Spare Your Arms: Light Up Your Abs With 19 Core Moves That Require No Planking
We have nothing against planks (really, we don't), but sometimes they're just not the move you want. Maybe your arms are sore from a tough upper-body workout, maybe you're nursing a shoulder injury, maybe you just don't feel like getting on the floor and shaking for a minute straight right now. We feel ya, and we're here to help. You can work your abs to a burn even without this classic move, and the 19 moves ahead are proof! Roll out a mat and get ready to ignite your abs from every angle (besides, you know, a plank).
- Lie on your back with a neutral spine and your hips and knees at right angles with your palms pressed into your thighs just above your knees.
- Pull your abs to your spine, keeping your ribs and pelvis still as you lengthen your right arm and leg out until they are almost parallel to the floor. Do keep your torso and spine completely stable as the arm and leg move.
- Return to the starting position, and repeat on the left side to complete one rep.
- Start lying on your back with your legs in tabletop position (hips and knees at right angles). Engage your deep abs to round your lower spine into the floor. Make sure you are not "pooching" your abs, which means you are just working the top layer of abs, which is a Pilates no-no.
- Exhale and lift your upper back off the floor, until the bottom tips of your shoulder blades skim the floor. Straighten your legs to a 45-degree angle (but make sure your low back is staying connected to the floor). Reach your arms toward your feet. Your arms will be about two inches off the floor.
- Pump your arms up and down with a small range of motion, keeping your elbows straight. Inhale for five arm pumps, and exhale for five pumps. That completes one set or cycle. Repeat the cycle nine more times for a total of 100 pumps.
- Keep your upper body stable while your arms pump.
- Lie flat on the floor with your lower back pressed to the ground (pull your abs down to also target your deep abs). Interlace your fingers, and put your hands behind your head.
- Bring your knees in toward your chest, and lift your shoulder blades off the ground.
- Straighten your right leg out to about a 45-degree angle to the ground while turning your upper body to the left, bringing your right elbow toward the left knee. Make sure your rib cage is moving and not just your elbows.
- Now switch sides and do the same motion on the other side to complete one rep (and to create the pedaling motion). Do this exercise with slow and controlled motion.
- Start lying on your back with your arms reaching toward the ceiling.
- Exhale and roll up toward sitting while lifting your left leg up. Pause at the top and reach for your toes before rolling slowly back down to the mat. Then perform on the other side.
- This completes one rep.
- Lie on your back with your knees open and the soles of your feet together (in a butterfly position). Lengthen your arms overhead so they are resting on the floor.
- Exhale and bring your hands and knees toward each other, performing a full-body crunch. Your shoulder blades should be off the mat as you perform a small reverse crunch, lifting your pelvis a bit off the mat. Hold this position for a moment and really feel your abs squeezing.
- Slowly lower your arms and feet back to starting position to complete one rep.
Seated Russian Twist
- Sit on the ground with your knees bent and your heels about a foot from your bum.
- Lean slightly back without rounding your spine at all. It is really important and difficult to keep your back straight, but don't let it curve. If you can do this, try lifting your heels to increase the difficulty of the move.
- Place your arms straight out in front of you with your palms touching. Your hands should be level with the bottom of your rib cage.
- Pull your navel to your spine, and twist slowly to the left. The movement is not large and comes from the ribs rotating, not from your arms swinging. Inhale through center, and rotate to the right. This completes one rep.
Standing Weighted Twist
- Stand with your knees slightly soft, holding a dumbbell at chest level.
- Keep your pelvis stable as you rotate your rib cage right and left to complete one rep. Be sure to keep your abs pulled toward your spine as you twist from side to side.
- Lower the carriage of a cable machine so that it's about chest height, and attach a D-handle to the pulley (or keep the ropes on for efficiency sake). Adjust the weight so that it's at 10 pounds. If this is too heavy or too light, feel free to change the weight.
- Standing with the left side of your body closest to the machine, grab the handle with both hands and take two or three steps out so that there's tension on the cable. Hold your hands at your sternum, and make sure that your body is square. If you feel like you're getting pulled to the left, this is an indicator that you should lighten the weight.
- On an exhale, press the cable straight out in front of your body. Be sure not to rotate toward the machine. Hold for two seconds before returning to the starting position. This counts as one rep.
- Attach a triceps rope handle to the pulley on the carriage of a cable station. Adjust the carriage so that it's near the top third of the machine. The exact position will vary based on your height.
- Next, select the amount of resistance you want — 22.5 pounds is a great starting point. As you begin to become more comfortable with the movement, feel free to increase the weight.
- Facing the pulley, come into a kneeling position approximately one and a half feet away from the machine.
- Grab the triceps rope handles and brace your core. You should feel a light stretch in your abs; if not, increase the weight. Make sure your weight is in your shins.
- Simultaneously pull both handles with bent arms and perform a crunch. Your elbows should be parallel to your thighs.
- With control, return to the starting position as you maintain tension on the pulley. That completes one repetition.
Medicine Ball Slam
- Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, with a 10-pound medicine ball on the floor in front of you.
- Squat down and pick up the medicine ball, keeping your head up and trying not to round the spine.
- Stand up, lifting the medicine ball above your head, fully extending the arms straight above you.
- Forcefully slam the ball down on the floor as hard as you can. If the ball is light enough, catch the ball as it bounces slightly off the floor.
- This completes one rep.
- 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 left, in the largest circles you can make, while maintaining a still and stable torso.
- One circle counts as one rep.
Low to High Woodchop
- Squat, and twist left to hold the dumbbell on the outside of your left leg.
- Exhale, and lift the weight diagonally across your body, ending twisted to the right with the dumbbell above your head. Pivot on your left foot as needed.
- The move is a bit percussive, so focus on the rotation initiating in your torso.
- Control the weight back up to the starting position to complete one rep.
- Remember you are moving with force but also control. Don't give into the momentum of swinging the weight around.
Dumbbell Crossover Punch
- Begin by lying on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground, about two feet from your butt. Hold weights, five- to eight-pound dumbbells, in both hands at your chest with your elbows on the floor.
- Keeping your hands at your chest, roll up to a sitting position. Twist your ribs to the left as you "punch" your right hand to the outside of the left knee.
- Bring the right hand back to your chest as you untwist, bringing your torso back to the center, and roll down to the ground.
- Repeat the sit-up, twisting to the right side to complete one rep.
Overhead Reach With Leg Lower
- Lie on your back with your arms reaching toward the ceiling, holding one weight with both hands. With the sole of your left foot on the mat, bring your right toes toward the ceiling.
- Exhale and lower your arms and leg toward the floor, keeping your lower back touching the mat.
- Inhale and return to starting position to complete one rep. Make sure to do equal reps on both sides.
Standing Side Bend
- Stand with your feet a little wider than hip-distance apart holding a five- to 10-pound dumbbell over your head. Squeeze your head with your upper arms to fire up your core and protect your neck.
- 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. Switch sides, and bend to the left to complete one rep.
- Start standing with a 10-pound dumbbell in each hand; if this is too heavy or too light, feel free to adjust the weight. Make sure your bodyweight is evenly distributed on each foot, your spine is in a neutral position, and your shoulders are back and open.
- With your arms extended, hold the dumbbells about four inches away from your legs; this will activate your abdominal muscles. Begin to walk forward, maintaining a neutral spine and keeping your shoulders up and open.
- Walk 10 steps forward, then turn around and walk for 10 more steps.
Bottoms-Up Kettlebell Carry
- Start with a lightweight kettlebell in your right arm. I'm using a four-kilogram kettlebell, which is roughly nine pounds.
- Lift your arm up, turning the kettlebell upside down and creating a 90-degree angle at your elbow. Be sure to keep your wrist straight. If you notice that your wrist is moving, use a lighter kettlebell or a lightweight dumbbell.
- From here, begin walking forward. Take 20 steps forward or walk for 20 feet, depending on the space available.
- Switch the kettlebell to your left hand and walk back to your starting point.
- Stand with feet hip-distance apart and arms extended slightly out to your side. Hold a kettlebell in your left hand at one corner of the horn.
- In a fluid motion, swing it behind you and reach your right hand back to grab it on the other side of the horn.
- Keep the motion fluid as you swing it to the front of you and grab it with your left hand. It should feel like you are making the kettlebell orbit your waist.
- One orbit counts as one rep.
- Get on all fours, with your knees under your hips and your hands under your shoulders. Remember to keep abs engaged and keep your back flat.
- Reach out with your right hand and extend your left leg out behind you.
- Round your back and head to connect your right elbow with your left leg under your body. This completes one rep.