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5 No-Crunch Core Exercises

Imagine tightening and toning your midsection without having to lie on the ground, strain your neck, or perform leg raises.

Abs without crunches, is it possible?

Why yes it is.

Achieving six-pack abs is a three-step process. First, dial in your diet, because you can't out train poor eating habits. Second, perform high-intensity interval cardio. Doing so will help burn fat, while preserving muscles. And, speaking of muscle--third, hit the gym. Total body strength training exercises are a surefire way to burn more calories, engage the core, and deliver the solid stomach you're after.

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1. Squat


Any and all variation of the tried-and-true movement will help carve up your core. After mastering the body-weight variety, move on to the barbell back squat. Grasp the bar with an overhand grip and then rest the bar on the traps (the upper back). Push your hips back and while sitting into a squat with weight distributed into your heels. At the bottom of the movement, press through the heels and drive your hips to return to the standing position.

2. Ab Wheel Roll-Out

Using an ab wheel, kneel on the floor. Your knees will be under your hips and your hands on the handles of the ab wheel, under your shoulders. Slowly begin to roll the wheel forward while allowing your hips to follow your hands forward. Engage your core, and keep your back flat as you extend your arms and hips. When you reach full extension, or if you feel like you're going to fall, contract the abs and begin to push your hips back to the starting position.

3. Russian Twist

This move has a few different variations. The basic form will have you sitting on the floor, with your chest up, core activated and shoulders retracted. Clasp your hands together and twist them from the right side of your body, across your chest, to the left side of your body. If this movement is too easy, you can use a medicine ball or weight to add resistance. Keep in mind: you're not trying to build momentum to complete the move. Instead, squeeze the abs and initiate the twist from the core.

4. Kettlebell Swing

Completing a kettlebell swing calls the core into action every step of the way. The combination of strength and cardio delivers muscle building and calorie burning. To perform this move, hold the handle of the kettlebell with both hands and sink into a squat allowing the weight to hang between the legs. Keep your chest upright, the core flexed, and the arms loose. At the bottom of the movement shift your weight back onto your heels. Drive through the heels while using the hips and legs to move the weight; resisting the urge to pull with the arms.

5. Pull-Up

Believe it or not, this upper body exercise is actually an ab blaster. But, because it's difficult for most people to perform, it's overlooked altogether. Don't make this mistake. Instead, challenge your core strength and build up to a full pull-up by practicing a progression. If you're able, attempt to add in a horizontal row, plank row, lat pull-down and assisted pull-up.

Then, once you're ready for the real deal, hang from a pull-up bar with your hands about shoulder-width apart and your palms facing away from your body. Engage your core and back to pull yourself towards your hands so your chin is at or above the bar. To complete the exercise slowly lower yourself back to the hanging position.

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Joe Vennare is an accomplished fitness entrepreneur who develops, instructs and writes about innovative fitness programs. He is the co-founder of Hybrid Athlete, Kettlebell Cardio, and Race Day Domination.



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