If you want flat abs and well-defined core muscles, you can get them without doing thousands of crunches as long as you pick the right sport. Although most major sports involve plenty of movements that originate from the core and work the abs, a few activities stand out as the most effective for strengthening and building tummy muscles.
Nearly every move in gymnastics, from forward and backward rolls to pikes to jumps and glides, requires core strength. Gymnasts get more of an ab workout in a single practice session than you’d get from doing several sets of crunches, situps and other core exercises. Gymnasts consistently work on building abdominal strength so that they are able to maintain proper form during moves, keep their bodies rigid and generate momentum.
If you’ve ever watched a professional beach volleyball match, you’ve likely seen the physical evidence of the players’ intense abdominal and core training. Strong ab muscles are necessary to successfully execute spikes, jumps and other explosive volleyball moves, so players place a particular focus on the core body in their training. For example, Olympic gold medalist Kerri Walsh regularly does twists, sprints, crunches, pushups and pullups to train for her sport.
A casual backyard soccer game may not give you an ab workout. But professional players emphasize core muscles in their practice sessions because strong abs help them effectively kick, control the ball and complete full-body maneuvers on the field. All of the sprinting that even recreational soccer players perform also builds core strength and helps melt away any excess abdominal fat.
If you have joint injuries, muscle pain or other physical maladies, swimming is a way to work your abs without doing risky, high-impact moves that can further damage your body. Competitive swimmers show tight, strong core muscles as a result of months of training. That centered strength allows them to make quick turns, accelerate well and carefully control their strokes.
Although running doesn’t directly target the abdominal muscles in the way that some other sports do, it burns more calories over a short period of time, making it one of the best sports for getting rid of belly fat. Sixty minutes of running at a speed of 6 mph will burn close to 750 calories for a 155-pound person.