Do you want a stronger, more toned core? Then stop wasting time on crunches and start doing moves that work your entire core!
Your core consists of everything from your shoulders to your knees down your frontside and your backside. Not only do you need to work your abs, but you also need to work your back, butt, shoulders and quads (as well as many other muscle groups throughout your middle)!
To work your entire core, and get more bang for your buck in less time, you need to use core exercises that are compound movements so you can work the big muscle groups.
Include these 5 Crunchless Core Moves in your workout routine. These moves will strengthen your entire core so that you can move well and remain injury-free while also building toward that six-pack everyone craves (remember diet matters too!).
1. Sit Thru:
The Sit Thru is a super great move to work your shoulders, obliques and quads. It is a great rotational exercise to not only work your core, but to also get your heart rate up.
To perform this move, start on your hands and knees with your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Flex your feet and lift up onto your hands and the balls of your feet.
Lift your right hand and kick your left leg through as you “sit.” You will kick your left leg out straight and you should almost be able to sit completely on the ground. Keep everything tight as you sit through. Bring the leg back to that starting position on your hands and the balls of your feet. Next lift your left hand and kick your right leg through.
Keep alternating sides and move as quickly as possible. Make sure to sit all the way through. Beginners may need to be in more of a plank position as they perform the move and not sit all the way through.
2. Stability Press:
While Sit Thrus are a rotational exercise, the Stability Press is an anti-rotational exercise that builds core strength and stability. With this move you will work your shoulders, glutes, obliques and even your back and quads as you try to prevent your body from rotating.
To do the Stability Press, you will anchor a band in a door or around a pole. Grab one handle or end in both hands and step away from the anchor point so that there is tension in the band.
Stand with your side to the anchor point and hold the handle in both hands. Bring the handle in towards your chest and stand with your feet no wider than shoulder-width apart. The closer you bring your feet together, the harder the move will be.
Then, with tension in the band because you are far enough away from the anchor point, press your hands and the handle out from your chest. Press straight out from the center of your chest and make sure you don’t rotate back toward the anchor point. Straighten your arms out fully then bring your hands back into your chest.
Do not shrug your shoulders. Also, make sure to maintain a nice tall posture with your shoulder blades drawn down and back as you press.
Move slowly to really have to fight the band as you press out and bring your hands back in. If you move too quickly, you won’t get as much out of the move.
You want to fight the band pulling you to rotate open and instead press straight out as the band pulls you.
3. Glute Bridge and Curl:
Our core is about more than working just our abs – it is also about working our glutes. And our glutes also happen to be the largest muscle group in our body and an important one if we want our core to be stronger while avoiding lower back, hip and even knee pain!
The Glute Bridge and Curl is a great move to help us work our glutes and hamstrings WHILE also working the rest of our core. This move can be done on Valslides, towels, the Power wheel, exercise ball or Suspension Trainer strap.
To do this move using towels or Valslides, place each of your heels on a towel or slider. Bring your feet in close to your glutes and lie on your back. Bend your elbows to 90 degrees and then bridge up, driving through your heels and upper back and arms on the ground.
Keeping your hips up and core braced, slide your heels out and straighten your legs out. Do not let your hips sag to the ground as you straighten your legs out into a straight leg bridge.
Pull your heels back in, using your hamstrings to curl your feet back into the bent knee bridge. Keep your glutes engaged and abs braced so you don’t hyperextend your low back and feel it working. Beginners can slide one leg out at a time to make this move easier. As you pull each leg back in, focus on the hamstring curling the foot back in.
4. Hanging Abs:
Your back is an often forgotten core muscle. When you do Hanging Ab Exercises, you can work not only your back, but also your abs, grip, hips and quads. These moves are great for anyone looking to improve not only their core strength, but also their pull-ups!
To do the Basic Hanging Ab Move, grab a pull-up bar with your palms facing away from you.
Hang from the bar with your legs close together. Hang straight down then pull down on the bar and engage your lats (the muscles of your back) as you tuck your knees up toward your elbows. Tuck your knees all the way up then lower your legs back down. Move in a controlled fashion so that you don’t swing too much and use momentum to curl up.
Repeat, tucking your knees up to your elbows. Beginners may not be able to tuck all the way up. They may also want to start with the Hanging Pelvic Tilt or the Hanging Bicycle.
For more Hanging Ab Exercises, check out these 10 Hanging Ab Variations.
5. Bird Dog Plank (and other Plank Variations):
Planks are a great way to work your entire core – EVERYTHING from your shoulders to your knees.
If you want to make the Plank even more challenging and really build core stability and strength, you should try the Bird Dog Plank. This is a great move to force each side to work independently while also fighting rotational forces.
Like the Stability Press, this is an anti-rotational move. The leg lift will also work your glute even more than the basic Plank! To do the Bird Dog Plank, set up on your hands and toes with your hands under your shoulders and your feet about hip-width to shoulder-width apart. Bringing your feet in closer together will make the move more challenging.
Then, keeping your core tight and your hips square to the ground, lift your opposite leg and arm up as if you are reaching forward and backward toward each wall. Keep your core engaged and squeeze your glutes as you lift the leg and arm.
Do not let your body rotate or your hips sag toward the ground. You also do not want to let your butt go up toward the ceiling. Keep a nice straight line with your body as you lift. Hold for a second with your arm and leg raised then lower back down and repeat on the same side or you can choose to alternate sides.
Beginners may need to do a basic Plank or even the Basic Bird Dog on their hands and knees instead of their hands and feet.
For more Plank Variations, check out these 15 Plank Moves.
Next time you want to work your “abs” or core, don’t waste time on crunches! Work your core with these compound movements and get better results in less time!Cori is the owner of Redefining Strength, a functional training facility in Orange County, California focused on helping each client find their strong. She started training and writing a fitness blog in 2011 because she wanted to empower people through diet and exercise so that they can lead healthier, happier lives.