Stronger Abs Without Crunches
Your abdominal muscles are meant to do more than just “crunch”. These exercises make your midsection strong, stable, and reduce your risk of injury as a result.
Before we get to the exercises, let me say that abdominal training IS NOT complicated. You do not need much equipment, or fancy looking exercises that give you a burn in your stomach but don’t do anything else. Remember, your goal with these exercises is to improve strength and stability that transfers to other exercises and activities you enjoy.
It is also worth mentioning that abdominal exercises DO NOT make your stomach flatter or your waist smaller. If your goal is to have a smaller waist or a 6-pack, better nutrition needs to be your priority.
How to get the most from these exercises: Step one to abdominal training is learning to tighten or “brace” your midsection. This is a little tricky if you’ve never done it before. You know that tightening feeling you get when your abs hurt during a good, hearty laugh? That’s what you want to mimic. At first you’ll probably hold your breath but you’ll get better at holding the abdominal contraction with practice.
When you tighten and brace your abs like this, you “turn on” the muscles that support your spine. This increased tension and support is important for improving strength and safety while exercising. Once you’ve learned to do this with ease, hold your abs tight like this during every rep of every exercise! Upper body, lower body, it doesn’t matter. Just keep your abs tight while you train!
Chop - Chops are a great exercise to work your obliques. You can do them kneeling to focus just on the abdominals, or do them standing to get the glutes involved. However you choose to do them, use your abs to start the movement instead of your arms.
Anti-Rotation Press - Your obliques are responsible for rotational movements, like the chop above. They also resist rotation, and that’s what this exercise is all about. Make sure your weight is even between your feet, and start with your hands about chest level at the center of your body. Push your arms straight forward, pause, and return to the start. Make sure you aren’t “stirring a pot” when doing this exercise. You can also hold for time, making this exercise kind of like a standing side plank.
Dead Bug – This exercise looks simple, but when done right it is very effective and challenging! The goal of this exercise is to move your arm and leg without arching your back or losing tension in your abs. This exercises tends to be a little frustrating at first, so be slow and deliberate with your movements.
Roll Outs - To make sure you get this one right, keep your abs tight, don't arch your back, and move your whole body. If you bend at the waist you'll get a great stretch for your lats and upper back, but not much for your abs.
Start with a short range of motion and increase as you get comfortable performing the exercise. If you don't have a wheel or find this too difficult to control, use a stability ball instead.
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