5 Ab Exercises That Are More Effective Than Crunches

Certified Personal Trainer By Krista Stryker, NSCA-CPT
Certified Personal Trainer
Krista Stryker, NSCA-CPT is the founder of 12 Minute Athlete and a leading expert on high intensity interval training (HIIT) and bodyweight fitness, living in Venice, California. She has her bachelor’s in international affairs and communication from Lewis and Clark College and is a certified personal trainer through the National Strength and Conditioning Association.

You probably know by now that if you're doing crunches to work your abs, you're not getting the most out of your core routine. After all, crunches only work a very small portion of your abdominal muscles. By doing crunches and crunches alone, you're missing out on working your entire core.

So rather than wasting your time doing hundreds of crunches in a row, grab a medicine ball and give these waist-slimming exercises a try:

1. Side Plank Crunches

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Work your obliques with this fun side-plank variation! To do it, get into a side-plank position with one foot on top of the other, squeezing your abs and butt as you do so. Bend your top arm, then bring your top knee toward your top arm in a side crunch. Return to the starting position and repeat. Make sure to switch sides!

Try it: Do three rounds of 10 reps per side.

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2. Medicine Ball Twists

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Feel the burn with this Russian twist variation using a medicine ball! Start by lying on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor while holding a medicine ball to your chest. Raise your body up so that your torso is at about a 45-degree angle from the floor. Bring the medicine ball to one side, touching the floor if possible and twisting as far as you can. Repeat on the opposite side, picking up speed as you do so.

Try it: Do two to three rounds of 20-30 reps per side or add them to your regular HIIT workout.

3. Medicine Ball Jackknives

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Medicine ball jackknives are a crazy effective exercise for building core strength fast. To do them, lie down with your legs straight while holding a medicine ball above your head. Keeping your legs as straight as possible, lift your legs and bring the medicine ball toward them at the same time. Lower down with control, and repeat.

If these are too tough for you at first, bend your knees toward your chest rather than keeping your legs straight as you do them.

Try it: Do three rounds of 10-15 repetitions per side and feel your abs burn.

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4. Mountain Climber Crosses

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Mountain climber crosses are a twisting version of the classic mountain climber exercise and will work your entire core and even your shoulder muscles as you do them. Start in a plank position with your shoulders directly above your hands and tighten your core, then bring one knee across your chest toward your opposite hand. Return it to the starting position and repeat with the other knee. Keep your core tight and try to go as fast you can!

Try it: Do three rounds of 50 or add them as part of a HIIT workout or between sets.

5. Split Leg V-Ups

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Split leg V-ups are another super-effective body-weight exercise that will get your abs much stronger than crunches will. To do them, lie on your back with your arms straight above your head. Pull your belly button toward the floor, then raise your right leg as you reach both arms toward your right foot at the same time, then lower back down. Repeat on the left side.

Try it: Do three rounds of 10 total (that's 10 per side!).

Related read: The 3 Best Exercises To Get In Total Body Shape

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