Are you tired of doing a countless number of crunches or sit ups without seeing a difference in your abs? Crunches and sit-ups were once seen as the way to a slimmer waistline and 6-pack abs. The US military still requires soldiers to do a set number of sit-ups in order to graduate basic training.
However, the military and millions of people are still stuck in the dark ages. Crunches and sit-ups are just not that good for you. Both exercises, especially sit-ups, require you to push your curved spin against the floor and work primarily your hip flexors, the long muscle that runs from your thighs through your groin to the lumbar vertebrae in your lower back. Most people have super tight hip flexors due to desk jobs. When you work your hip flexors it can create lower back discomfort.
Crunches and sit-ups are designed to only work a few muscles groups. Both exercises primarily target the rectus abdominis muscles and to less degree, the obliques and hip flexors. But, your core is much more than those few muscle groups.
Your core is like a box. It starts from the pelvic floor and moves up to the diaphragm. All those muscles in between, like the transverse ab, internal and external obliques, and erector spinae muscles, make up your core.
A strong core improves your balance and stability, tones your abs, and helps prevent injuries. So it’s time to skip all those crunches and sit-ups in favor of these alternatives to crunches that will give you a 6-pack without breaking your back.
Targets: Erector spinae, Rectus abdominis, Glutes
How to Do Bird Dog: This exercise is a great alternative to situps for the mere fact that it engages your entire core, not just the front. Start in all fours position. Your wrists should be directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips. Engage your core by sucking in your belly button to your spine. Lift your left arm up and forward and your right leg back and long at the same time to hip height. Pause. Return leg and arm back to starting position. Repeat with the right arm and left leg. Concentrate on keeping the spine and hips level throughout the movement.
Targets: Gluteus maximus, Rectus abdominis, Latissimus dorsi
How to Do Donkey Kicks: This substitute for crunches is not only better for your back but gives your glutes a nice little boost. Start in the all fours position with wrists under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Lift right leg up to hip height and bend knee 90 degrees so your foot is parallel to the ceiling. Lower right knee down to floor without touching and lift back up. Repeat desired number of reps before switching to the other leg.
Standing Side Bends
Targets: Obliques, Erector spinae, Rectus abdominis, Quadratus lumborum
How to Do Standing Side Bends: What are better crunch alternatives than a standing movement? Start in a starting position with feet shoulder-width apart and a dumbbell in your left hand. Your right hand should be placed on your right hip. Keep your back straight and your core engaged as you bend at your waist as far as you can towards the left. Repeat for the desired number of sets before switching to the right side.
Circles in the Sky
Targets: Transverse abdominis, Obliques, Iliopsoas, Hamstrings, Quadriceps
How to Do Circles in the Sky: Another alternative to situps, leg circles, engage way more core than any old situp every will. Lie on your back with arms by your side and your legs out straight. Engage your core and raise your left leg straight up with your toes pointed to the ceiling. Lift your right leg off the ground about 6 inches or leave it on the ground if raising your leg is too difficult. Trace four softball-size circles with your left leg first in the clockwise direction and then four in the counterclockwise position. Switch legs and repeat.
Targets: Rectus abdominis, Obliques, Triceps, Deltoids
How to do the Inchworm: If you loathe crunches or sit ups, you’ll love the inchworm — or maybe really hate it. Start in a standing position with your feet shoulder width apart. Slightly bend your bends and place your hands about shoulder-width apart on the floor. Begin to walk your walks forward until you reach the push-up position. Pause. Walk your hands back to the start position.
Cross Body Mountain Climbers
Targets: Rectus abdominis, Obliques, Quadriceps, Hamstrings, Glutes
How to Do Cross Body Mountain Climbers: Cross body mountain climbers are one of the more effective alternatives to crunches, especially the bicycle variety. Start in the push-up position with your hands under your shoulders. Start to pull your right knee towards your left elbow in a jumping motion. Quickly switch legs with your left knee driving towards your right elbow. Continue for the desired time interval.
Targets: Obliques, Rectus abdominis, Transverse abdominis
How to do a Russian Twist: Sit on the floor with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Hold a medicine ball or dumbbell with both hands. Lean back so your torso is at a 45-degree angle to the floor. Keep your spin straight and your core engaged. Slowly rotate your arms and weight towards the right as far as you can. Pause, and then reverse as far as you can towards the left. Repeat.
Targets: Transverse abdominis, Iliopsoas
How to Do Flutter Kicks: Although the military does love their crunches, flutter kicks are one of their favorite crunch alternatives. Lay flat on your back with your arms by your side. Extend legs out with a slight bend in your knees. While keeping your head on the ground and pressing your lower back into the floor, lift your heels about 6 inches off the floor. Start making small, up and down kicks like you were swimming with your legs. Continue making these kicks for 20-30 seconds.
Targets: Transverse abdominis, Rectus abdominis, Oblique muscles, glutes
How to Do a Plank: The ultimate substitute for crunches — the plank — the full-body movement you can’t help but love. Place your forearms on the ground with your elbows directly aligned below your shoulders. Your arms should be parallel to your body and about shoulder-width apart. Keep your palms flat on the ground. Toes should be grounded into the floor. Squeeze your glutes and suck your belly button into your spine. The neck and spine should be aligned with the rest of your back. Pick a spot on the floor about a foot past your hands and look at it. Hold the plank for your desired time or as long as you can.
Practice your plank with our 30 Day Plank Challenge!
How to Do a Side Plank: Lay down on the floor on one side. Place your elbow under your shoulder with forearm on the ground perpendicular to your body. Your top arm can be placed on your top thigh or be reaching for the ceiling. Lift your hips off the floor so your spine in a straight line. Hold this position for the desired time frame.
Next time you hit the gym to work on your abs, skip the crunches and sit-ups in favor of these back-friendly alternatives to crunches that will target your entire core. Try our 30-Day Abs Challenge!