Fitness

8 Exercises That Flatten Your Belly (Without a Single Crunch)

Crunches were once the answer to sit-ups, the gym warm-up of our elementary school days. Now both abdominal exercises have a bad rap in the fitness community. The repetitive flexing of the lumbar spine, or lower back, has been implicated in back injuries as serious as disc hernias. The following exercises can help flatten your belly while minimizing pain.

Core stability exercise: The plank

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Nolan Lee, DC, MSAC, CES, E-RYT, is a big proponent of core stability exercises like the plank and its many variations. One plank favorite is to hold high plank (arms extended versus on forearms) and alternate a weight between each hand. The weight should sit next to one hand and be pulled across the body with the opposite hand. Repeat this exercise for one minute. “Alignment of the spine should be neutral to maintain ideal core activation,” Lee says. “A good point of focus is the pelvis. If you can keep the pelvis neutral, not tilting it forward or backward, the low back should remain neutral. Plank can be a good way to work on a neutral, stable spine.” Jess Fritsche, an ACSM certified Health and Wellness specialist and NCCPT Personal Trainer, reminds us to breathe. “Exhale while you lift the weight and inhale while you return to start position or relax,” she says. Learn about the exact time you need to hold a plank for the best results and no injuries!

Core stability exercise: The McGill curl up

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To avoid creating too much flexion in the lumbar spine, Lee recommends the McGill curl up. To complete this movement, lie on your back with one leg straight and one leg bent. Place your forearms and hands under your low back. Lift your head, chest and shoulders off the floor as much as you can without jutting out your chin. “Everything moves in one piece like there is a board under you, from the tailbone to head. You might not lift very far, but that is okay,” Lee says. Do two sets of 10, switching legs between sets. These are other exercises that can make back pain better.

Core stability exercise: Marching

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For those just building a fitness routine and a foundation for more complex moves, Brent Locey, NASM, certified personal trainer and SoulCycle instructor, recommends core stability exercises, such as marching. To complete this exercise, lie on the floor with your knees together and bent, feet flat and arms by your side. Lift one leg at a time, maintaining the bend, and draw the knee as close to the abdomen as possible. Locey says it’s important to practice the “drawing-in maneuver” during all core exercises. To draw-in, pull the area below your navel towards your spine, while maintaining a neutral spine. “I often coach this by placing your hand on that area and noticing as you inhale how your stomach draws toward your back,” Locey says. “The most important thing to focus on, especially for beginners, is making sure they have adequate balance and stability… [Otherwise] you could easily injury yourself immediately, or develop long-term injury because your body starts to overcompensate in the wrong areas.” Here are 16 ways to lose weight by just walking.

Core stability exercise: Two-leg floor bridge

Courtesy Antea Gatalica

Another great exercise for foundation work is the two-leg floor bridge. Lying on the floor with your knees together, bent, feet flat, and arms by your side, lift your pelvis and hips off the so that your knees, hips, and shoulders are all in line. Slowly lower to the floor and repeat. Locey recommends doing one to four sets of this core stability exercise, with 12-20 repetitions. Or try one of these home remedies to burn belly fat without the fad diets or fitness crazes.

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