13 Standing Core Exercises Better than Crunches

Tired of doing sit-ups? Get off the floor and start shaping a flatter belly on your feet.

January 31, 2013
Standing Abs Excercises
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Stand Up for Stand-Out Abs

Put your mat away and give your neck a rest. “Standing abs exercises work more muscles than crunches—and the more muscles we use, the more calories we burn,” says Sara Haley, creator of The Daily Sweat workout DVDs and a Reebok Global Master Trainer in Santa Monica, CA. While sit-ups and crunches only work superficial surface muscles, standing moves strengthen deep core muscles that lead to a great six-pack. 

Get off the floor and upgrade your core workout with these 13 standing core exercises. For maximum results and varying resistance, include body weight, medicine ball, dumbbell, cable, and kettlebell moves. 

Knee cross crunch
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Image by BETH BISCHOFF
Knee Cross Crunch

The knee cross crunch hits your entire core — the upper, lower, and oblique muscles, says Joy Di Palma, certified trainer and owner of TrainerJoy and Core Conditioning CrossFit in Los Angeles. The move also requires balance and coordination, effectively working your entire body.

Double arm reach
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Image by BETH BISCHOFF
Double Arm Reach

The double arm reach is a total-body exercise that strengthens abs, glutes, hamstrings, and quads. “The squat-to-reach action contracts and then lengthens muscles in one motion, working obliques in a functional pattern,” says Chelsea Dornan, certified personal trainer and instructor at Uplift Studios in New York City. “Plus, the repetition of the move offers a cardio element to give you that bonus burn.” To add more resistance, you can also hold a lightweight dumbbell. 

Side imprint
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Image by BETH BISCHOFF
Side Imprint

Say goodbye to the dreaded muffin top by targeting oblique muscles. “To effectively feel the burn, make sure you squeeze your abs and pull your navel closer to your spine -- don’t simply move your arms and legs,” suggests Haley.

Cross body chop with medicine ball
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Image by BETH BISCHOFF
Cross Body Chop with Medicine Ball

This standing exercise hits muscles from head to toe in one move, says Di Palma. The cross body chop works abs, shoulders, upper back, and glutes, while elevating your heart rate for maximum results.

Medicine ball side throw
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Image by BETH BISCHOFF
Medicine Ball Side Throw

The medicine-ball side throw fires ups abs, obliques, and lats while raising your heart rate. “The abdominal region is made up of primarily anaerobic muscles and needs to be trained in an explosive manner, such as medicine ball tosses,” says Jay Cardiello, New York City-based celebrity fitness expert and founder of the JCORE system.

Medicine ball slam
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Image by BETH BISCHOFF
Medicine Ball Slam

The medicine ball slam is one of the best ways to train the abdominal region: in short explosive bursts, says Cardiello. “I have my celebrity clients do this move as many times as possible in 30, 45, or 60 seconds to combine cardiovascular and strength training,” he says.

Standing core stabilization
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Image by Thomas MacDonald
Standing Core Stabilization with Dumbbell

Grab a dumbbell and work your abs with this core stabilization exercise. “To get the best results, think about contracting your abdominals the entire time and pulling the navel closer to the spine,” suggests Haley. The dumbbell weight should be challenging, but not so heavy that you begin to feel the burn in your shoulders instead of your abs, she says.

Overhead dumbbell side bend
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Image by BETH BISCHOFF
Overhead Dumbbell Side Bend

“The overhead dumbbell side bend is a great exercise because in addition to targeting the obliques, you also elevate your heart rate,” says Di Palma. This move does not hit all abdominal muscles, but it fires up the exterior abs muscles and gives arms a light workout.

Triangle press
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Image by BETH BISCHOFF
Triangle Press with Dumbbells

The movement of the triangle press teaches the body to stabilize and support weight as it is lowered and raised back to its original starting position, explains Cardiello. This helps strengthen the lower body and core muscles, which can help reduce the chances of lower back injuries, he says.

Standing cable crunch
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Image by BETH BISCHOFF
Standing Cable Crunch

This exercise fires all of your abdominal muscles, says Di Palma. Training with the cable weight for the standing crunch allows you to do fewer reps because abs fatigue quicker from the resistance, she explains.

Torso rotation with cable
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Image by Thomas MacDonald
Torso Rotation with Cable

Using a cable, the torso rotation tones your abs through the rotation movement, targeting the hard-to-hit oblique muscles. For best results, make sure you squeeze glutes to avoid strain on the knee, suggests Haley.

Standing rotational chop with cable
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Image by BETH BISCHOFF
Standing Rotational Chop with Cable

“The standing rotational chop is an incredible full body exercise that emphasizes torso rotation, which aids in hip and lumbar stability,” says Cardiello. Using the cable to focus on one side of the body at a time helps create balance between the lower anterior and posterior portion of the core, he says.

Kettlebell windmill
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Image by BETH BISCHOFF
Kettlebell Windmill

“I love the kettlebell windwill exercise because it’s a functional total-body move that targets your core and lower body,” says Di Palma. Unlike crunches, which can put strain on your neck, it’s a more natural movement for your body, she explains.

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