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10 Tricks to Amp Up Your Favorite Abs Exercises

Instead of: Basic CrunchesTry: Long-Lever Crunches

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Extending your arms and legs forces your abs to work even harder during both the lifting and lowering phase of this move.

To do it: Lie faceup on the floor with your legs straight and your feet together. Extend your arms straight overhead, clasping your hands so that one arm crosses over the other. Rest your head on your biceps. Inhale, and as you exhale, brace your abs in tight and simultaneously lift your shoulders and legs just above the floor. Inhale and lower back to the starting position. That's one rep. Work up to 3 sets of 20 reps.

Ready for another crunch challenge? Try this rotational lift move.

Instead of: Sit-UpsTry: Chair Holds

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Sit-ups can often turn into a momentum-assisted exercise, which means your abs aren't working as much after the first few reps. This static contraction forces your abdominals to work overtime—without any help.

To do it: Start sitting on a sturdy chair or stool with your knees pressed together and hands outside of your hips. Brace your abs in tight and press down with your arms to lift your hips and hover above the seat of the chair. Keep your shoulders down and focus on lifting your knees with your abs, not your legs. Hold for up to 30 seconds. Work up to 3 sets of 30-second holds.

Once you've mastered the chair hold, try this advanced abs snail.

Instead of: Bicycle CrunchesTry: Crossover Sweeps

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This version of bicycle crunches not only targets those hard-to-tone obliques, but also requires your abdominal wall to engage to help stabilize your legs as you sweep them from side to side.

To do it: Lie faceup on the floor with your hips and knees bent 90 degrees so that your lower legs are parallel to the floor. Place your hands behind your head. Extend your right leg out straight, almost parallel to the ground, and bend your left knee, pressing the inside of your left foot on the inside of your right knee. Lift your shoulders off the floor and twist your body to the left, bringing your right shoulder towards your left leg. Keeping your upper body steady, sweep your legs up and to the right, drawing your left knee in closer to your right elbow (keep your left foot on your right leg). Lower back to parallel. That's one rep. Do 15 reps on one leg and then repeat on the other side. Work up to 3 sets on both sides.

Instead of: Reverse CrunchesTry: Hip Lift and Twist

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This amped up version of reverse crunches forces your abs to do double duty, lifting your hips and directing the movement of your pelvis.

To do it:Lie faceup on the floor with your palms facing down. Extend both legs as straight as you can up towards the ceiling. Brace your abs in tight and raise your hips and lower back off the floor. As you lower, turn your hips to the left, lowering your pelvis down and to the left. Repeat the hip lift, returning your hips back to center as you lift, and then lower down to the right this time. That's one rep. Work up to 3 sets of 15 reps.

Instead of: PlankTry: Arm and Leg Switch

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If you’ve mastered your standard plank form, this variation is a great way to add an extra core challenge without any equipment.

To do it: Start in full plank position with your weight on your hands. Hold your right foot and your left arm (by your side) off the floor for 3 counts, then switch arms and legs and repeat. That's one rep. Do 10 reps total.

Want to try another great plank variation? Check out this single-leg plank flex and extend.

Instead of: Swiss-Ball CrunchesTry: Backstroke Crunches

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Adding a Swiss ball to basic crunches already ups the intensity by increasing your range of motion. Toss in this backstroke arm move and you’ll really feel the burn!

To do it: Lie with your hips and lower back in contact with a Swiss ball and your knees bent, feet hip-width apart and flat on the floor. Extend your arms straight out from your shoulders. Raise your head and shoulders and crunch your rib cage toward your pelvis, extending your arms in front of your chest. As you lower out of your crunch, circle your arms back and down, completing your circle by reaching them back up to the ceiling as you crunch up again. That's one rep. Work up to 3 sets of 15 reps.

Instead of: Pilates Leg ExtensionsTry: Swiss-Ball Leg Lifts

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Pilates is great for sculpting strong, flat abs, and this move boosts your burn even more with the added resistance of a Swiss ball. Shorter movements with your legs closer to the ground are sure to have your abs shaking within a few reps.

To do it: Lie faceup on the floor with your legs straight, holding a Swiss ball between your ankles. Raise your head and shoulders off the floor and reach both arms by your sides, hovering above the floor, palms down. Draw your abs in tight and squeeze your ankles into the ball, lifting it up until your legs are at a 45-degree angle. Slowly lower your legs until the ball gently taps the floor. That's one rep. Do 3 sets of 15 reps.

Instead of: Double CrunchesTry: Swiss-Ball Knee Tucks

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This knee tuck, also known as the jackknife, is an effective abs exercise that works your arms and legs at the same time.

To do it: Assume a pushup position with your arms straight. Rest your shins on a Swiss ball. Your body should form a straight line from your head to your ankles. Keeping your shoulders over your hands, brace your core and roll the ball toward your chest by pulling it forward with your feet. Return to the starting position by lowering your hips and extend your legs back out. That's one rep. Work up to 3 sets of 15 reps.

Instead of: V-SitTry: V-Rock

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A V-sit (or boat pose for yogis) is an excellent core exercise, but it primarily targets your abdominal wall. By adding a rocking motion you’ll also engage your obliques.

To do it: Lie faceup on the floor with your legs and arms straight. Cross your left leg over your right. Lift your torso and legs so that your body forms a wide V. Gently rock your body to the right, lifting your left shoulder and hip off the floor, bracing your core to stop your body from tipping over. Rock back to your left and lift your right shoulder and hip. That’s one rep. Do 3 sets of 10 reps.

Instead of: Side CrunchesTry: Side Plank and Reach

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Side crunches are great for the toning your obliques, but they don't do much for the rest of your body. This side plank is highly effective at working all of your abdominal muscles, plus the muscles in your arms, back, and legs.

To do it: Start in side plank position with your upper body up on your right elbow and forearm, top hand behind your head. Brace your core and raise your top leg slightly above hip height. Reach your top arm towards your foot, looking at your leg. Pause, then lower your leg and return your hand to head. That's one rep. Do 3 sets of 15 reps on each side.


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