Best Abdominal Exercises You've Never Heard of

Situps and stomach crunches are the only effective abdominal exercises. Proponents of the theory of muscle confusion say that sticking with these well-known exercises will cause you to reach a progress plateau. If the only ab exercise you employ is the situp, your body may simply adapt to the stress you have been constantly putting on it. Mixing up your exercise schedule is beneficial for building muscle and burning fat and can spice up a boring routine. The best abdominal exercises that you have never heard of are not complicated, target important abdominal areas yet are surprisingly uncommon.

Abdominal Vacuum


The abdominal vacuum is interesting in that it is the only abdominal exercise that specifically targets the transverse abdominis area of the abdomen. The transverse abdominis lies deep below the other muscles of the abdomen, making it hard to target with conventional exercises. An abdominal vacuum is performed quite simply: Suck in your stomach as far back as possible and hold that position. There is no rule for how long you hold; you can either hold for an extended period bordering on half a minute or hold briefly, expanding your stomach, sucking in again and repeating the motion as if it were a dynamic exercise. Treat this as a standard strength-training exercise, working in sets.

Cable Push-pull


The cable push-pull requires you to move most of your body, and therefore targets many muscles. The cable push-pull is especially useful as an abdominal exercise, as the waist is the most highly involved area. To perform a cable push-pull, set up two cable pulleys: one in front of your body and one behind you. The pulley in front should be low, about to your knee, while the pulley behind you should be high, above your head. Most gyms have cable pulley equipment that can be set up in this way. Grab each pulley with one hand and place the foot on the side grabbing the front pulley slightly forward, at about 1 or 2 feet from the back foot. Bend your knees slightly. To perform the movement, pull the front pulley straight back to your hip while you push the back pulley straight up to your hip. The pulleys will move diagonally in the vertical plane but should not move horizontally. Repeat this for a number of reps, around 10. Switch directions -- that is, switch which leg and arm is in front -- and repeat. This exercise requires hip rotation while simultaneously putting resistance on hip rotation, thereby training many areas of your waist, including obliques. You can do these in three sets of 10.

V-ups


V-ups tend to be overlooked in favor of the standard situp without much reason; the V-up actually targets three more muscle areas than the situp. The V-up is performed from a starting position much like the situp but with legs and arms extended; you should be lying on the floor on your back. The V-up is simple to perform. Simultaneously raise your legs and arms without bending either until they touch. When they touch, reverse the movement until you are in your original position. The V-up is particularly suited as a replacement for the situp and can be done in the same number of sets and reps.

Barbell Turkish Getup


The barbell Turkish getup puts stress on many areas of the waist and hips and is both a dynamic and static strength workout. The starting position for a barbell Turkish getup is the same as that of a V-up with the exception that you will be holding a barbell upward, above your shoulders. Start with a weightless barbell and work up, adding weight when you are more familiar with this exercise. To perform the barbell Turkish getup, sit up, keeping the barbell straight over your head and then stand up, holding the barbell straight above your head. You should notice that there is difficulty in both sitting up and standing up due to the weight of the barbell. Perform these in sets of three with eight to 12 reps each.