Crunchless Ab Exercises

Total body strength emanates from your core. Mark Anders, a fitness specialist with the American Council on Exercise, notes that strong abs enhance posture, stave off lower back pain and contribute to long-term health and well-being. Crunches can become monotonous, however, and, over time, your body adjusts to the exercise, making it less effective. Go crunchless to train all the muscles of the abdomen and achieve a more toned, stronger belly.

Captain's Chair

In a study conducted by the Biomechanics Lab at San Diego State University in 2001, lead researcher Peter Francis compared 13 of the most popular abdominal exercises by using electromyography. The findings revealed that the captain’s chair--a piece of equipment that looks like a tall, seatless chair with armrests and backrest--generated the greatest muscle activity in the obliques. To exercise on the captain’s chair, hoist your body so your hands and forearms grip the armrests and your spine presses into the padded backing--your legs will dangle. With control, inhale and bend your knees into your chest. Exhale and extend your legs. Work your way up to three sets of 15 repetitions, resting about a minute between sets.

Scissors

The scissors move targets your rectus abdominus, the top sheath of muscles that appear as your "six-pack." Lie supine on an exercise mat, and draw your lower back toward the floor. Raise your head, neck and shoulders off the floor, and place your hands underneath your tailbone. Lift your legs so they are just inches off the mat, and cross your left ankle over the right, then right over left. Continue to alternate slowly and methodically, working until you cannot complete any more with proper form. Go for three sets.

The Plank

Perform the plank anywhere, as it requires no equipment. This exercise targets the entire abdominal region, with particular emphasis on the transverse abdominus, the internal abdominal muscle that acts like a corset for your internal organs and improves posture and strength. Start in a kneeling position, and lower your forearms to the floor. Extend your legs so your body is braced on your toes in a rigid line. Keeping your back long and your hips from sagging, engage your abdominals, and hold the “plank.” Beginners should go for a 10-second hold at first, eventually working up to three sets of 1-minute holds, with a 30-second break between them.

The Side Plank

To create greater activity in the obliques--the sides of the abdominal wall--perform the plank from a side position. Lie on your left side, and straighten your legs. Lift your body so it is supported on your left forearm and the outside of your left foot. Stack your right foot on top of the left to form a diagonal line. Place your right hand on your hip, and hold. Work your way up to two sets of 60 seconds each. Change sides and repeat.

Standing Leg Lifts

Target the abdominals from a standing position for a change of pace. Standing leg lifts effectively address the rectus and transverse abdominus. Standing with your feet hip-width apart, extend your arms parallel to the floor, and round your back to mimic the letter “C.” Simultaneously raise your left leg and hold for 10 to 15 seconds, then return to start. Do 10 repetitions, then repeat on the right. Do two sets for each leg.