You know what I’m loving? The fact that skinny is out and strong is in. Perfectly flat abs are no longer the most coveted thing. And, you know what else I love? That strong abs come from ab exercises that aren’t crunches.
Finally! The message I’ve been preaching for a long time now, being strong outweighs being skinny.
Strength for abs comes from exercises that are NOT crunches. Crunches I’m sure have their place, but they are totally over used.
Building up those core muscles are absolutely vital to the entire fitness process. Especially for mamas because we have given birth to our beloved babies.
Also – if you’ve been doing some awesome ab exercises and you’re not getting anywhere in regards to your strength, head over here. You might want to check out my other post on Diastasis Recti and my complete experiment on myself regarding that.
Now that we have that bit of public service announcement out of the way, let’s turn our focus to strengthening our abs.
Because, once you start feeling strong and empowered by what God created your body to be able to do, it really is life changing.
Whatcha think? Shall we dive into my favorite ab exercises that aren’t crunches?
Ab exercises that aren’t crunches #1 – Weighted Overhead Raise
Lay flat on your back with a dumbbell size of choice. I typically prefer between 8-15# depending on core strength and hold it straight over your head. Your legs should be in a raised position with your feet flat and parallel to the ceiling.
There’s a few options here,
See the below video for details, but you can do just your arms, just your legs, or both at the same time. Progressions from ‘least’ to ‘most’ difficult are as follows:
- Arms only
- Legs Only
- Arms and Legs simultaneously
Ab exercises that aren’t crunches #2 – Leg Lifts
Lying flat on your back, raise your legs up so that your feet are flat and parallel to the ceiling. Raise your legs straight up towards the ceiling and your butt will naturally lift off the floor and lower.
It doesn’t look like much, but it is tough!
Ab exercises that aren’t crunches #3 – Heel Drops
Lying flat on your back again, legs up so that feet are flat and parallel to the ceiling. Hands under your butt for balance. Lower your heels towards the floor and raise back up. Only go as far as your stomach muscles will allow without them ‘releasing’.
Ab exercises that aren’t crunches #4 – Bird Dogs
On all fours, belly pulled in tight and flat, raise one arm and the opposite leg at the same time. Then switch arms and legs.
Be careful on this one to not rotate your hips. Keep everything in line and nice and flat.
Tip- if you are unable to do both simultaneously without rotation, only do the arms by alternating, and then only the legs by alternating. Once you feel strong enough to do both, then do both!
Ab Exercises that aren’t Crunches #5 – Plank
Plank position, on your hands and toes like you’re going to do a full body pushup. Belly pulled in tight and back flat and hold.
Ab Exercises that aren’t Crunches #6 – Bicycles
Returning to lying flat on the back. Bring legs up into a flat top position where the shins are parallel to the ceiling and place hands behind the head.
Alternate elbow to knee and pressing the leg out. (Note video below)
Tip – be sure to not yank on your neck. Your hands should only be there for support.
Ab Exercises that aren’t Crunches #7- Mountain Climbers
Back to plank position, alternate bringing knees towards the chest. You can go fast or nice and slow for a controlled movement to really engage those core muscles.
Ab Exercises that aren’t Crunches #8- Cross Body Mountain Climbers
With this one, you’re in the plank position, and then you’re going to bring one knee up towards the chest and cross the midline of your body. Return that foot to the starting position and either repeat the movement with that leg or alternate legs.
Ab Exercises that aren’t Crunches #9- Oblique Skips
Standing position, step and rotate and reach the opposite hand to the opposite inside of the foot. As you rotate, really focus on keeping the core engaged and tight. This tight core and twist will engage the obliques and lower core muscles.
How’s that for a list of ab exercises that aren’t crunches? Pretty killer, amIright?
One thing to note…
You probably noticed that I used the term ‘ engaging your core’ or “keeping your belly tight”.
This doesn’t just mean to suck your belly button back towards your spine and all is well. This means to focus on your belly muscles and ‘engage’ them to help protect the back.
Here’s how you do that:
Start at your pelvic floor and engage there like you’re about to *ahem* stop a stream of urine mid pee.
What? Don’t look at me like that, sis.
What you see is what you get around here, my gals.
Anyway! Start at your pelvic floor and engage there. Then focus in on your lower abdomen and try to pull your abdominal muscles towards the middle. Like you’re buttoning your pants, but you’re actually buttoning up your muscles.
Then you repeat that same process all the way up your belly to your rib cage.
If you’ve never done it before, it might sound a bit weird and maybe even feel awkward.
But never fear! You can totally do this. Keep practicing.
Because this type of engagement is what makes these exercises work in building strength in your core.
One more thing!
Don’t do all of these exercises at one time. That would absolutely shred your abs (not in a good way!) and you would hate life for about 4-5 days.
Pick 2-3, do 3-4 sets of 8-10 and then see how your abs feel. If they feel pretty good, then you can start upping the anti if you will.
Be smart! You’ve got this.
Stick with me and I’ll do my best to take the guess work out of fitness and healthy living for you.