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10 Ways to Train Your Core Without Crunches

As the saying goes, “abs are built in the kitchen.” Still, it’s good to have a solid repertoire of core exercises to help you get stronger and reinforce your nutritional efforts.

You won’t find a traditional crunch on this list.

While many people associate the “burn” from crunches as an effective way to train the abs and burn fat in the midsection, high volume, repetitive flexion (like doing loads of crunches) could have a negative effect on your spine and discs.

To reduce risk of injury, many coaches and trainers implement other methods to train strength, stability, and overall performance through the core. Simply click the name of each exercise listed below to watch a video of how it’s performed.

molly-tgu-snowleopardpants-350x3751. Pallof Press: It’s always great to train on our feet as we’re usually performing from a standing position. This is a great exercise for anti-rotation, and sometimes I will utilize these in place of a side plank for clients as well.

2. Turkish Get Up: You know we love TGUs around here. Tons of bang for your buck, as this full-body exercise trains anti-extension (resisting arching), anti-lateral flexion (resisting side-bending), and hip flexion with a neutral spine, which are all major functions of the core.

3. Body Saw: Don’t be fooled! This is a small movement, but a big challenge. Remember to only use the range of motion with which you can maintain proper form.

alli-rollouts-450x2764. Rollouts: There are many different variations for rollouts whether using a stability ball, an ab wheel, a barbell or a heavy chain. Keep in mind that Rollouts are not a good exercises for beginners, unless it’s a Stability Ball Rollout with a limited range of motion, and even then, it really depends on the individual. Some beginners are more “beginner” than others. These should be utilized by intermediate or advanced lifters with a strong foundation of strength, especially the Rollouts with a chain.

5. Slow Mountain Climbers: There are many variations to choose from. For example, you can do them the traditional way, or use use Val Slides under your feet and/or hands on the floor. I sometimes like to place my hands on a dynamax ball and drive my knees which can also include knee taps to the outside of your elbows and or across your body. In this video, Molly Galbraith performs slow mountain climbers.

6. Alligator Crawl: These are tough enough without the sled! Master just your body weight first, and then feel free to add load.

molly-stability-ball-knee-tucks-450x3407. Stability Ball Knee Tucks: This is a challenging exercise that teaches you to flex your hips, while maintaining a neutral spine. Chad Waterbury includes the push up in this example… go for it if you’re feeling up to the challenge.

8. Half Kneeling Cable Rotations: You can perform many variations of this exercise with different equipment like medicine ball wall toss, cable or band horizontal rotations, or diagonal chops.

9. Dead Bug Variations: These look tame but again, don’t be fooled. Many who can muscle through various “strength” exercises have trouble with the small control and stability exercises such as Dead Bugs. The most important thing to focus on here is to keep your lower back “pinned” to the floor throughout the movement.

10. Hanging Leg Raise: This one is great for building strength in both your core and your grip.

Big thanks to Neghar Fonooni, Chris Frankel, Joe Hashey, Sasha Myers Demong, Ben Bruno, Amanda Graydon and Precision Nutrition for providing quality demonstrations via YouTube.


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About The Author: Alli McKee

Alli is a certified strength and conditioning specialist. She's contributed to and modeled for a number of major publications including Oxygen magazine and the New Rules of Lifting: Supercharged. You can find out more about Alli on her personal blog at

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