While crunches have their place in a workout routine, I've found that the best core exercises typically don't involve them. The following (printable!) workout is designed to engage your whole core, that means your abs, back, and glutes, without a single crunch. Don't be fooled - this workout is still challenging. Give it a try, and then let me know how you liked it!
1. 60-Second Plank: Set yourself up in this plank position to start. The key is to make sure your shoulders are over your elbows, and your weight is shifted to the balls of your feet. Picture making a straight line from the top of your head to your heels, lengthening through your entire body. As you do this. slide the shoulder blades away from the ears, drawing the thighs up and towards each other and pulling the abdominal muscles up and in towards your spine. Think about engaging the abs even more every time you exhale. Hold for 60-seconds, coming down to the knees (see modification 1a) if you really need a break. Rest in child's pose for 15 seconds before moving on to the next exercise.
1, 2, 3, 4. Plank-Ups: Starting in position #1, place your right hand on the ground then, push yourself up with your left hand, coming into a high-plank (position #4). Pressing the ground away from you find a straight plank, but this time on your hands. To come back down lower onto your right forearm, then your left forearm. This is one count (right hand, left hand, right forearm, left forearm) . Repeat 5 rounds leading with the right hand, and 5 rounds leading with the left (10 rounds total. Repeat an extra half-round, so you land in a plank on your hands, then move on to exercise #5. (YES, you can take a break here if needed, but see if you can go straight through)!
5. Mountain Climber: Holding a plank on your hands, pressing the ground away from you, pull your right knee in towards your chest, then hop to switch onto your left knee. You can do this slow, or move quickly to get your heart rate up. Keep moving as fast as you can (with great form) for 30 seconds.
6, 6a. Half-Star Fish: Lying on your stomach, rest your head in your hands. Draw your abdominal muscles up and in off the floor. Stretch your legs long and pick them up off the floor (about an inch). Keeping your abdominal muscles engaged, open the legs out to the side and then squeeze them back together. Repeat 20x.
7, 7a. Full Star Fish: Staying in position 6a, reach the arms over the head in a Y position as you open the legs. Keep the back of the neck long her so you don't clench your neck muscles. On an exhale, pull the arms down as you squeeze the legs together (position 7a). Think about sliding the shoulder blades down the back and opening the chest. Inhale and repeat. Repeat 10x.
8, 8a, 8b. Side Kick: Coming up onto the forearms and knees (elbows under shoulders, knees under hips), shift the weight onto the right forearm and come onto the left finger tips. Open the left knee out to the side, then kick it long, reaching the foot towards your head. Bend the knee, close the legs, and repeat. Repeat 20x on each side.
9. V-Up Hold: Flipping onto your bum, sit up straight, drawing the abdominals in and up. Lift the feet off the ground, so the shins are parallel to the floor. Reach the arms forward at shoulder height. If you need support balancing, feel free to hold onto the back of the thighs, and test periodically with the arms reaching forward. Hold this for one minute before continuing to exercise #7.
9a. V-Up Extension: Starting in position #9, Extend the legs straight out and lower the torso down towards the floor, without resting on the ground. Exhale, and draw the abdominals in further to return to position #6. If you need help balancing, you can bring the finger tips to the floor near the side of the hips. Repeat this 15x, then continue to exercise 10.
10, 10a. V-Up Twist: Holding position #9, cross the arms like you're holding a baby, in the unsafest way possible that is. Twist right, reaching the elbows down towards the ground, then twist left. With this exercise you want to feel like you're wringing out the obliques and the spine. Breathing consistently. Repeat 20x (on each side), then rest!
Nice job! Let me know what you thought in the comments below!