Hate Crunches? 5 Better Core Exercises
While noticeable abs are an important part of building up your core muscles, they are only a small part of core training. Specialists who refer to “the core” are actually talking about all of the muscles that stabilize the body, running from your pelvis to your shoulders. Your core muscles are in charge of all movement-related weight shifts, as well as guarding your spinal cord.
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That sleek six-pack you have been after comes straight from a strong core, but that core requires more varied exercises than you might think.
Here are a few of our favourite dynamic core moves, no crunches necessary.
The plank may be straightforward, but it also works your body from shoulder to toe, and is one of those basic, foundational exercises that belong in any fitness routine. They also seriously tone your core, by the way!
- To plank correctly, begin in a push-up position, with your body straight and your buttocks tightened (no pushups with the butt sticking out!) and then lower yourself onto your elbows.
- With your elbows and forearms resting on the floor, clench your abs and hold the pose for one minute.
- It is better to stay in form and hold for a shorter time than it is to bend your body, so if you can’t hold the position, try a shorter time.
2. Glute Bridge March
The Glute Bridge March is as relaxing as it is an exercise, and an important warm-up variation in any workout.
- Lie on your back, with your arms outstretched perpendicular to the rest of your body, with your palms facing towards the sky.
- Pull your legs in, so that your feet are flat on the ground and your knees are in the air straight above your feet.
- Pull your abs inwards and lift your butt off the ground, so that from your knees to your shoulders is once again a straight line.
- Hold the pose and lift your right knee towards your chest.
- Remain in the position for two seconds, then lower your right leg and repeat with the left.
- The Glute Bridge March can be hard on the larger calf muscle, so practice two or three shorter sets of five reps each.
3. Rotating Lunge
The weighted rotating lunge is an excellent dynamic exercise that engages your arms, legs and core.
- With a light dumbbell or a medicine ball of five or 10 pounds in both hands, stand with your arms directly out in front of you and your feet facing forward at shoulder-width apart.
- Tighten your abs and take a large step forward with your right leg, slowly lowering yourself down until your right knee is at a 90-degree angle (but your left knee is not touching the ground).
- With your arms still outstretched, rotate yourself towards the right and then back to the center.
- Push yourself back up with your right foot until you are in a standing position once again, and then do the same with your left leg.
- Repeat for two sets of ten reps each.
4. Dragon Flag
The dragon flag is the brainchild of martial arts instructor Bruce Lee and utilizes nearly every muscle in your core. The best part about the dragon flag is that you can do it anywhere.
- Lie on a decline or flat bench and grab the edge of it behind your head with both hands. Create tension throughout your body, starting with your traps, lats, and arms, and on down through your core and legs.
- Swing your feet upward until your body is almost vertical (keeping your shoulder blades planted on the bench). Keep your core tight and your body as straight as possible while pointing up in the air. Slowly lower your feet under control until they are just above the bench, or as far as you can to start. Lift your legs back up in the air again to complete a rep.
- Make sure your body remains stiff during the exercise in order to work your muscles without using momentum.
- When your body is lifted, slowly lower your legs back down, keeping control of how quickly you move.
- This is not an exercise for beginners, so if you feel your core bend, or you release your abs, you should strengthen your core in other ways before giving this workout another try.
- Think you’re an expert? Perform this exact same move without the bench (see photo above) to really test your core strength!
5. Exercise Ball Roll Out
The Swiss ball roll out is an all-over toning exercise that targets your core, but also your glutes.
- Kneel down onto a mat, or other soft surface, with an exercise ball directly in front of you.
- With your back straight and your abs tightened and pulled in, place your hands on top of the exercise ball, and roll the ball as far away from you as you are able to, before slowly rolling it back towards you.
- Work for three sets of five reps each, as rollouts can be difficult on the knees.
Strengthening your core by utilizing these five moves will not only give you those enviable six-pack abs, but you’ll also be firming your butt, back, shoulders, knees, and calves. Choosing dynamic ab exercises rather than super-targeted ones means it is far more likely you’ll tone up all over, in all the right places, without even realizing it.
Don’t leave your workout lopsided – your core is your foundation.