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Which Exercises Improve Abdominal Endurance?

author image Andrea Cespedes
Andrea Cespedes is a professionally trained chef who has focused studies in nutrition. With more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry, she coaches cycling and running and teaches Pilates and yoga. She is an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer, RYT-200 and has degrees from Princeton and Columbia University.
Which Exercises Improve Abdominal Endurance?
Crunches build endurance in new exercisers. Photo Credit SebastianGauert/iStock/Getty Images

Abdominal endurance plays a large role in good posture and fitness performance. It's the ability of your abs to sustain a workload for long periods of time.

You may not realize it, but just standing all day with your bones and joints in line and honoring your spine's three natural curves takes a lot of work from your midsection. You need endurance to maintain this good posture.

If you have good posture, but poor abdominal endurance, you may experience back pain and other undesirable muscle imbalances. Abdominal endurance also means you can last longer on the track or field, and even go faster, because you have a solid foundation from which your limbs move.

Read more: The Cardio Abs Workout

Crunch It Out

Crunches are a simple way to build endurance in the rectus abdominis, the superficial abs at the front of your torso. Do them by lying on the floor with your knees bent with rest your hands behind your head; lift your head, neck and shoulders 30 to 40 degrees up and down with control.

Just one day of training the abs this way improved abdominal endurance in untrained exercisers after six weeks showed a 2015 study in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness.

Crunch variations alleviate boredom with the standard move, and can increase the effectiveness of the exercise. Aim for 15 to 25 repetitions of each move to build endurance.

A stability ball adds a new element to the crunch.
A stability ball adds a new element to the crunch. Photo Credit Top Photo Corporation/Top Photo Group/Getty Images

Stability Ball Crunches

Sit on a stability ball with your low- and mid-back on the ball. Place your feet hip-distance apart on the floor. Put your hands behind your head to offer support. Keep your elbows open to the sides of the room.

Pull your belly button in toward your spine and you root down through your feet and curl your head, neck and shoulders up toward your thighs. Keep your tailbone and low back in contact with the ball. Return to the starting position slowly to complete one repetition.

Elevated Leg Crunches

Lie on the floor with the hands cradling the head. Extend both legs up toward the ceiling; keep your legs positioned over your hips and your tailbone in contact with the floor.

Raise your head, neck and shoulders up 30 to 40 degrees toward your legs. Pause momentarily. Use control to lower your head back to the mat to complete one repetition.

Reverse Crunches

Lie down on your back on a mat. Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the ground. Place your hands alongside your hips on the mat.

Contract your abdominals to pull your feet and hips up toward your torso. Feel like your pulling your belly up under your rib cage. Pause momentarily.

Return your hips to the mat and your feet toward the floor — they don't have to touch the floor between repetitions.

Work up to longer plank holds to improve endurance.
Work up to longer plank holds to improve endurance. Photo Credit GeorgeRudy/iStock/Getty Images

Plank Holds

Plank position effectively tests and trains your endurance, showed a 2014 study published in the Journal of Human Kinetics. Again, master the basic position first and then increase your ab endurance development by adding variations.

The basic position has you hold the top of a push-up position, on your hands and toes, or forearms and toes, for 20 to 90 seconds at a time.

Side Plank

Get into a standard plank position on your hands or forearms. Rotate to the right side and stack your feet, hips and shoulders.

Reach your left arm up to the ceiling or place the hand on your hip.Hold for 20 to 90 seconds. Repeat with the left side.

Three-Limbed Plank

Establish a standard plank position on your arms or forearms. Raise your right arm forward past your ear so you're stabilized on your toes and left arm only. Repeat with the left arm.

Alternatively, lift your right leg a few inches off the floor so you're resting on your hands/forearms and left toe. Repeat with the left leg. Hold any of these variations for 10 to 20 seconds. Repeat three to five times per side.

Balancing Planks

Place your hands or forearms on a stability ball, half ball or balancing disc. Your toes remain on the floor.

Alternatively, place your feet on the balancing device and your hands rest on the floor. Hold your chosen variation for 20 to 90 seconds.

Read more: Carve Your Core with a Plank-a-thon Workout

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