While crunches are an effective abdominal exercise, if you are an experienced exerciser, you may find that they may have lost some of their benefits. If you are doing 20, 30 or more reps, it’s safe to say they just aren’t demanding enough for you anymore.
Also, some people find crunches and sit-ups uncomfortable to perform especially if they have lower back concerns.
There are a variety of other ways that you can work your abdominals effectively without having to resort to crunches…
Planks emphasize your rectus abdominus muscle at the front of your torso. Get onto all fours and place your elbows on the floor with your forearms extended in front of you. Walk your feet back until your weight is supported on your forearms and toes. Making sure your spine remains long and your shoulders, hips, knees, and feet are aligned, hold this position for as long as possible. Ensure you avoid holding your breath when performing this exercise. If resting on your toes is too challenging, bend your legs and lower your knees to the floor. Make this exercise mode demanding by tensing your abs as hard as possible.
Cable Russian Twists
To work your entire abdominal region with extra emphasis on your oblique or waist muscles, stand sideways on to a waist-high pulley. Hold the pulley handle in both hands and extend your arms so that they are level with your shoulders. Keeping your lower body still, rotate your upper body through 180 degrees using your waist muscles. Make sure your arms stay in line with the center of your chest. Slowly return to the starting position and continue until your set is completed. Perform the exercise facing the other way to work your opposite side. This exercise can also be performed using a resistance band.
Medicine Ball Slams
This dynamic exercise will strengthen your rectus abdominus. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and holding a non-bouncing medicine ball in both hands. Raise the ball above your head and stand on tip-toes. Explosively flex your spine forwards and hurl the ball down into the floor. Although you are using a non-bouncing medicine ball it should bounce enough for you to catch it at around knee height. Immediately raise the ball above your head and repeat. The key to success in this exercise is imagining your body is a bow and you are using it to launch the ball through the floor as if it was an arrow.
Saxon Side Bends
Named after old-time strongman, Arthur Saxon, this exercise will challenge and develop the muscles at the side of your waist. Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Hold a dumbbell or medicine ball in both hands overhead. Keeping your arms extended, lean to the side as far as comfortable making sure that your shoulders and hips remain square and that you lean neither forwards or backward. Slowly return to the upright position and then lean to the other side. Continue bending from one side to the other until your set is completed. Because of the long lever involved in this exercise, you should only use a light to moderate weight.
Stability Ball Hill Climbers
This exercise is an advanced variation of the plank. Place your hands on either side of the apex of a Stability ball and walk your feet backward so that you are in a push-up position. Your feet, knees, hips, and shoulders should be aligned. Keep your abdominals tight and pull your left leg into your chest. Without pausing, extend it back to the floor and repeat the same movement with your right leg. Continue this alternating leg action until your set is complete. This exercise can also be performed with your hands on the ground to make the workout easier or using a BOSU – a sort of half stability ball.
Crunches are not inherently bad but there are certainly plenty of great alternatives. Spice up your next abs workout with these fabulous exercises but take it easy initially as doing something new is a sure-fire way to make your muscles sore!