Regardless of what type of activity you do, repeating the same workouts over and over can get boring quickly. Not to mention, your progress will stall. But by varying the exercises you do, you're more likely to stick with your regimen over time, according to the American Council on Exercise (ACE).
Take your ab workouts, for example. There are a lot of great ab exercises out there, but many of them tend to be robotic and monotonous. Like the sit-up: You roll up, then lower down, only moving in one (not very functional) direction.
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But your ab muscles are incredibly dynamic, moving your forward, backward, side to side and many directions in between. And if you're stuck doing crunches and planks on loop, you're missing out on the ab-sculpting (and boredom-busting) benefits of these other exercises — some of which you may never have even heard of!
Add these five exercises to your next ab workout to mix things up and get all your core muscles firing.
1. Dead Bug
- Lie on the floor on your back with both arms reaching up toward the ceiling. Lift your feet off the ground so your legs are bent at a 90-degree angle.
- Slowly and with control, extend your right arm over your head and extend your left leg out straight. Lower your limbs as far as you can while keeping the lower back on the ground.
- Exhale as you return to the starting position.
- Repeat with the left arm and right leg, switching sides with each rep.
The dead bug exercise — despite its odd name — requires balance, coordination and lots of ab strength. It not only works your rectus abdominis (the six-pack muscle), it also works the obliques (sides) and transverse abdominis (deep layer of your abs), according to an April 2015 study published in the Zahedan Journal of Research in Medical Sciences.
2. Bird Dog
- Start on all fours with your hands directly underneath your shoulders and your knees under your hips.
- On an exhale, reach your right arm straight out in front of you. At the same time, extend your left leg straight back.
- Return your arm and leg to the starting position.
- Switch sides, reaching your left arm out in front and kicking your right leg back.
- Continue alternating sides with each rep.
Another exercise with weird name but serious ab-strengthening benefits, the bird dog exercise doesn't just work your abs; it targets your obliques, glutes, hamstrings and back, according to a November 2013 report in Sports Health.
3. Kettlebell Drag Plank
- Begin in a forearm plank, elbows directly below your shoulders, and toes, hips and head in a straight line. Position your feet wider than hip distance to form a stable base, and keep your hips low.
- Place the kettlebell just behind your right hand.
- Engaging the glutes, lower back and abdominal muscles, reach the left arm across the chest to grab the kettlebell, dragging it on its side by the handle under your body.
- Pause when the kettlebell is just behind the left hand, stacked below the shoulder.
- Repeat with the opposite arm.
4. Dumbbell Pullover Crunch
- Holding a dumbbell against your chest, lie down on a bench (or the floor). Raise your legs in the air with your knees bent at a 90-degree angle. Grip the dumbbell with two hands under the weight, instead of the handle.
- Press the dumbbell up toward the ceiling until your elbows are locked out and the dumbbell is over your chest. Reach your arms backward with the dumbbell in your hands until your arms are parallel with the floor.
- While lowering your arms, lower and straighten out your legs until they're parallel to the ground.
- Raise them back toward the starting position.
- Perform a reverse crunch by rolling your hips back until your butt is off the bench. At the same time, roll your shoulders, head and neck off of the bench.
- Lower back to the start and repeat.
5. Side Plank Knee Crunch
- Start in a side plank on your right side with your right hand under your right shoulder and your feet stacked on top of each other with your left foot on top. Your left arm should be raised straight up toward the ceiling.
- Lift your right foot and bend your right knee to bring it up as your bring your right elbow down to meet it. Use your obliques on your right side to crunch your top elbow and knee toward each other.
- Return to the starting position and repeat.
- American Council on Exercise: Why is it important to vary my workout routines?
- Zahedan Journal of Research in Medical Sciences: Comparison of Abdominal and Lumbar Muscles Electromyography Activity During Two Types of Stabilization Exercises
- Sports Health: Core Stability Training for Injury Prevention
- American Council on Exercise: ACE-Sponsored Study Reveals Best and Worst Abdominal Exercises