5 Exercises To Do Instead Of Crunches

It amazes me how many people still believe in spot reduction. I daily see people at the gym doing endless crunches and ab machines in hopes of having a flat belly. Here’s the thing I just wish I could tell them: if your goal is fat loss, it’s not going to work. Stop wasting your time.

I never have my clients do crunches, with the exception of reverse crunches occasionally. Why? Well, because they are not effective, especially when it comes to burning belly fat. NO amount of crunches will give you a flat stomach. It just WON’T work. But what about strengthening the core? Well, in my opinion, there are much more effective exercises to use for that than crunches.

Crunches come in very LAST PLACE in strategies for getting a flat stomach or revealing 6 pack abs. Since you can’t target where you lose fat, it’s simply a matter of losing body fat all over. And losing body fat mostly comes down to your NUTRITION-more specifically, through lowering caloric intake. This should be the number one focus when it comes to losing body fat. With proper nutrition, you can actually achieve a flat stomach without doing a single crunch.

So, if crunches aren’t effective for burning belly fat, they don’t burn a significant amount of calories, and they aren’t the best exercise to strengthen the core, then WHY do them? Yes, you should train your abs to have a strong core and/or if you are seeking to build more defined abs. But if it’s fat you’re trying to get rid of, get your nutrition in check first.  Then, rather than wasting time doing crunches, here are five exercises you should be doing instead:

1)Pushups

What many people don’t realize is that pushups not only work the chest, arms, and shoulders, but the core as well. Any exercise that works multiple muscle groups will burn more calories than just isolating the abs alone.

2)Farmer’s walks

Grab a set of heavy dumbbells, walk for a minute, and see how high your heart rate goes up. Not only are you getting your heart rate up, you’re also highly engaging your core muscles, along with your forearms, shoulders, and upper back. Once again, the more muscles you’re engaging, the better, especially when fat loss is concerned.

3)Goblet squats

These are a great compound movement that basically works your whole body-legs, upper back, and core. Because of where you hold the dumbbell or kettlebell, your abs are forced to engage to hold your body upright.

4)Sprints or prowler pushes.

If fat loss is the goal, you can’t beat sprints or prowler pushes. Not only do you burn calories while doing them, but with short burst, high intensity cardio, your metabolism will continue to be elevated hours after you finish your workout.

5)Single arm movements(landmine press, single arm dumbbell press, single arm cable row, etc.) Any time you use only one side of your body, your core is activated in order to stabilize your body.

If fat loss is your goal, make sure that these movements make up the majority of your workouts, along with other compound movements. Then, if you really want to, you can add in some ab isolation exercises into your workouts, but only if you have done these exercises first. If you truly want to transform your body and get a smaller midsection, crunches are not the answer. All of the above exercises, combined with the right nutrition, will get you much closer to getting a flat stomach than crunches ever will.

My Favorite Sweet Snacks

I love sweets. I could go the rest of my life without eating chips/salty snacks, but I could never ever ever give up my sweets. Ain’t gonna happen.

With that being said, I actually very rarely have intense sugar or sweet cravings, but that’s simply because the foods I eat are so delicious and satisfying…and because I DON’T completely eliminate sugar or sweets from my diet. I believe that the first way to help decrease food cravings is by eating ENOUGH food and by eating foods that you ENJOY, not restricting any foods or food groups.

I do indulge in a weekly dessert, but I also have ways to “treat” myself daily with healthier options, which definitely help to keep my sweet tooth at bay. Here are a few of my faves:

Protein oats:

I know I talk about these all the time, but I’ve looked forward to waking up and eating my protein oats every morning for the past 6 years now! I cook the oats, then add peanut butter and chocolate protein powder, and it tastes like a big bowl of gooey, Reese’s goodness.You can also add in bananas, blueberries, chocolate chips, or sugar free syrup-the possibilities are endless!

Triple Zero Greek Yogurt

I’ve always LOVED yogurt, but I stopped eating it years ago because most of them have insane amounts of added sugar. Sadly, I do NOT like plain Greek yogurt, so I basically just gave up on yogurt. Occasionally I do love the Carbmaster yogurts from Kroger, but right now I’m loving Oikos Triple Zero greek yogurt. It is perfect for satisfying a sweet craving! Best thing is, it has no added sugar and no artificial sweeteners. But if you do like plain Greek yogurt, you could always just have that and add blueberries or strawberries, or even protein powder, sugar free pudding, and chocolate chips!

“Sludge”:

Another delicious protein powder creation I love is protein “sludge”. It’s basically just a really thick pudding made with protein powder, peanut butter, and a little water, mixed until it’s a pudding consistency. I usually freeze it to get it really thick. This tastes awesome as is, but you could also add in chocolate chips, sugar free syrup, blueberries, candy pieces, etc. There are  some great ideas here: http://suppz.com/blog/6-protein-sludge-recipes-the-best-munchie-food/

BCAA popsicles:

These are a perfect treat for hot, summer days! They hit the spot when I’m craving something a little sweet and refreshing. All you need is some flavored amino acids-I like fruit punch. Mix 1-2 scoops with about 8-10 ounces of water, then pour into popsicle molds and freeze. Super easy and delicious!

Mission1 bars:

Not only are these a good option when you just need a snack on the go, they also are one of the things that help if I’m wanting something sweet. They’re sweetened with Stevia, no sugar alcohols, and have 20 grams of protein. I also love to snack on Lara bars and Kind bars. MUCH better options than reaching for a candy bar.

FRUIT!

When it comes to fat loss, many people still have an irrational fear of fruit. But rest assured, fruit will NOT make you fat. Trying to avoid fruit, especially if you love it like me, is just another thing that will most likely cause you to have even worse cravings. It’s OKAY to want something sweet, and it’s OKAY to eat something to satisfy it! If you want a banana, just eat a darn banana. I recently discovered how delicious frozen blueberries are, and now I eat them ALL the time. Plus, they’re full of antioxidants and low in calories. I just eat them right out of the freezer after letting them thaw for a few minutes. So good!

A Friendly Reminder

You want to transform your body?

You won’t do it with a 21 day fix or a 30 day squat challenge.

You don’t do with some fat burning pill or juice cleanse.

You won’t do it by obsessing over the scale and giving up when the results don’t come as quickly as you’d hoped.

You won’t do it by staying in your comfort zone.

You won’t do it by not being willing to sacrifice some things.

You won’t do it by skipping workouts just because you don’t “feel like it”.

The only way you’ll achieve lasting results is a little at a time, consistently doing the right things day after day after day, year after year after year. even when you feel like you see no changes.

It’s being patient, consistent, and dedicated. 

It’s only when your training becomes a part of your lifestyle, when it becomes a habit, that true transformation occurs.

No, not in 30 days, or 3 months, or even 3 years, but in time it will happen.

Trust the process. Enjoy the journey.

“Changing your body doesn’t happen overnight. It takes weeks, months, years. Ask any top physique athlete and they will tell you that building their body took patience, consistency and discipline over a long period of time. It’s something you must work at day in and day out. It’s the “iron lifestyle.” No instant gratification. No miracle pill. Just old-fashioned GRIT.”

 -Jill Coleman