Everyone wants to have a better looking midsection. For some reason, society has placed abs as one of the pillars of health and attractiveness. Don't get me wrong, good abs don't look horrible, but there is a lot more to the mid-section than just the Rectus Abdominus.
Instead of doing sit-ups and blowing up your lower back, try these core stability exercises that lead to better overall core strength, which leads to better ability to recruit muscles and move better, which leads to better muscles, and then hopefully some abs in the process. If ya can't move cuz you back always hurts, then how well will you be able to move and workout? Call me crazy...
Bird Dog Crunch
I love this move because it works the abs in a classic "crunch" fashion, but also works on shoulder stability, hip stability, and low back muscles on the kick out. 10 bird dog crunches per side with a three second hold on the "crunch" will get your mid seciton really lit up!
Bird dog row
This is an excellent variation to teach the body to use the glutes to extend your hip, aka, support your leg, instead of using your lower back. This forces the opposite side of your body to work to find balance.
Side Plank with Step Up
This move is very challenging on the oblique and on the hip. These are hard to do from the long plank, so give the short plank version a try first.
Side Plank with Rotation
These are great for core strength, but also coordination between moving the upper back and keeping the lower back in place. These are great for mobility of the thoracic spine and also strength in the shoulder blade of the arm on the ground. (side plank starts at :29 mark of the video below)
Side Plank with Groin Hold
These are extremely challenging. Take your time doing these as they may cause cramping and tightening up of the groin!
Glute Bridge March
This variation forces the low back muscles to support the opposite half of the body that isn't connected to the ground. These are great for hip stability, low back health, and learning how to brace through your belly to support your low back.
Weighted Double Deadbug Crunch
This core variation is probably the closest I'll get to "sit ups" with my clients. The key on these is to make sure the low back doesn't come up off the ground when you extend your arms and legs all the way out.
Deadbug Driving Into Wall
With these, drive your hands into the wall as hard as you can, keep pressing your belly button to the ground, and only extend your legs as far as you can without losing hip stability (aka your low back coming off the ground).
A big problem I have with regular shoulder taps is people fly through them way too quick. Ya gotta give the body time to be affected by gravity, so I like doing my shoulder taps with a minimum of 3 second hold, going all the way up to 30 seconds. This particular variation has the hand out in front of the body, which forces the lat, serratus, and upper abs to work a little harder. Shoulder taps are great for hip stability, hip flexor strength, and shoulder stability.
Anti Rotation Press
The midsection not only provides stability forward and backward, but also rotationally. These are really important to maintain a healthy spine. In the picture below, the client has a band pulling him to his left, forcing the right side of his body to work to prevent rotation.
Single Arm Carry
This lift is great for building core strength while also moving the legs. The body is an entire functioning unit and we should train our midsection to create stability while we walk, run, or jump -- a key to athleticism. Try to stay as vertical as possible on these!
Single Arm Landmine Press
While you'll mainly feel this in your shoulder, you're definitely going to feel it in your midsection as well because your obliques have to work overtime to keep your torso from leaning one way or the other during the press.
This variation is extremely taxing on the shoulders and the midsection. The core has to provide stability as the body shifts side to side in pressing up to the pike. The midsection also helps push the hips into the air as the hands walk backwards. These are great after a set of shoulder taps or planks!