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Hate crunches? 3 tough, but amazing moves to build your core

by Linda Melone /  / Updated  / Source: TODAY

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Since wearing Spanx to the beach is not an option, it’s time to consider some belly-flattening tactics to help you look your best this summer. And it’s not all about vanity, either. Belly fat, the kind that dwells deep inside your body — as opposed to the fat that’s right under your skin — is linked to chronic inflammation and can increases the risk for many diseases.

In fact, a study by Mayo Clinic researchers showed that people who were within a normal weight range but had large waistlines were more likely to die earlier than people within the obese range but with relatively smaller waistlines.

So striving for flatter abs may help you live longer.

Aside from eating healthy and doing regular cardio, you’ll need to toss some resistance training into the mix to build a stronger core.

Whether you’re striving to tone your tummy, improve your posture or hone your athletic performance, having a strong core is critical, says Anthony Wall, director of professional education for the American Council on Exercise (ACE). “Having a strong core allows you to move more effectively and generate power properly,” Wall says. He recommends the following exercises for not only conditioning the core but also challenging the body effectively. Best of all, there’s not a crunch in the bunch.

The Bird Dog

This is a great exercise that requires the body to coordinate the muscles with the focus on the core and glutes.

How to do it: Kneel on all fours and engage your abdominals, so that your spine stays stable, neither sagging nor arching.

Slowly extend your right arm straight out as you extend the left leg, all the while keeping your abs tight and spine straight.

Avoid rotating or tipping to either side while you extend.

Return to starting position and repeat with the opposite side.

The side plank

Jenna's version of the side plank, called the side hip-up move.
Jenna's version of the side plank, called the side hip-up move.

This is an effective variation of the classic plank.

How to do it: Lie on your right side with legs straight and left leg stacked directly on top of the right. Bend your right elbow and place it directly under your shoulder. Exhale as you engage your abdominals and lift your hips and knees off the mat, keeping your head aligned with your spine.

Kathie Lee Gifford demos her version of a reverse plank while Hoda shows off her push-ups.
Kathie Lee Gifford demos her version of a reverse plank while Hoda shows off her push-ups.

The kneeling wood chop

This is a core movement that adds rotation to your regimen.

Holding a medicine ball in both hands, kneel on your right knee with your left foot forward.

Keeping the ball close to your body, engage your abdominals to stabilize your spine.

Start by holding the ball above your left shoulder, and keep it high and behind you, but do not rotate your torso.

Slowly bring the ball down and across your body to the right hip, without rotating your body.

Return to starting position and repeat for desired number of reps and switch sides.

The supine reverse crunch

This is a simple but effective movement requiring a controlled, smooth execution. Do not use momentum.

Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor.

Spread your arms out to the sides, palms down.

Exhale and slowly raise your hips off the mat, rolling up your spine as if trying to bring your knees to your head.

Pause briefly at the top and slowly return to starting position. Repeat for desired number of reps.

These exercises can be performed one after the other two to three times per week completing each exercise two to three times for 10 to 15 reps each.

Or, Wall suggests, consider doing them as a circuit. Perform each exercise once for 15 to 30 seconds and then move on to the next set.

Rest two minutes and perform the entire circuit once or twice more.

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