.
Number Four: Twisting Wood Chop With Medicine Ball
The wood chop works the entire body with a strong focus on the core. This move will also raise your heart rate for an added cardio component. Use a five- to eight-pound medicine ball for this move.
- Start with the feet a little wider than hip distance apart. Twist to the right raising the ball over to your right shoulder.
- On an exhale pull your abs toward your spine and "chop" the ball down diagonally across your body toward the outside of your left knee. Imagine you're chopping some wood at this angle and the ball is your axe — the move is a bit percussive.
- Focus on the rotation initiating in your torso.
- Control the ball back up to the starting position. This completes one rep.
- Remember you are moving with force but also control. Don't give into the momentum of swinging the ball around. Do three sets of 15 reps on each side.
Number Five: Shoulder Press and Side Crunch
Grab a set of five- to 10-pound dumbbells to tone your shoulders and waist with this exercise.
- Stand holding dumbbells at your shoulders. With your palms facing forward, press the weights overhead, straightening your arms.
- As you bend your elbows to lower the weights, lift your left knee up toward your left elbow. Squeeze your abs to exaggerate the side crunch.
- Lower your leg while raising the weights overhead, and repeat the side crunch on the right. This completes one rep.
- Do 15 reps, alternating sides.
Number 6: Alphabet Abs
There are two variations of this exercise: one for core stability and one for torso mobility. To start, grab a medicine ball that's between five and 15 pounds. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, making sure your knees are not locked.
- Start with the ball at chest level, and slowly write the cursive alphabet in front of you.
- While your arms move around in all sorts of angles, you need to use your abs to keep your torso still. Think of keeping the area between your ribs and pelvis solid.
- For a more advanced version, try this move while standing on a BOSU.
- Start with the ball at chest level, but increase the range of motion of your arms by making your alphabet larger and using your torso and rib cage to write the letters as well.
- Keep your abs engaged the entire time, and start with a lighter medicine ball. For more of a challenge, try this version in a squat or a lunge.
Number 7: Standing Twist
Some call this move the flashlight, and we love it for the intense focus on the abs. Straighten your arms to increase the difficulty. Once you master the move, try speeding up.
- Stand with your knees slightly soft, holding a dumbbell at chest level.
- Keep your pelvis stable as you rotate your ribcage right and left, to complete one rep. Be sure to keep your abs pulled toward your spine as you twist from side to side.
- Do three sets of 30 reps each.