Whether your idea of the perfect midsection is flat with just a bit of definition or a ripped six-pack, you've probably tried every variation of crunch and plank out there. And you're probably bored to death of them. Meeeee too.
Traditional abdominal exercises put me to sleep, so I really don't put much emphasis on them --- even when I was training for my bikini competition. My core tends to get adequate work when I do other exercises, like pull-ups, push-ups, and various unilateral movements.
As you can see from my picture to the right, you can get great ab definition without spending 20 minutes a day hammering away at them. Obviously, nutrition is going to be the biggest factor in seeing your abs.
Besides the obvious aesthetic benefits, having a strong core is crucial to preventing injury and improving performance, be it helping a friend move or running a 5k. The muscles of the core --- from the anterior ab muscles to the back muscles to the glutes --- all work together synergistically to stabilize and protect the spine while allowing various planes of movement (twisting, flexing forward, extending back).
While I have a whole catalogue of ab/core exercises, today I'll share with you three of my top ones that you're probably not doing right now.
Start in a kneeling plank position, with your hands directly underneath your shoulders. You can use Valslides or gliders underneath your hands, or you can substitute cloth on hard floors or paper plates on carpet. Brace the core muscles (imagine someone is getting ready to punch you in the stomach).
Keeping the supporting arm in close to your torso, slowly lower yourself down while sliding one arm forward.
Press back up on the supporting arm while sliding the forward arm back to the starting position. Repeat with the other arm. If you can't quite get down to the floor without losing control, stop as far down as can before your arms and abs give out and work your way down closer to the floor over time.
Start with 6 reps on each arm, and work your way up to 10 or more. Do 2-3 sets.
Start in the normal plank position with feet on gliders (you can also do this on a stability ball).
Slide feet forward, bringing the knees in close to the chest. Slide feet back out to starting position. Make sure that you don't let your hips sag --- if you feel a pinch in your low back, you're probably doing it.
When you have this move mastered, you can challenge yourself by sliding into a pike position, keeping the legs straight and hinging at the hips as shown in the picture above right.
Do as many as you can with good form, shooting for 10-15, for 2-3 sets.
In a kneeling position, hold the band or cable machine attachment (rope or handle) at chest height and bring your hands straight in front of you. It should be enough resistance that you have to fight to not twist.
Slowly bring your hands in close to your chest and pause. Slowly push your hands out again and pause.
Continue doing this for 20-30 seconds. Repeat on the other side. Again, 2-3 sets is advised.
Typically, I'll save these exercises for the end of my workout, but you can also do them at the beginning while you're still fresh. The key, as with any exercise, is to not rush through the movements, but to be mindful and focused on the muscles that you're working.
Let me know how it goes! Hit me up with any questions here.