The basic crunch is perhaps one of my greatest nemeses when it comes to core strength. Few things infuriate me more as a movement professional than the basic crunch - and sure, part of that is my own perception and baggage around the crunch - but really, there are some MUCH better options out there, and I hope your personal trainer, yoga instructor, or group fitness guru offers you more than the out dated, far less beneficial crunch.
I recently posted a video on my instagram (scroll all the way down to check it out) that demonstrates three core exercises that I actually DO like:
All of these need a basic understanding of core activation. There are two ways that I like to help people find their strong core - and since not every cue resonates with every person, I'll offer you both, too:
A core brace: imagine you're bracing for impact, as if someone were about to poke your belly REALLY REALLY HARD.
A more subtle activation: gently pull together the bottom ribs and the top of your hip bones.
Once you have an understanding of core engagement, generally, you can implement that activation through these moves.
A hecking great move for core stabilization and strength. It can build a lot of fundamental cores strength that transfers well into functional daily living, and can improve posture and prevent low back pain.
How to do it:
Start laying on your back. Keep in mind that you'll want to keep your core and back stable once you start to move, so begin by finding a comfortable position where you can feel your low back bracing into the floor.
Bring your legs into the air so your knees stack over your hips, and then bend your knees towards a 90-degree angle. Lift your arms overhead, so your wrists are stacked over your elbows and shoulders.
Extend your right arm and left leg out so they move toward parallel to the floor. If you find that you lose control over your core and your low back lifts up, decrease this range of motion. Once extended, pause for :01-:03, and then return to the starting position. Repeat on the opposite side.
The glute bridge targets the posterior chain - namely the glutes and hamstrings - which help support a stable core and strong posture. Because yes, everything is connected.
How to do it:
Start laying on your back, with your feet on the ground. Take your feet about hips' width apart, bending your knees to around 90-degrees. Some bodies might find a wider-than-hips-width stance more comfortable. Point your toes forward-ish. A 45-degree turn out might also be comfortable, but we want the knees to point in the same direction as the toes.
Bring your arms by your sides. Brace through your core as you press into your feet to lift your hips so that your knees stack over your ankles. Imagine making a line between your shoulders, hips and knees.
With control, lower back down. That's one repetition. Repeat as desired.
Bear plank / hold
I love and I hate a bear plank. This move targets the fullllll core - not just the visible abdominals, but the deep guys, too - transverse abdominus, obliques, and frankly, your shoulders, back, and legs. It's kind of a one-hit wonder.
How to do it:
Start on hands and knees in a tabletop position, with your toes tucked and feet flexed. Keep your shoulders over your wrists, and press into the ground to activate your arms and shoulders. Again, think about wrapping or bracing through your core to support your spine. This is where that "please don't poke my belly" core brace comes in.
Once you feel solid, hover your knees off the ground. Don't let your head drop as you hover here - keep your neck nice and long!
Hold for :15-:30. Release. That's one repetition. Repeat 3-5 times.
These are the kind of moves I like to bring into my warm ups, core intervals, and yoga classes. What do you think - team crunch, or are you ready to level up?