Fitness pros love to point out that the core is the body’s powerhouse. They’re right, of course—the group of muscles that surround and support the spine deserve our attention and respect. But those crunches you dread? Well, they aren’t the only way to get stronger abs. And it turns out that training the core from a standing position is not only a welcome option, it may be more effective.
“Standing exercises train your body as it was designed to move, making it a more practical training technique,” says Julie Rammal, a California–based trainer and creator of the “In Light of Change” DVD. Rammal points out that, unlike traditional sit-ups, standing core exercises can improve spinal flexibility and extend range of motion. “When your spine is flexible and you’ve strengthened your core, you’ll have more energy to get through your daily activities,” she says.
But perhaps the best reason to ditch sit-ups is because many standing core exercises can be done anywhere. Ready to try? Check out Rammal’s five-move daily routine below.
Mountain Core Connector
Stand with your feet hip-width apart and reach your arms overhead. Engage your core by pulling your abdominal muscles in toward your spine. Take 5 to 10 slow, deep breaths while keeping the muscles contracted and your spine as straight as possible.
Core Twister Evolution, Part 1
Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Place your hands together in prayer position in front of your chest, making sure your shoulders stay relaxed. Engage your core (as in Mountain Core Connector) and slowly twist your torso to the left without turning your hips. Return to the starting position and repeat, this time twisting to the right. Continue alternating slowly, up to 10 times on each side.
Core Twister Evolution, Part 2
Start in the same position as in part 1. Engage your core and slowly lift your left knee toward your right elbow, twisting your torso to the left at the same time. Be sure to keep your hips facing forward. Return to the starting position and repeat, this time twisting to the right. Continue alternating, up to 10 times on each side.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Keep your left arm at your side and place your right hand behind your head. Slowly slide your left hand toward your left knee. You will feel the muscles contracting on the right side of your body. Return to the starting position and repeat 10 to 15 times. Repeat on the right side. To increase the challenge, hold a light hand weight or water bottle in the extended arm.
Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart. Slightly bend your knees, engage your core (as in Mountain Core Connector) and slowly begin to circle your hips 10 times to the right, then 10 times to the left. The circular movement should be small, taking care to keep your abs engaged the entire time you move your hips.
If you’re new to exercise or haven’t had a regular routine in a few months, be sure to get your doctor’s OK before trying this (or any) new workout.