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Five alternatives to crunches

Posted by Katie McLeod  August 23, 2013 06:38 PM

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Ryan Healy.jpgRyan Healy is a personal trainer for the Lynch/van Otterloo (LVO) YMCA in Marblehead. She is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the NSCA, and earned her BS in Exercise Sports Science from Elon University. Find more posts by her in conjunction with the LVO YMCA at She can be reached at

Performing crunches to develop the abdominals is a hotly debated and controversial topic in the fitness world. Whether you are for or against them, they shouldn’t be the only way you train your anterior core musculature. As local Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) Tony Gentilcore explains here, “If you actually look at the anatomy, you’ll notice that our “core” is more of a cross-hatched web (as noted by Mike Robertson), and its main functions are resisting trunk extension, posterior pelvic tilt, and transmission of hoop stress (rotary or anti-rotation).” In other words, your abdominal and oblique muscles do so much more than produce spinal flexion. So why not train them in other ways too?

Here are five alternative abdominal exercises to crunches.

Barbell Rainbows:

- You can also try this tall kneeling version:

Body Saw:

- Try the TRX version too:

Barbell Roll-out to Push-up:

- Can omit the push-up portion and just do the barbell roll-out

- Keep a neutral spine as you roll-out while bracing the abs and contracting the glutes

Pike to Roll-back

- If adding the roll-back is too difficult, just try the pike initially

Stir the Pot

- Push the hips forward until a modified plank position is achieved, brace the abs, squeeze the glutes, then roll the elbows in one direction, keeping the rest of the body as still as possible, then roll to the other side

- For a more advanced version, perform this exercise from your toes, but wipe the sweat off your arms first or you might do this

Staying fit is an important part of staying healthy. This blog will offer exercise tips from experts as well as share the personal journeys of Globe staff members committed to fitness. No matter your age or energy level, we invite you to join in and share your own story. How do you find time to work out? What are your daily challenges? Let us know and read along -- and together, we can all get moving.


Elizabeth Comeau is a social media marketing manager at She will be blogging about her personal fitness journey and using a device called a FitBit to track her weekly goals and progress (see below). Follow her journey and share your own. Read more about Elizabeth and this blog.

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