No Crick Crunches: Ab Exercises that Save Your Neck

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Most people cringe when confronted with a set of good old-fashioned crunches, and for good reason! Too often the movement of core exercises puts undue strain on the neck and upper back.  But don't give up on your abs altogether—these more creative core exercises will leave you with a strong core without the pain in the neck.

1. Deadbug

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Set Up:  Lie on your back, bend your knees in the air at 90 degrees, and keep your arms straight up in the air.

Ab exercises deadbug 2 for Verily Magazine

The Burn:  Alternate lowering your opposite arm and opposite leg; be sure to pull your belly-button into your spine to activate your core. Do 20-30 reps and add as you get stronger.

2. Flutter Kicks

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Set Up:  Lie flat on your back, legs raised 6 inches off the ground.

Ab exercises FlutterKick 2 for Verily Magazine

The Burn:  Start kicking your feet as if you are swimming, keep the movement fast paced with small kicks. Start with 30 seconds and add time as you get stronger.

3. Leg Raises

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Set Up:  Find something sturdy to hold on to—a table or a friend will do. Lie on your back and raise both legs straight up in the air; raise your arms above your head and grasp your sturdy helper with both hands.

Ab exercises LegRaise 2 for Verily Magazine

The Burn:  With both legs all the way up, slowly lower them until they are 1 inch off the floor; this counts as one rep. Do 12-20 reps and add more as you get stronger.

4. Reverse Crunch

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Set Up: Bend Knees up over your hips and position your arms by your side with your palms down.

Ab exercises ReverseCrunch 2 for Verily Magazine

The Burn:  Engaging your lower abs, curl your hips and knees just slightly up towards your chest. Do 20-30 reps; add more as you get stronger.

Get more ab work done by staggering your sets: Begin your workout routine with one or two ab exercises, this leaves your core feeling fired-up and ready to work. It's also helpful to try incorporating ab work throughout your exercise routine or finish off  your workout with your favorite core strengthening set.  Don't forget to change it up.  It may burn, but it doesn't have to be boring!

(photography by Anne-Marie Cheely)

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Molly McDonald

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Molly is a certified Personal Trainer with a BA in Kinesiology and an athlete for life. For Molly, exercise is about having fun and staying healthy. Swimming was her first love, but marathons are Molly's new passion.