Try this 10-minute ab routine to sculpt up sleek abs without a single crunch!
There is quite a bit of controversy surrounding crunches. That’s because when we come in a crunch position, we are flexing the spine and rounding the shoulders forward, similar to the poor position we’re in while hunched over a desk all day long. This rounded position is detrimental to the health of the spine and muscles in the back and neck.
Here’s a quick anatomy lesson: The core is made up of your lower back and your abdominal muscles, which includes the rectus abdominis (those six-pack muscles), transverse abdominis (the deep muscle layer), and both external and internal obliques. Incorporating a well-balanced core routine can strengthen all of these muscles, preventing back injury while giving you a strong core and toned abs.
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Don’t worry, you don’t have to spend an hour doing core work to hit all of these muscles! It only takes a few minutes of practicing the right exercises to do the trick.
Practice this quick, crunch-free core routine three to four times a week to build a strong core without doing any damage to your posture. For maximum results, do all of the exercises back-to-back and then rest at the end. You’ll need an exercise mat and a lightweight dumbbell of your choice.
5-Minute Power Ab Workout with Zero Crunches
Plank | 30 sec
This exercise teaches your spine to stay in proper alignment, improving your posture while toning your abs.
- Start on your hands and knees in a tabletop position. Place your forearms on the ground, bringing them parallel to one another. Engage your abs.
- Then, step your feet to the back of the mat, lifting your knees off the ground.
- Press down firmly through your forearms to slightly puff up the space between your shoulder blades.
- Start by holding for 30 seconds. As you get stronger, increase the time up to 45 or 60 seconds.
Note: If you feel your lower back straining, tap your knees to the ground to modify your plank.
Side Plank | 15 sec per side
This yoga pose focuses on the obliques, strengthening and balancing out your core.
- Lie down on your right side and prop yourself up onto your right forearm, fingers spread wide for support. Stack your left foot on top of your right and flex both feet.
- Press into your right forearm and the outer edge of your right foot to lift your hips up off the ground, coming into a side plank.
- Continue lifting up through your hips as you hold for 15 seconds, working up to 30 seconds as you become more experienced. Switch sides.
Side Plank With Twists | 5 reps per side
Try this side plank variation to strengthen and tone your deep, stabilizing ab muscles. This also makes twisting motions easier in day-to-day life!
- Begin in a side plank position on your right side.
- Reach your left arm up overhead and spread the fingers wide. Breathe in, then exhale as you twist your torso and thread your left arm underneath your body.
- Inhale to lift your arm back up towards the sky. Repeat for 5 reps, then switch sides.
Tip: This one can be hard! To modify, practice the side plank with the knee of your bottom leg on the floor. This will provide extra support for your core and shoulder.
Single Leg Raises | 8 reps per side
Tone and strengthen the lower ab muscles while keeping proper spinal alignment.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the ground. Reach your arms down alongside your body.
- Engage your abs and straighten your legs up towards the sky.
- On an inhale, lower your right leg until it is about a foot above the ground. Exhale to lift it back up in line with your left leg.
- Repeat on the left leg. Continue alternating legs until you’ve completed 8 reps on each side.
Double Leg Raises | 10 reps
This exercise will make your lower belly burn.
- Start lying down on your back with your legs straight up in the air. Keep your arms down alongside your body with your palms face down.
- Lift your head and shoulders off the ground to feel your abs begin to work. Keep a slight tuck of your chin to protect your neck.
- Inhale to lower your legs halfway down towards the ground, then exhale to use your ab muscles to lift your legs back up towards the sky.
- Repeat for 10 reps.
Tip: If you feel any strain in your neck, lower your head down to the mat as you continue the exercise.
Russian Twists | 10 reps per side
Grab a dumbbell for this final exercise that tones all the muscles in your core. You can also do these twists without any additional weights.
- Sit on the mat with your knees bent and your heels on the floor. Hold the dumbbell in front of your chest and lean back about 2 inches, keeping your spine straight.
- Inhale, then exhale and twist to the right. Inhale back to center, then twist to the left.
- Continue twisting side-to-side for 10 reps per side.
Tip: To make the exercise even more challenging, pick up your heels and parallel your shins to the floor.
(Your Next Workout: A Gentle Pilates Workout to Strengthen Your Core and Back)