5 Totally Underrated Ab Exercises That Will Sculpt Your Core

The side plank is a challenging but totally underrated ab exercise.
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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).

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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

Region Core
  1. Lie flat on your back with both arms reaching straight toward the ceiling.
  2. Lift your feet off the ground so your legs are bent at a 90-degree angle.
  3. Keep your lower back in contact with the floor through the entire duration of the exercise.
  4. Slowly and with control, extend your right arm and left leg away from each other.
  5. Lower your limbs as far as you can while keeping your lower back on the ground. Fight the impulse to arch your back by tightening your abs, pressing your bellybutton down to anchor your lower back to the floor.
  6. Exhale as you return your right arm and left leg to the starting position with the same slow, controlled movement.
  7. Repeat with your left arm and right leg, then return to center again. This counts as 1 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

Region Core
  1. Get on your hands and knees with your hands directly in line with your shoulder and knees in line with your hips.
  2. Look down at the floor and brace your core (tucking your tailbone just slightly) to create a straight line from the tip of your head to your tailbone.
  3. On an exhale, reach your left arm straight out in front of you until your upper arm is in line with your ear.
  4. Simultaneously reach your right leg straight behind you, fully extending your knee.
  5. Pause here for a moment.
  6. Reverse the motion and return to the starting position.
  7. Switch sides, reaching your right arm forward and raising your left leg back.
  8. Pause and then go back to the starting position.

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. Dumbbell Plank Drag

Region Core
  1. 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.
  2. Place the dumbbell just behind your left elbow.
  3. Engaging your glutes, lower back and abdominal muscles, reach your right arm across your chest to grab the dumbbell, dragging it on its side by the handle under your body.
  4. Pause when the dumbbell is just behind your right elbow.
  5. Repeat with the opposite arm.

4. Dumbbell Pullover Dead Bug

Region Core
  1. Lie flat on your back with both arms reaching straight toward the ceiling, holding a dumbbell vertically with both hands.
  2. Lift your feet off the ground so your legs are bent at a 90-degree angle.
  3. Keep your lower back in contact with the floor through the entire duration of the exercise.
  4. Slowly and with control, extend both arms back toward the floor so your biceps are by your ears. At the same time, extend your right leg out.
  5. Return your arms and right leg back to the starting position.
  6. Slowly and with control, extend both arms back toward the floor so your biceps are by your ears. At the same time, extend your left leg out.
  7. Return your arms and left leg back to the starting position.
  8. Continue alternating legs with each rep.

5. Side Plank Crunch

Region Core
  1. 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 bent behind your head.
  2. Lift your left (top) foot and bend your left knee to bring it up as your bring your left elbow down to meet it. Use your obliques on your left side to crunch your elbow and knee toward each other.
  3. Return to the starting position and repeat for desired amount of reps.
  4. Repeat on opposite side.

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