What ab exercises are better than crunches?

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine

Well we think ab exercises that you can do anytime are better than crunches (but doing crunches isn’t bad by any means).  Curious how to incorporate them into your day?

Sitting at your desk right now (or at least, sitting somewhere)? Sit up as straight as the Queen of England and suck your belly in.  Don’t forget to breathe, though. 

Want to try some chair crunches? Sit up straight, put your arms to your side, and grip the bottom of the chair.  Make sure your feet are flat on the floor and your knees are bent over the toes.  Press your legs together as if they were stuck together with Super Glue.  Now, lift your knees straight up, keeping the bottom of your feet parallel to the ground.  Exhale while you life your knees, and inhale as you bring your feet back down to the floor.  Do this 10-12 times. 

And believe it or not, moving your arms behind you might be better at making your trunk muscles contract than stomach exercises.  So give it a try: Stand with your back to a wall, arms at your sides. Turn one palm against the wall and push it into the wall (keep your arm straight). Hold for a few seconds, release, and repeat. 

I also like leg lifts.

It depends. The goals of your training program will dictate what ab exercises are most effective, because different exercises work better for different goals.  For example, crunches are great for increasing ab strength, size, and tone,  but are not great for improving stability or power of the core. To improve stability of the core, exercises that employ little to no movement of the spine such as the prone-iso ab (plank) should be used instead of crunches. To improve power production of the core/ab muscles, exercises that involve explosive movements through dynamic ranges of motion such as the medicine ball pullover throw would be more ideal than the crunch.
Dr. Mike Clark, DPT
Crunches are a great exercise, and if you are looking to strengthen your abdominals, they are one of the best. But, when it comes to ab exercises the best choices for you depend on the goals of your training program. Looking for a six-pack? If you are looking for well-defined and toned abdominals, then no single exercise will do it all, various exercises, performed together, will get you there. If your goal is to lose weight and fat, improve athletic performance, or prevent injury then the best ab exercises are those that improve the stability of your midsection. These exercises are characterized as those that involve little to no movement of your spine when you perform them. They engage and challenge multiple muscle groups at once and are generally performed for higher repetitions, increasing the amount of calories you burn as well as the endurance and resilience of the area around the hips, abs, and lower back.
Two of my favorite abdominal endurance exercises (shown below) are the Plank and Side Plank. Perform 10 repetitions of each – holding each repetition for 3-10 seconds.[media id="DEV__4c7e6dc17b07c9_75824660" title="Plank"]

Crunches can be great but the best way to lose ab fat is to incorporate ab exercises that work the entire body.

  • Med ball diagonal wood chop
  • Prone pull ins on the stability ball
  • Single leg plank raises

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.