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Skip Crunches and Try These Ab Exercises Instead

When you think ab work, the first move that comes to mind is often the classic crunch. This move might tone your middle but it's not so good for your back. Repeatedly rounding the spine in a crunch sets the stage for a disk injury, and the crunch doesn't help your posture either. Neither are crunches functional movements, meaning this movement will not help anywhere but the gym. Have I convinced you yet to try some new moves to tone your tummy?

When talking safety and effectiveness, the best way to work your abs is stabilize your torso against motions. Here are some of my fave ways to work my entire core — front, back and sides.

  • The elbow plank is the perfect beginner ab exercise, since it works the extensor muscles, which line and stabilize the spine, in combination with the abs. Adding leg lifts to your plank, while keeping the pelvis and ribs stable, will take the plank to the next level. Keeping your torso stable is all about the abs.
  • Free Weights: Working with free weights, moving from a squat into an overhead press, will work your abs too. Work one-armed to force your obliques to kick into action. Basically, anytime you're working with free weights (dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, etc.), you should pay attention to your abs and they will help keep your form solid.
  • Medicine Ball: Keeping your torso stable while moving the weighted medicine ball is great for building an integrated core. I like to "write" the alphabet with a four- or six-pound medicine ball while focusing on keep my rib cage centered over my pelvis.
  • Bridging: You might think of this exercise as strictly a lower body exercise, but once you add a leg lift with your pelvis in the air you start to challenge your abs and core. To keep the pelvis level while raising your knee in glute bridging with knee raise you must work your abs in tandem with your back.

How do you work your abs?

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