7 No-Crunch Exercises for Six-Pack Abs

7 No-Crunch Ab Exercises to Sculpt a Six-Pack
Photo: Pond5

Spoiler Alert: Crunches and sit-ups are not the secret to six-pack abs. In fact, repetitive or excessive spinal flexion (e.g. bending your chest forward toward your knees) is just about the worst thing you can do for your back, says David Larson, CSCS, a strength coach at Pulse Fitness in Scottsdale, Arizona. In addition to swapping crunches for some more complex moves (detailed below), proper diet is essential for carving out that six-pack — just ask any fitness model or strength coach. Here are seven key exercises, as recommended by Larson, to help bring variety to your ab workouts.

The No-Crunch Core Workout

overhead squat
Photo: Pond5

1. Overhead Squat

Targets: Entire core
Grasp a barbell or weighted bar with an overhand grip that is about double your shoulder width. Raise the bar directly overhead and lock your elbows (a). Pushing your hips back the entire time, squat down bringing your butt as close to your heels as you can with a flat back (b). The bar should be directly over your heels (it should actually end up behind your head) the entire time. Drive your heels into the floor until you stand again (c).
Sets: 4, Reps: 10-12, Rest: 120 seconds between sets

RELATED: 6 Squat Variations for Total-Body Strength

2. Pull-Up

Targets: Entire core
Grasp a pull-up bar with an overhand, slightly wider than shoulder-width grip. Pull your shoulder blades down and back, bend your legs behind you, cross your feet, squeeze your butt, and brace your abs (this ensures your core gets worked). This is the start position (a). Pull yourself up until your collarbone reaches the bar, driving your elbows down towards your hips (b). Return to the start position (c). If you’re unable to pull yourself up, loop an exercise band over the bar and step into the loop.
Sets: 3, Reps: to failure, Rest: 120 seconds between sets

RELATED: How to Do a Pull-Up (Or Add More Reps)

3. Medicine Ball Slam

Targets: Rectus abdominis (aka the six-pack)
Grab a fairly lightweight medicine ball and hold it up above your head (a). Keeping your torso totally upright with good posture, throw the medicine ball directly downward at the ground as hard as you can (b). Just be careful: some bounce back!
Sets: 3, Reps: 20, Rest: 60 seconds between sets

RELATED: The 15-Minute Medicine Ball HIIT Workout

4. Ab Wheel Roll-Out

Targets: Entire core
Kneel on the floor with your knees directly under your hips and your hands directly under your shoulders holding the handles of an ab wheel. Slowly push your hips forward and roll the ab wheel out, keeping your back flat and allowing your arms to extend in front of your body (a). As soon as it feels like you can’t roll anymore without the risk of falling, push your palms toward the floor, simultaneously squeezing your abs and pushing your hips back toward the start position until you reach it (b).
Sets: 4, Reps: To failure, Rest: 90 seconds between sets

RELATED: This Is How to Do Perfect Push-Ups (Even on Your Knees)

5. Pallof Press

Targets: Obliques, transversus abdominis (rotational muscles)
Attach a D-handle to a cable cross machine and adjust the pulley to chest height (a resistance band around a pole works, too). Stand about two feet away from the machine and pull the handle to your chest (a). If your right shoulder is closest to the machine, your right hand should hold the handle and your left should be more of a guide. While bracing your core, push the handle straight out, so the handle stays directly in front of your chest (b). Slowly return the handle to your chest (c).
Sets: 4, Reps: 10 on each side, Rest: 60 seconds between sets

No-Crunch Ab Exercises: Landmine Press
Photo: Pond5

6. Barbell Landmine

Targets: Obliques, transversus abdominis
Wedge one end of a barbell in the corner of two walls. Lift the barbell up by the other end and hold it at your chest (a). Next, press the barbell directly out from your chest with both hands, fingers laced (b). Keeping your arms straight, rotate from your shoulders to one side, then to the other. Return to the start position (c).
Sets: 3, Reps: 10 on each side, Rest: 120 seconds between sets

7. The Pendulum

Targets: Entire core
Lie on the floor flat on your back and raise your legs until you have a 90-degree bend at the hips. Keeping your legs straight, lower them to the right, allowing them to come almost all the way to the floor (a). Return the legs to the upright position and then lower them to the left (b). Repeat in this fashion until all prescribed reps are performed.
Sets: 4, Reps: 10 to each side, Rest: 60 seconds between sets

For more core-blasting moves and new workouts every day, try Daily Burn 365

Originally published November 2013. Updated January 2017. 

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