Some of the most well-known abdominal exercises — like sit-ups and crunches — have been long thought to be the best way to help transform a regular stomach into a body builder's dream. Unfortunately, some of these stomach exercises aren't the best method toward that goal, and other ab-related exercises can be harmful.
"Imagine your spine is a credit card. In the same way that repeatedly flexing and extending a credit card will eventually lead to wearing out of the plastic, repeatedly doing crunches can put damaging strain on your back," Ben Greenfield, a self-proclaimed "fitness expert" and author of the New York Times best-selling fitness book Beyond Training, wrote for the Huffington Post. "A crunch simply doesn't burn as many calories as necessary for you to get rid of any fat that is obscuring your stomach muscles — so it's an inefficient way to get your gut looking good."
Luckily, there are other abdominal exercises that health nuts can use in lieu of the regular crunches and sit-up routines.
The plank is one of the simplest exercises to perform, but provides people who exercise with great results. In order to perform a traditional plank exercise, you must get into push-up position on the floor. Then bend your elbows 90 degrees and rest your weight on your forearms.
"The plank is pretty much one of the only exercises where you're getting your entire core," Tom Holland, an exercise physiologist, told Men's Fitness. You're working the front and back of your abdominal area at the same time without any equipment. You're getting your rectus abdominis, your obliques and your lower back.
"It's so simple and effective that you can do it anywhere."
The teaser is another workout that is sure to strengthen the abdominal area. To perform the teaser, you must lie on the floor, arms extended at about a 45-degree angle. Inhaling deeply, roll your head and shoulders off the mat, and lift your entire upper body off the mat. Make sure that your arms and legs are parallel to one another. Then reverse the movement until you are back at the start position. An image of the exercise can be found on Shape.
"I have researched this move in my lab, and it is very effective at activating all of the abdominal muscles (the rectus abdominis, internal and external obliques and the transverse abdominis), and yet the movement is very straightforward and does not require several steps or positions," Michele Olson, a professor of exercise science at Auburn University at Montgomery, told Shape magazine.
3. Use a Stability Ball
A useful replacement for the side crunch includes a stability ball. "Kneel in front of a stability ball, draping your abs and hips over the ball. Place your hands on the ground in front of you and walk them out until the ball rolls beneath your thighs," Health.com states. "Once your body is straight (with a slight arch in your back) and you're stable, hold for 30 seconds. Focus on lifting belly button and squeezing thighs."
4. Knee driver
The knee driver is another safe alternative to more painful abdominal exercises. First, you have to begin in the plank position, abs tightened. Next, you draw the left knee into your chest. Then step your foot back to the original position. After this, you do the same for your right knee. Once you've done both knees, that is considered one repetition.
5. Rolling planks
The rolling plank position is another challenging, but effective exercise. First, start in a plank position on your forearms. After holding the plank for a few seconds, roll onto your right elbow, and hold the plank for a few seconds. Roll back to the center and then do the same for your left elbow. Repeat the exercise.