A flat stomach with sculptured abs is the ultimate goal of anyone who works out. Unfortunately, this is also the most difficult one to achieve, unless you really do specific exercises meant to strengthen the core.
For a very long time, people have tried to do sit-ups and crunches. However, many will find that it is not the most effective way. Moreover, doctors are now recommending against this because of the risk of damage to the lower back when doing these exercises.
While you may not feel it immediately, the damage might already be accumulating in your back and even a simple task of picking something up from the floor can be the last straw and suddenly break your back.
Fortunately, there are alternatives to crunches and sit-ups if you want to strengthen your core. Here are 6 of them that you can do anywhere, even outside of the gym.
1. Variations of Planks
If you are just starting out, planks are good and easy. Standard planks will quickly bore you out because it is too easy and in order to build a strong core, you should up the challenge. You can opt for some variations of planks that are a bit more complex and effective in core strengthening.
Simply put, this variation removes one contact point from the floor. From a traditional plank position, you first put up one foot and hold it. It is important to keep the body still and the spine in a neutral position (meaning no arching of the back). You also need to avoid tilting to the side and switch legs every 5 to 10 seconds.
This variation has you leaning on one arm for 10 seconds each until you build the muscles enough to hold the position longer. The side plank is great for strengthening smaller core muscles not normally targeted by other exercises.
2. Reverse Crunches
As the name suggests, this is the opposite of normal crunches. This type of exercise actually improves your posture, which is another benefit other than strengthening the core. Reverse crunches are done by lying on your back flat on the ground. Swing the legs high while keeping the stomach muscles tight the entire time.
3. Hollow Body Hold
This is a basic move learned by gymnasts where you brace your abs and create tension in the whole body. The hollow body hold requires that you keep your lower back flat on the floor, starting with the legs folded up before stretching them out but still keeping them off the floor.
Once you can hold this position, your arms can move from the side all the way up, making sure the lower back is never lifted from the floor. Once you master this move, you will find it easier to do squats, handstands, and pull-ups.
4. Dead Bug
This exercise is also done while lying on the floor. Both hands raised perpendicular to the ground. The legs bent and raised so that the lower leg is parallel to the floor. You will extend the leg and arm so that they are straight before going back to the same position and doing it on the other side.
Dead bugs may look easy but if they do feel easy, it means you are doing it wrong. You should keep your back flat on the ground the entire time, which means you have to keep your core muscles braced. Moreover, you should keep your movements slow and controlled.
5. TRX Fallouts
Ab wheel rollouts are seen to be the best core exercise out there. The same move can be done with a suspension trainer like TRX. Holding on to the rings, stand diagonally to the ground with your arms on the side of your body.
Extend the arms, keeping the body straight at all times before going back up to the same position. The advantage of the suspension trainer is that you can easily adjust the difficulty so that your body is lowered and closer to the ground as opposed to standing upright.
6. Hanging Leg Raises
To do this, you need something that you can hold on to, like a playground bar. While hanging on to the bars you will raise your legs, keeping them and your whole back straight at all times. It looks simple, but it is tough and will really work out your core muscles.
These 6 exercises are great for strengthening your core and at the same time, reducing back pain. Other benefits include better posture, the ability to lift heavier weights, and the ultimate goal, achieve the six-pack abs that everyone will be jealous of.
Fitness Equipment You Can Use for Core Strengthening
This low-impact cardio machine works wonders by engaging multiple muscle groups. Most people think that the rowing motion works mostly on the upper body. This is incorrect as the rowing motion itself works the lower body, the midsection of the body as well as the upper body.
The sliding forward motion at the end of each stroke simulates the action of sit up while the push back action engages the lower back muscles. Both the abs and lower back muscles gets engaged at each of these actions building the stability, which in turn strengthening the core. Using a rowing machine is pretty much a whole body workout.
An ab roller is a great tool to target the core muscles. Each rolling movement engages not just the ab muscles but also the upper body. Muscles like lats and deltoids get fired up when rolling out, while the abdominal muscles get targetted when rolling back up.
Rowing Machine vs Ab Roller, Which Is Better?
Both rowing machine and ab roller are amazing fitness equipment for strengthening core muscles. While an ab roller or ab machine targets the abdominal area and upper body, rowing machines works the whole body. If I were to choose one, I would pick to work on a rowing machine because it is a cardio machine that also benefits core muscles.