Get Rockin’ Hot Abs by Never Doing Another Crunch

So I was reading Army Times again and they had a great article about the apparent lunacy that is the stomach crunch. Core strength and sexy abs are best developed not through sit-ups and crunches, but through a variety of integrated exercises that focus on overall butt-kickability.

Money quote:

“Abdominal strength is the result of proper training in movement patterns. The abs, as the supporting cast, will develop alongside the rest of the muscles. Isolation exercise leads to a collection of body parts, not the integrated fighting unit we need to succeed on the battlefield.”

In other words, it’s the difference between looking fit and being fit. To be all you can be, try these two exercises:

1. Standing Weighted Arm Raises

You’ll need two 5-15 pound dumbbells. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Flex your abs and glutes (tuck ‘em) like you’re about to take a punch. The key ingredient here is ultimate tension. Make your body as rock hard as possible during this entire exercise! Now, slowwwwly bring your arms up in front of you to shoulder-height (or higher, if you’re fit). Slowly lower. Repeat. Oh, and remember to hiss as you exhale. Are you hissing? Because that’s important.

Do this until you fall over. You will soon be bouncing Fight Club DVDs off your chiseled obliques.

Brad

2. The Hot Potato

You’re in the same position as #1, only now you’re holding a medicine ball. Basically the idea is juggling, but in the most tense, controlled way possible. No swaying – stay locked and loaded! Start slowly, but work up to a quicker pace as soon as you get comfortable. The spud is piping, but you must be harder than marble! Or the hills of Peleliu.

Do this until your form is falling apart. Bonus: this move improves balance.

Here’s a great medicine ball:

everlast double handle ball

These crunch alternatives work equally well for boys and girls, and you don’t even have to enlist. I don’t know about you, but I get really bored with crunches and twists, so these moves come highly recommended.

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    • e-ting

      so once I have my rock hard abs, I can start smoking and kickin’ arse? The first rule of rock hard abs is you don’t talk about them…

    • Moe

      Its not the number of Hot Potatoes you do that gets you abs, rather, its the amount of Potato chips that you eat each which determines whether you have abs or not.

    • Sara

      Aww, you guys are too much! :)

      Moe, I agree, it doesn’t matter how ripped your abs are if there is fat covering them up. Losing the last 15 pounds will bring out those abs you never knew you had. Cut back on snacks, refined carbs and liquid calories and it’s totally doable. :)

    • http://www.let-off.com steve

      I’ve also recently heard that laying on your back and doing super-slow bicycle motions with your legs works on abs. I literally just started that this morning. It hurts a lot, so it must be doing something. I’ll work on that dumbbell exercise too, to tone up more of the upper body.

    • Meghann

      Sara, I’m having a hard time visualizing the medicine ball “juggling” maneuver. Is it just throwing the medicine ball up and catching it? Sorry, I’m sleep-deprived, which makes me slightly dense.

      Anyone who has done yoga or pilates knows that pretty much any exercise technique can become an abdominal workout so long as you keep your abdominals flexed during the process. Not only will this help burn more calories and launch you on the highway to rock-hard abs, but it will also help protect your lower back from lifting or strain-related injuries.

    • Sara

      Meghann, just like holding a basketball in your palm, then tossing it to the other palm. Same thing.

      And yes on yoga and pilates – personally I love what yoga has done for my core and my lower back. Especially great for those of us who are sitting in chairs all day long!

    • http://mikeachim.typepad.com Mikeachim

      I look exactly like Brad Pitt…

      ….doesn’t.

      But yes, definitely – slimming as well as working out (slimming sensibly, I mean, eating tons of the right things) is the way to go.
      A while back I started using dumbbells to tone up, and I started developing a good 4-pack (I’m still working on the remaining 1-litre moneybelt). But without slimming, developing stomach muscles….pushes them out. So you initially look fatter. :)

      The tensed-dumbbells-out-in-front (sounds rude) technique is one I’ve used for a while and it’s making me nicely V-shaped. Recommended.

      Nothing beats yoga for sheer power-building, though.

    • http://www.diethack.com Gyanish Gungaram

      You must need to calculate your body fats which must be less than 8% in order to get rippled abs. Nice article though.

    • Sara

      Gyanish,

      Yep, 8-10% generally for dudes, but for girls it can be quite a bit higher and you can still have great abs. Depending on your shape, anywhere from 16%-20% for women. Below 16% for the women starts to get pretty hardcore (literally). In general, fairer skinned women tend to have less bone density, so it’s really important for them to have low body fat (18-20 as opposed to 20-25 for most women).

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    • http://none onolo

      i saw a well good video on this at video10.b00mtube.com

    • abking

      abs are mainly a function of bodyfat%. the problem with these articles is that they make you think that the best way to achieve abs is through some workout/resistance method. it’s not. BS articles like this probably make people lazier about eating

    • Sara

      @ Abking, I am sorry that you feel this article wasted your time.

      @ my readers,

      Hi! While I sincerely hope you’re enjoying your holiday weekend, a quick note on this post:

      Of course there are many factors in getting to a slim midsection, and I’d certainly be happy to write a follow-up post on ab-smart eating habits if you all would like that. Let me know! ;)

    • http://mentalrefreshment.com/wp-admin/post.php?action=edit&post=14 Jonathan Foye

      I totally agree, 8% – 10% body fat is a must for guys. You canโ€™t show off the goods (abs) if there covered up in their packaging (fat).

      http://www.mentalrefreshemnt.com

    • http://www.healthbolt.net Sara

      Thanks Jonathan! :)

    • Bill

      For the standing weights – do your arms go straight forwards from your hips? Does it make any difference which way your hands are oriented – ie palm up or palm down?

      Thanks

    • Sara

      Bill, there are a couple ways to do it. Your arms are locked, so yes, they are straight, and it’s a really controlled “swing” if that helps. You can alternate lifting your arms in front and lifting them to the sides to really get a workout (the sides will work your delts nicely). Either way, it must be very controlled and you must raise your arms at least to your shoulders. As far as direction for the hands…hmm, I honestly don’t know that it matters! I like to have my palms facing in, actually, as this requires more focus and concentration, but I think it’s probably up to you and I’m sure there are some different reasons for each. :)

    • al

      The only thing is, that to show the muscle on your body, you have to burn off the layer of fat that covers the muscle.
      To burn fat, you have to burn fat calories, and the only way to do that is through high intensity exercise (i.e. interval training, tempo workouts, circuit training). You could do hundreds of thousands of sit-ups and still not have ripped six-packs if you still have fat on top of it.

    • Ilham Hafizovic

      I loved the article, but I just want to fully understand! Maybe I’m tired so can’t think straight, but do you mean that I should lower my arms or bend my whole body down in a crunch position? Also while I am hissing is it preferable that I let relieve the tension in my body?

    • Sara

      No worries, Ilham! I appreciate all the feedback – helps me become a better writer. You don’t bend or lower. You stand straight up, making sure to keep your hips tucked, and raise your arms up in a controlled fashion (they need to be in a locked, straight position). The hissing is simply what the expert recommends, I’m not really sure, although I suspect it might help you flex the right muscles and maintain ultimate tension (akin to how pressing your tongue to your front teeth while doing sit ups will minimize strain on your neck).

      Funny anecdote: I used to have a roommate who did this and hissed VERY loudly. The rest of us would be minding our business watching TV or making food in the kitchen and we’d hear these hissing emanations from downstairs…but hey, he WAS super ripped. :)

    • Paul

      The hissing sound helps to push air from the very bottom of your lungs by stressing the diaphragm. Imagine if you took a pop bottle, filled it with water, and tried to empty it by squeezing it from the top. All that stuff down in the bottom stays there. When you breathe from the diaphragm and exhale completely, you get all the old air from your lungs and get a much better breathing cycle going. Ishinryu Karate uses this technique a great deal.

      From the way I read the article, if you do this properly you should look like a hissing zombie with dumbbells in both hands if that helps anyone visualize the actual movements you should do.

      • shallot

        You seem to be criticising. But in what way is a hissing, bedumbbelled zombie NOT awesome?

    • AJ

      Abs are made in the kitchen, not the gym.

      I’d say 90% diet, 10% exercise.

      I do 5×5 dragon flags, on a Mon/Wed/Fri basis.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mjCMq2zkbOo

    • Pete

      Sara–

      This post is a little (okay, a lot) late, but if you haven’t yet, I’d love to see that ab-smart eating write-up!

    • http://www.bowentherapy.homestead.com Diana Moore

      Thanks for sharing this. I have been doing these exercises for ages but without the weights, using just the resistance from my own arms.

    • sharon

      just wondering if ou ever wrote the ab-smart eating habit post and if so how to find it

    • Anon

      Yes.

      High protein, low fat, zero sugar and zero simple carbohydrates like anything made from bleached flour.

      Eat more vegetables than meat.

      Drink plenty of water.

      It’ll take months, but with exercise you will lost weight.