Performing a seemingly endless series of crunches during your workouts can grow very tiring, leading you to start skipping out on your ab work altogether. If this sounds like you, you may want to consider some of the following crunch-free core exercises.
Because the abs work as dynamic stabilisers for the body whenever movement takes place, you can use this principle to your advantage for getting a much stronger midsection. The exercises below will destabilise the body as best as possible so that every muscle tissue must contract to help maintain balance.
Add one or two of the following exercises to your program to eliminate the need for additional ab crunches at the end.
Single leg deadlift
The single leg deadlift is a very good way to challenge the hamstring muscles while also forcing the abs into action. These can be performed with either a set of dumbbells or a barbell, so you can do these at home as easily as you can at the gym. Since you are only on a single leg while executing them, you'll find a much lighter weight will challenge you compared to the standard deadlift exercise.
To perform this movement, place the dumbbells or barbell down directly in front of your feet. From there, place one leg back up on a bench behind the body and reach down towards the barbell. Slowly rise up until you are back in a full standing position, keeping both legs as straight as possible throughout the movement. Pause at the top for a brief movement and lower again.
Because this exercise requires a lot of balance to execute it properly, this is where the abs are called into play.
Plank on an exercise ball
Another very good exercise to work the entire core is the plank on an exercise ball. The standard plank is well known for working the core, however, by adding the exercise ball to the mix, you boost the intensity so you can get more out of this movement.
To perform this, simply place your arms up on an exercise ball so that the forearms are resting on top. Extend your legs out back behind you so your body is in a straight but diagonal line and then hold this position for up to one minute.
Be sure while executing this option to keep your body as flat as possible throughout your core. If you start to form an arch or dip at any point, this is a signal that it's time to come down and rest before finishing off the exercise.
More ways to build your abs...
Single leg raise with back on the ball
Another crunch-free exercise that incorporates the exercise ball is the single leg raise with your back on the ball. Since you are going to be reducing your base of support while doing this exercise, that's what will increase the intensity that's placed on the ab muscles.
To perform this, lie so that your back is flat against an exercise ball, with your legs out in front of you and your knees bent at 90 degrees. Your feet should be firmly planted on the ground.
Once you've found your balance, lift one leg up off the exercise ball and extend your knee so it's perfectly straight. Hold this position for up to one minute before lowering the leg and switching sides.
If you find this too easy, you can increase the difficulty by extending the opposite arm, directly in front of your head, holding a five- to ten-pound dumbbell.
Hanging leg raise
Finally, the last crunch-free ab exercise is the hanging leg raise, which is great for working the abs and the hip flexors. When performing these, aim to keep your legs as straight as possible and your breathing pattern regular.
Get yourself into a hanging leg raise machine with your back pressed firmly into the pad. From there, lift both legs up while contracting from your abs and hold then at 90 degrees for a quick second before lowering them down again.
Just like your usual abdominal exercises, you'll still want to perform these towards the end of your workout to ensure that your abs are not fatigued going into your major lifts, where you will need them for maximum stabilization purposes.
Stay fit by keeping it fresh
Next time you're bored with your ab-workout program, think outside the box. Generally speaking, any type of movement pattern where you aren't very well balanced and have to move some part of your body through space will stimulate the ab tissues.