Crunches aren't the only way to get a flat stomach.
It's easy to picture yourself slaving away at crunches when you envision getting a tight, toned stomach. But crunches don't have to be a part of your stomach-toning routine. Instead, the right combination of diet, fat-burning cardio and highly effective muscle-strengthening abdominal exercises can help you meet your fitness goals.1.
Develop a regular cardio routine. Cardiovascular exercise burns more calories than targeted training. If your stomach looks flabby, you'll need to burn fat before you see results. Try exercises such as running, swimming or jumping rope. If you want to make your cardio routine even more intense, try doing interval training. Alternate between intervals of one to two minutes during which you train at full speed -- by sprinting, rapidly jumping rope or swimming at maximum speed, for example -- followed by intervals during which you work at a moderate pace.2.
Cut calories from your diet. Although you don't have to diet to get toned abs, getting rid of extra calories makes it easier to burn fat, which means you'll see results more quickly. Burn 500 to 1,000 calories more than you consume each day to lose 1 to 2 pounds of body fat each week.3.
Begin a strength training routine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises doing strength training at least two days per week. Your routine should work all major muscle groups, including your abs, legs, arms, back and chest. Free weights, weight machines and kettlebells can all help you tone your muscles. Although cardiovascular exercise burns more calories than strength training, muscle burns more calories than fat, so developing muscle can help you shed excess weight more quickly.4.
Perform the captain's chair exercise. According to the American Council on Exercise, this is one of the most effective non-crunch ab exercises. Stand in a captain's chair with your back to the pad, gripping the handles with your elbows bent. While keeping your back straight, bend your knees to lift your legs, bringing them up toward your abs. Keep your abs engaged the entire time, then lower your legs using your abs. Do one to three sets of eight to 15 reps.5.
Do a plank. Lie on your stomach, then bend your elbows and balance on your arms. Lift your entire body off of the ground, resting on your arms and toes. Hold the position for 30 seconds while keeping your back straight and your abs engaged. Work up to holding the exercise for longer periods of time, and do five to 10 reps.
- If you're hoping to shed fat on your stomach and don't care whether your abs look muscular, you might not need to do ab exercises at all. Instead, try to rev up your cardio routine.
- Before you begin any new exercise routine, talk to your doctor. If you feel pain or burning, stop what you're doing. Pushing yourself past the point of pain can lead to injuries.