Pop Quiz! Which of the following is the MOST dreaded exercise of all time:
Trick question – they’re ALL correct. Congrats! Please pick up your participation trophy at the front desk.
Clearly, this isn’t a scientific approach.
But judging from the emails I receive and conversations I’ve had with coaching clients over the past couple of decades, it’s accurate.
And there’s good reason: The most effective exercises are usually less than pleasant because they work a number of muscle groups at the same time.
In other words: They hurt.
Burpees, for example, are a total body exercise, combining upper body, lower and core.
Push-ups work the chest, triceps, shoulders, and core.
Crunches are not only tough, but they may remind you it’s time to cut back on nighttime cookie bingeing.
And here’s the thing:
What you avoid doing is likely what you need the most.
Progress happens outside your comfort zone, as the saying goes.
If it didn’t, we could all get in shape sitting on the couch eating a large pizza and a side order of breadsticks. Or, as I call it, the How Many Carbs Can You Cram Into Your Face At Once diet.
I personally do not do crunches, but not (just because) they’re painful, but because if I did them my spine could collapse on itself like a house of cards.
As I’ve mentioned in prior posts, I have osteoporosis from an eating disorder in my teens.
** Quick tangent: I mention why I have osteoporosis because weight training is a way to help reduce your risk. So… since hoisting heavy things is my jam, why wouldn’t I have bones that could withstand the force of an F5 hurricane? Answer: I had an eating disorder in my late teens, at a time of my life when my body was laying down bone mass. This resulted in paying the price now for how I mistreated my body over 40 years ago.
Osteoporosis in my spine makes it more susceptible to fracture when exerting force on it in a flexed/curved (e.g. crunch-like) posture.
So crunches are OUT for me.
As a result, I’ve had to get creative. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to get an effective ab workout without crunches.
Whether you’re avoiding crunches because they suck, or because you’d rather not end up in a full-body cast (I don’t know if that’s what happens when you break your spine, but it’s a vision that keeps me from tempting fate…), I’m here to tell you: You can firm up your abs without them.
That’s the good news.
The bad news is the alternatives aren’t a walk in the fitness park.
Either way, it takes work to get results, regardless of your approach.
And, if you’re striving for flatter abs, you need to look at your diet as well.
(*** Want a complete plan to speed up results? Check out my Total Ab-Firming Plan HERE!)
Let’s keep things simple for today and just get into the exercises themselves… do these 3x/week at the end of your workout:
Lie on your side with one leg and foot stacked on the other. Engage your abdominals (imagine you’re about to get tickled by your grandson), and prop yourself up onto our forearm while keeping your shoulder in line with your elbow; keep your body in a straight line – shoulders, hips, knees and ankles should line up. Hold 20 seconds or longer; relax and repeat on the opposite site.
Lie on a bench or on the floor, reach overhead and grasp onto the end of the bench or a sturdy table leg. Bend legs as shown. Focus on contracting your lower abdominals and bring your hips up toward your ribcage. Avoid swinging your legs. Squeeze at the top as you exhale. Return to starting position — do not relax at the bottom! But keep abs contracted throughout the move. Repeat for as many reps as you can in good form. For a greater challenge, keep legs straight up as you crunch as illustrated in the second photo.
This advanced exercise is a toughie! Start in a classic plank position resting on your forearms and keeping your upper body in a straight line – shoulders, hips, knees and ankles should line up. Then “walk up” into a straight arm position as in a push-up; walk back down into the plank and then back up to the straight arm position. Be sure to keep your abdominals engaged throughout the exercise. Do as many as you can and gradually increase reps as you get stronger.
What’s your ab routine? Try these and let me know how you do by commenting below! I’d love to hear from you.
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Your Ageless Body Coach,
Linda Melone is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, certified trainer and award-winning health and fitness writer. She specializes in helping women over 50 get in shape and lose weight.