Busting out hundreds of situps each day isn’t fun, and it won’t work your core in the same way a mix of different abs exercises can. Geoff Neupert, C.S.C.S. and author of Six Pack Abs 365, recommends these five crunch-free exercises that will not only give you washboard abs, but will also make you feel more flexible, mobile, and agile during all your other workouts. “Athletes need their abs to work without them having to think about making them work,” Neupert says. Here are four stomach-toning moves beyond the basic crunch.
1. Split leg-arm raises
20 reps on each side
Begin lying on your back with your arms and legs straight in the air. Lower your left arm back by your head and your right leg toward the floor simultaneously, until they hover just three inches from the ground. Return to the starting position. Your neck, shoulders, and head should remain on the ground throughout. This exercise protects and strengthens the spine as it transmits direct forces between the upper and lower body. “You’ll know you’re doing these correctly when you feel your abs contract around where your belt would be,” says Neupert.
2. Split leg-arm reach
20 reps on each side
Start on your hands and knees with your legs and arms perpendicular to the ground. Extend your right arm and left leg simultaneously until they are parallel to the floor. Maintain a straight line from your arm to leg. Return to the start position. Repeat. Done correctly, you’ll feel it in your abs, glutes, and hamstrings.
3. Suitcase carry
30 to 40 yards
Stand holding a 50- to 70-lb kettlebell by your side, and your arm straight. Don’t lean toward the weight, but instead, contract your abs to keep a straight posture. Walk forward for 30-40 yards, breathing deeply into your pelvis behind your contracted abs. Try to walk as normally as possible. If the weight is banging into your legs it means you need a lighter kettlebell. This move works your obliques and quadratus lumborum, a spinal stabilizer involved in rotational sports like golf.
4. Hanging leg raises
Start by hanging from a pullup bar with your feet off the floor. Contract your abs and tuck your hips underneath you. Raise your legs up toward the bar without swinging, using only your core strength. As your legs come up, relax your glutes and tense your abs pushing into your armpits and lift them as high as you can. Lower slowly to keep core muscles engaged for max benefits. Repeat. “Think about pulling the bar to your legs instead of lifting your legs to the bar,” says Neupert.
5. Spiderman crawl
50 to 100 yards
Start on your hands and knees. Look straight ahead, and lift your knees off the ground, keeping your head up. Crawl forward on your hands and feet using your core to stabilize the movement. Your hips should stay low, and your knees bent and pointed to the outside of your elbows. Work up to 100 yards without stopping.