Squat Thrust with Twist
I avoided this move at first because I thought it had “wrenched back” written all over it. But after doing slooowly at first and testing where the back tweaking would begin, I found the threshold between “yikes” and “yes!”
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and extend your arms in front of you at shoulder height.
- Begin by squatting down, bending your knees 90 degrees, and twisting your upper body to the left.
- Now come up and repeat the exercise to the right.
- Keep your weight in your heels and don’t allow your knees to jut forward away from your toes.
- Keep your knees facing forward as your chest and shoulders move side to side.
- For the best results, bend your knees as close to 90 degrees as possible.
The Climb Up
Crunchier than most of the lying-down crunches I’ve tried, this move also makes the cut simply because it’s novel.
- Start by lying on the floor with a 3-foot-long scarf or towel wrapped around the ball of your right foot, knees bent, left foot on the floor.
- Hold the scarf in both hands, and extend your right leg, keeping your foot flexed.
- Slowly walk your hands up the scarf as you lift your head and shoulders off the floor. Hold for a count of 2.
- Now lower yourself back to the starting position, walking your hands back down the scarf.
- Do two sets of 8 to 10 reps on each sides Be sure to keep your head neutral — don’t tuck your chin or tilt back
I like the really generous side-stretching in this modified half-crunch. (When I first tried this move, I had a buddy hold my feet still at first until I got the motion down — it was helpful to have her watch my form and correct the angle of my back.)
- Sit on the floor and extend your legs, pressing them firmly together.
- Lean back 45 degrees from the hips.
- Keep your abs engaged as you bring both your arms overhead like a ballerina.
- Slowly twist your torso to the right, placing your right arm on the mat. Keep your left arm reaching overhead for a slow count of 3.
- Repeat the movement, keeping your left arm on the floor, and keeping your butt and heels on the floor.
- Contract your abs to support your spine as you return to center, bringing both arms overhead.
- Continue alternating sides. Do 2 sets of 6 to 8 reps on each side.
The Single-Leg Stretch
The top of my abs burns at first when I do this move consistently, and after a few days my whole six-pack feels engaged. Nice.
- Lie back in the center of your mat with your knees bent. Lift your head and shoulders and curl your chin in toward your chest.
- Inhale as you draw your left knee in toward your chest, placing your left hand on your ankle and your right hand on your knee.
- Lift your right leg about 45 degrees off the floor.
- Switch legs, extending your left leg while hugging your right leg to your chest.
- Switch hand positions each time your switch legs, placing your right hand on your right ankle and your left hand on your right knee.
- Do between 5 and 10 reps for each side.
After doing a series of regular crunches and other lying-down exercises, getting into cobra pose is a welcome change. It always makes me feel like I’m lengthening the front of my rib cage, too, which is a sweet reward.
- Lie facedown on the floor with your palms near your chest.
- Lift your head, shoulders, and chest off the floor, pulling your shoulder blades down and together.
- Hold for 2 counts and then lower back down. Repeat 8 to 10 times.
- For a more difficult exercise, try lifting your thighs and hips off the floor.