Sit-ups shouldn’t be your go-to ab exercise — and not just because they’re boring. If you’re only doing sit-ups, you’re only training one part of your abs, your rectus abdominis or “the six-pack muscles” that run from the bottom of your chest to your pubic bone.
That leaves the transverse abdominis, the deep layer of muscle that wraps around your torso, and the obliques, muscles that run down your sides, untouched. Neglecting these muscles leads to dysfunction and even injury, not to mention that you’ll never look quite as good as you could with your bikini on.
But the worst part of sit-ups isn’t what they’re missing, it’s what they’re acting on — namely, the spine. Imagine that you’re standing up, and throwing your torso forward to touch your toes, over and over. It’s easy to see the havoc that wreaks on the lower back, and it’s similar to what’s happening with most sit-ups.
While performing a slow and controlled sit-up can work fine to build one section of your abs, there are far superior alternatives that can target the entire core, while strengthening other parts of your body and even burning fat. Here are 8 moves that have been proven time after time to be more effective than sit-ups.
What You Need: A pair of dumbbells weighted just slightly heavier than your comfortable level
How This Workout Works: Perform each of the movement as many times as possible in a slow and controlled manner for 30 seconds with no rest in between each exercise – that is one circuit. Work your endurance and strength up to complete 3 circuits 3 times a week on non-consecutive days. Then, sit back and watch your abs transform.
1. Dumbbell Push-up Row
Place a pair of dumbbells about shoulder-width apart on the floor. (A) Grab the handles and position yourself in a pushup position. (B) Lower your body to the floor and then press back up. (C) Once you’re back in the starting position, pull the dumbbell in your right hand up toward the side of your chest. Pause, then return the starting position and repeat with your left hand. That’s 1 rep. Try to prevent your torso from rotating each time you row the weight.
2. Dumbbell Curl To Squat To Press
(A) Grab a pair of dumbbells and let them hang at arm’s length next to your sides with your palms facing forward. (B) Without moving your upper arms, bend your elbows and curl the dumbbells as close to your shoulders as you can. Immediately push your hips back and lower your body into a squat, until your thighs are at least parallel to the floor. (C) Stand up and press the dumbbells over your head. That’s 1 rep. Return to the starting position and repeat.
3. Cross Behind Lunges
(A) Grab a pair of dumbbells and hold them at arm’s length at your sides, your palms facing each other. (B) Step forward and to the side so that your lead foot ends up in front of your back foot (like a curtsy). Lower your body until your front knee is bent at least 90 degrees. (C) Pause, then return to the starting position and repeat with your other leg.
4. Resistance Band Bent-Over Row
Grab a resistance band and step on it with one foot (use both feet for more resistance). (A) Hold the band in each hand at arm’s length, about shoulder-width apart, and then bend at your hips and lower your torso until it’s almost parallel to the floor. Your knees should be slightly bent and your lower back naturally arched. (B) Squeeze your shoulder blades together and pull the band up to your upper abs. Pause, then return the bar back to the starting position. Note: If you do not have a resistance, holding a dumbbell in each hand will work as well.
5. Dumbbell Squat Thrust
(A) Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms at your sides holding a pair of dumbbells. (B) Push your hips back, bend your knees, and lower your body as deep as you can into a squat. (C) Place the dumbbells on the floor, then kick your legs backward into a pushup position. (D) Kick your legs back to the squat position. Stand up and jump. That’s 1 rep.
6. Overhead Split Squat
Hold a pair of dumbbells directly over your shoulders, with your arms completely straight. Squeeze your abs tight for the entire exercise. (A) Stand in a staggered stance, your left foot in front of your right foot. (B) Push your hips back and bend your knees so you lower your body into a squat. Pause, then push yourself back up to the starting position. Perform the prescribed number of reps, and then do the same number of reps with your right foot in front of your left.
7. Planking Frog Tucks
(A) Start in a pushup position with your body straight from your shoulders to your ankles. (B) Bring your right foot forward and place it next to your right hand (or as close as you can). Try to prevent your hips from sagging or rising. Return your leg to the starting position and repeat with your left leg. That’s 1 rep.
8. Wall Slide
Lean your head, upper back, and butt against the wall. (A) Place your hands and arms against the wall in the “high-five” position, your elbows bent 90 degrees and your upper arms at shoulder height. Hold for 1 second. Don’t allow your head, upper back, or butt to lose contact with the wall. Keeping your elbows, wrists, and hands pressed into the wall, slide your elbows down toward your sides as far as you can. Squeeze your shoulder blades together. (B) Slide your arms back up the wall as high as you can while keeping your hands in contact with the wall. Lower and repeat.