And the ab substitutions you SHOULD be using instead…
According to Men’s Health magazine, it takes more than 22,000 crunches to burn a pound of belly fat. (silent giggle)
So a quick news flash for you in case you didn’t already know — you’ll never get a flat stomach or six pack abs while crunching away on the ground.
No matter what the late night infomercial says, it won’t do diddly-squat.
Additionally, crunches can cause more harm than good. In fact, they literally can create more pain in your neck and lower back area.
So do what we did…give them up.
What should you do instead?
Use these scientifically-proven ab exercise substitutions below from Men’s Health fitness expert (and one of my personal coaches) Craig Ballantyne that you can (and should) use at home – or anywhere – to replace every type of sit up and crunch in your exercise plan.
I’ve learned a ton from Craig over the last couple years about how to strategically approach ab and core training. As a result, I have completely transformed my approach to training abs.
Why is this so important to me?
Because I’m getting old. lol.
Seriously, I don’t want to destroy my back or spine and I’m pretty sure you probably don’t either. Right?
So read this article thoroughly and I’m confident you’ll learn a ton while giving your back and neck the well-deserved break they need.
Please print this exercise substitution list so you have it handy when you need it.
HERE WE GO – starting with the 1 exercise NEVER to do…
I recently saw a trainer put his client through a BACK-DESTROYING exercise, and here’s what it was:
The exercise was weighted Stability Ball Crunches – but they were not normal crunches on the ball that you see people do.
You see, not only did the client do a full-on sit-up motion, but she kept going – violently – into a total body flexion movement that ended with her almost putting her head between her knees.
But doing any type of spinal flexion can be harmful to your low back because this will compress the disks in your spine.
In fact, Dr. Stuart McGill, the world’s expert on low-back injuries and abdominal training, said in a recent New York Times article,”…no sit-ups, they place devastating loads on the disks.”
The disks in your spine are the same disks that get herniated in low back injury. And moves like sit-ups essentially CRUSH the disks between the bones in your spine, causing terrible pain and nerve damage.
So STOP doing crunches and sit-ups.
Fortunately, you can still get six-pack abs and a flat, sexy stomach by using back -friendly ab exercises instead.
So let’s review a huge list of abdominal exercise substitutions:
1) Replace crunches with:
Planks, mountain climbers, and stability ball jackknives
2) Replace cross-crunches (i.e. twisting or oblique crunches) with:
Side planks and cross-body mountain climbers
3) Replace sit-ups with:
Stability ball jackknives, stability ball planks, stability ball pikes, stability ball rollouts, and hanging knee raises.
Now let’s take a look at how we can make some of these back-friendly ab exercises even harder for your abs:
1) How to increase the difficulty of the Plank
First of all, before you move on from the plank, you have to master it.
Dr. McGill says that we should all be able to do a plank for 2 minutes straight.
Now I’ll be honest, I let myself go on this exercise in 2009, and not surprisingly, it was probably one of the reasons I had back pain.
At one point, I was only able to do a strict plank for 75 seconds, but I’ve worked my way back up over 135 seconds, and now my back pain is gone.
You can also do pushup-planks, as those will help prepare you for pushups if you are a beginner.
Eventually you will graduate to the Stability Ball Plank, which is 30% harder for your abs than regular planks.
2) Harder versions of the Side Plank
Advanced versions include the Side Plank with Leg Raise and Side Plank with DB Lateral Raise (allowing you to train your shoulders at the same time). Dr. McGill adds that we should be able to do a side plank for 90 seconds straight.
3) Mountain Climbers substitutions
You can use the Spiderman Climb exercise as a replacement, and this is excellent for lower-body and hip mobility.
A harder version of mountain climbers is the Cross-Body Mountain Climber, and you can also do mountain climbers with your hands on the ball or with your hands on the floor and feet on the ball.
One of my favorite advanced versions is the “Hands on the Floor,
Feet on the Ball Cross-body Mountain Climber” or even the “EXTREME X-Body Mountain Climber”.
Stability Ball NOTE
If you don’t have a ball, you need to get one. They are cheap, and I’m not asking you to do any dangerous circus tricks on them!
But if you don’t have a ball, you can replace the Stability Ball Plank with the Mountain Climber exercise, but it will not be as difficult.
4) How to increase the difficulty of the Stability Ball Jackknife
Eventually you’ll progress to the Stability Ball Pike. And another way to do this exercise is using the TRX straps. That is one of the exercises that gets improved by the TRX. Very effective movement. But even with the ball you can step up your training by using this exercise.
5) The Stability Ball Pike
This is another exercise improved by using the TRX, as well as a cool tooI I bought called the Power Wheel. The key to the exercise is raising your hips up as high as possible, and again, using the Power Wheel or TRX you to do that better.
6) Alternatives for the Stability Ball Rollout
If you are new to this exercise, you can use a modified Roll-out.
This substitution is just one of many exercises you’ll discover inside in the Turbulence Training at home Ab Workouts System that I have on sale (for only seven dollars) this week.
Plus, you can substitute an ab wheel in place of the ball or you can even use the TRX in a similar type of movement. It works because you are fighting the extension of your torso.
Stretch your abs on the way out, and contract your abs to return to the starting position. This movement will leave your abs quite sore if it is a new exercise for you!
7) Additional Advanced Abs Exercises
Once you’ve dominated all of these Stability Ball exercises, you can move to traditional advanced ab exercises such as Hanging Knee Ups and Hanging Leg Raises.
However, you should only do these exercises if you can fully ELIMINATE momentum from the exercise. Do NOT swing your hips or rock back and forth.
You’ll get all of these in Turbulence Training workouts, of course.
8.) Pulling Exercises that work your abs
Back in the day, I trained a fit woman who had never been asked to do a chin-up by her previous trainers. So I had her do 2-3 sets of 3-5 repetitions.
She came back the next session and couldn’t believe how sore her abs were from this exercise. So again, you will get a lot of ab work from traditional movements. In addition to the chin-up, here are my favorite “total body pulling muscle ab exercises”.
* DB Renegade Row
* Chin-ups/Pull-ups with knee-ups
* Spiderman Pull-ups
Use those to make your workouts more efficient.
9) Shoulder/Arm Exercises
YES, you can use shoulder and arm exercises to work your abs. Any time you do a standing exercise, you’ll need to brace your abs HARD in order to maintain a stiff torso. That works your abs as hard as planks and side planks.
Plus, in the triceps extension exercise, you are stretching your abs as you lower the weight and contracting your abs as you contract your triceps to return the dumbbells or bar to the start position. I’ve had super-sore abs just from doing triceps!
So here are my favorite upper body exercises for abs:
* 1-Arm Press
* 1-Arm Curl
* DB Triceps Extension
Hope you enjoyed that massive list of ab exercise substitutions!
Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, MS
Creator, TT Home Abdominal Workouts
I’m not surprised to hear Craig talking about getting sore abs just from training triceps and other body parts because I’ve experienced the same exact thing.
As you can see this article is “chocked” full of killer ab training info.
Surprisingly, I still see people every time I’m at the gym crunching away for 100’s of crunches on the floor, wasting their time.
If you’re wondering how to use all these exercises the right way, try this scientifically-formulated at-home metabolic resistance abs program from good ole’ Craiggy boy…
You’ll instantly have a library full of ab alternatives you can use to implement today’s post — all for a measly $7:
For this week only you can get his complete 12-week abs home workout blueprint for just $7. So for less than the cost of a greasy fast food meal, this is a steal. Plus the fast food meal will make you fat 😉 while for the same price, you can get flatter abs.
It also includes the legendary “Abs 300” workout challenge.
(you gotta try this one)
- Drive to the gym ($3+ gas)
- Getting a Starbucks (I call it Fivebucks..haha) on the way ($4.50)
- Craig’s “at home abs program” $7
Looks like the choice is obvious:
And you won’t have to worry about causing damage to your back and neck. Just another bonus side effect.
Have fun with these killer home abs workouts!
I learned a lot when I put together this article for you. I hope you did too.
Have a great day,
Shaun “never do a crunch again” Hadsall