When people think of abdominal exercises, the first thing that comes to mind are crunches. However, there are a myriad of exercises that are more effective than crunches for strengthening your core and toning up. Here are five abdominal exercises that aren't crunches you can try the next time you're at the gym:
Toe Taps: This sounds easy but you'll feel this in your abs and lower back. It's a Pilates exercise that focuses on the lower abdominals. Lie on your back and have your legs up and in a 90 degree angle. Press your lower back into the floor (and maintain this throughout), then tap one toe on the floor, bring back up into 90 degrees, then tap the other. Make sure to press your lower back into the floor throughout the exercise - you don't want your back to arch.
Planks: There are so many plank variations you can start adding into your routine. The typical plank involves you getting on your elbows and making sure your back is completely straight. If you want to test this, have someone place a rod or foam roller on your back. If it falls off, it means you're not aligned properly. Your head, neck and back should all be in line with each other. Here's a video tutorial. Other variations include side planks, side planks with reach through, single arm/single leg planks, and rocking planks.
Pallof Presses: This exercise hits your entire core. If you suffer from anterior pelvic tilt, this is a key exercise to fix that problem. This one does require a cable machine. Here's a video tutorial. Remember to engage your core and keep your hips tucked as you perform this exercise (as opposed to a pelvic tilt). Don't let your body twist at all, and as you improve, increase the weight on the cable. You'll probably also feel this one in your arms!
Reverse Planks: Usually, planks are done face down, on your elbows and toes. However, with this plank variation, you'll be face up. If you're a beginner, you'll be planking on your hands. With your fingers facing forward, lift your hips up (and keep your entire body in line) and hold for 30-60 seconds. You can also make this a dynamic exercise by lifting, holding for a second or two, lowering, then repeating. This move targets your back, glutes and hamstrings, which are actually all part of your core musculature as well. (Video Tutorial)
Reverse Crunches: This is another great exercise to do if you have anterior pelvic tilt. You'll feel this in your lower abs and back. If you're new to this exercise, place a heavy object behind your head (like a kettlebell). Once you get stronger, you'll be able to do it without any weight behind your head. Lie down on your back, hold onto the object with your elbows tucked by your ears, then crunch your knees in to touch your elbows. Don't swing/use momentum. Focus on solely using your core. Bring knees back down into a 90 degree angle and repeat. (Video Tutorial)
Add these exercises into your routine to work on your abdominal strength. A strong core is important for injury prevention and in creating a well-balanced athlete. Do a combination of these exercises 2-3 times a week.