Abs without crunches!
Forget sit-ups and squats in front of the tele. These strategic more-in-one moves will accidentally whip your abs into rock-hard shape.
Cooking your favourite meal every night is a fast way to turn a delicious dish into one you’ll never want to look at again. The same philosophy can be applied to your workout, and is the reason many exercisers see their results plateau when repeating the same series of movements day in, day out. Crunches are a main culprit in this all-pain-no-gain category, as they call for repetitive movements to which your body will become immune.
The best ab workouts are based on consistently performed movements that cover a range of motions and employ weights. Exercise physiologists Gabrielle Maston and Kate Save say the areas you should be targeting for a coveted flat stomach are the transverse abdominis (core), rectus abdominis (abs), triceps, pecs (chest) and deltoids (shoulders). According to Save, crunches and sit-ups have long been overhyped for working these areas, and may even be doing more harm than good.
“Most people activate their hip flexors during sit-ups, which prevents the abdominals from activating correctly. When this exercise is incorrectly performed, it may cause muscular imbalances and injury to the lower back,” she says.
Prone forward Swiss ball rolls (pictured):
Save is a fan of Swiss ball ab workouts, which work most effectively when alternated with weights-based exercises. Start this exercise by kneeling on a mat with your forearms positioned on top of a fit ball. Position your body so that you are in a horizontal plank position on your knees with your weight resting on the ball. Slowly push the ball away from your body as far as you can, extending the arms almost straight then bringing them close to your chest. Given this exercise is very advanced, Save advises initially performing this under the supervision of a gym instructor or personal trainer. “This exercise is dynamic, and when performed correctly, will activate both the internal and external abdominals for maximal results,” Save says.
Hanging leg raises:
Maston recommends this body-weight exercise often performed by gymnasts for getting your abdominals working. “The hanging position allows your arms to be used in an isometric fashion, allowing them to build strength while all abdominals and hip flexors are also being strengthened,” she says. “It’s quite an advanced movement, but if you can pull it off, you will reap the rewards of a full body workout in one exercise.”