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If you’re looking to flatten your mid-section and sculpt sleek, sexy abs, you need to choose moves that train your abs in different ways.  Standard crunches only work through one plane of motion: sagittal (when you curl your torso or legs forward or backward). To get the abs of your dreams, you need to also include moves that engage your muscles through the frontal plane (when you bend side to side) and transverse plane (when you twist or rotate through the waist).

Try these moves from Oxygen Magazine to get more out of your crunches.  Choose one curling move, one bending move, and one twisting move.  Do as many repetitions as possible, rest 30 seconds then move on to the next exercise.  Then repeat the cycle twice more.

 

CURLING MOVES

  1. Long-Arm Crunch: Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.  Extend your arms straight behind your head, with your hands clasped together.  Keeping your arms straight beside your head, curl up slowly raising your shoulders off the floor.  Pause, lower and repeat.
  2. Knee Raise Crunch: Lie flat with your knees bend and feet flat on the floor.  Place your hands lightly behind your head, and point your elbows toward your knees.  Curl your upper body up while raising your knees to meet your elbows at the same time.  Try to touch your elbows to your thighs at the top.  Lower and repeat.
  3. Stability Ball Knee Tuck Crunch: Get into a push-up position, with your hands shoulder-width apart on the floor and your legs extended behind you.  Place the tops of your feet on your stability ball, pointing your toes.  Slowly draw your knees into your chest, rolling the ball forward toward you.  Try to keep your hips down as much as possible.  Pause, then extend your legs to roll the ball back out to the start.  Repeat.
  4. Standing Knee Raise Crunch: Stand tall, with your feet shoulder-width apart.  Place a band around your ankles (make sure the band is tied so the loop provides enough resistance).  Keeping your back straight, slowly lift your right knee up in front of you as high as you can and hold for one count before lowering.  Finish the set on the right before repeating on the other side.

 

BENDING MOVES

  1. Standard Side Crunch: Lie on your left side with your legs and feet stacked together.  Bend your knees, and bring your legs toward your chest until your legs are at a 90 degree angle.  Place your left hand on the ground and your right hand lightly behind your head.  Lift your left shoulder off the floor to bring your right elbow toward your right hip.  Pause, then slowly lower until your shoulder just barely touches the floor and repeat.  Switch sides when you finish your set.
  2. Double Leg Side Crunch: Lie on your left side and extend your left arm on the ground in front of you.  Place your right hand lightly behind your head, your right elbow should point straight up at the ceiling.  Straighten your legs, with your right leg stacked on top of your left.  Slowly raise both legs up and lift your left shoulder off the floor, bringing your right elbow closer to your legs.  Pause, lower back down to the floor and repeat.  Switch sides when you finish your set.
  3.  Side Plank: Lie on your left side, with your right hand on your hip and left forearm flat on the floor.  Your left elbow should be in line with your left shoulder.  Press your elbow into the floor as you slowly raise your hips up, bringing your body into a straight line from your ankles to your shoulders.  Hold this position for as long as you can, then switch sides and repeat.
  4.  Dumbbell Side Crunch: Stand with a dumbbell in your right hand and your arm hanging down at your side.  Place your left hand on your hip.  Slowly bend to your right side as far as you comfortably can.  Rise back up into a standing position, and repeat.  Finish your set, then switch the weight to your left hand and repeat the move, this time bending to your left.

 

TWISTING MOVES

  1. Bicycle Crunch: Lie flat on your back with your knees bent, hands on either side of your head.  Lift your feet and draw your right knee in toward your chest while extending your left leg straight out in front of you.  At the same time, curl up and twist your upper body to the right, so that your left elbow and right knee nearly touch.  Lower back to the floor and repeat on the other side, pulling your left knee in as you twist to the left.  Continue alternating.
  2. Leg Drop: Lie flat on your back with your hand tucked under your hips/butt and palms facing down.  Lift your legs straight up together until your feet are directly over your pelvis.  Your body should look like the letter L.  Keeping your head and upper back on the floor, slowly lower your legs to the right as far as you comfortably can.  Pause, bring your legs back to the center, and repeat to the left.  Alternate sides.
  3. Twisting Ball Knee Crunch: Get into push-up position with your hands shoulder-width apart and legs straight.  Place your feet on top of a stability ball behind you.  Keep your legs together as you slowly roll the ball forward and to the right by bending your legs, drawing your knees as close to your right elbow as you can.  Pause, and then straighten your legs back into starting position.  Roll the ball forward again, this time bringing your knees toward your left elbow.  Continue alternating sides.
  4. Medicine Ball Chop: Standing tall, hold a medicine ball with both hands, and extend your arms over your right shoulder.  (If you don’t have a medicine ball, you can use a dumbbell.)  Bending your knees, slowly twist your torso to the left as you draw your arms across and down.  The ball should end up just outside your left ankle.  Reverse to come back up to the starting position and repeat.  Finish your set on that side, and then work your opposite side.

 

Source: Oxygen Magazine (Abs edition 2013)