Like I was saying, I’ve always had poor abdominal strength. Could it be possible that I have just always been too hard on myself? Maybe, but that’s only because I’ve never had hard abs. Even during those good old days of having dance classes and rehearsals eight to ten hours a week. Leg lifts? Manageable. High kicks? Relatively flawless. Crunches and bicycles? Immediate and everlasting death.
For whatever reason, these sorts of exercises have always been felt more in my neck and upper-back and very little in my abdominal region at all. Of course, every yoga instructor, pilates teacher, and dance guru tried to make me feel better by saying that the strength and support would come with practice. But take it from someone who was subjected to some form of stomach-toning torture at least 3 times a week, it was never going to come.
You may be asking what I did to change this.
The truth is, crunches and I still have a very hostile and unloving relationship. How did I overcome this? I didn’t. I just removed this sort of exercise from all of my workout routines. There is no point in continuing to do dedicate time and effort to something that isn’t working for you. It just leads to feelings of failure and self-loathing. For the longest time, I wanted to believe that I’d get better at doing crunches. Even in college, doing one-hundreds for my bi-weekly Pilates class was complete and total murder on my neck, which, literally felt like it was on fire.
So what do I do now to target abs? Not crunches. Never again! Through a very trying exercise known as planking, I found a new way to target my core that also helps to tone my arms. The plank is used in many different forms of exercise: yoga, pilates, the Insanity workout, and P90X. In brief, yoga is generally the more “peaceful” of these workout forms with the Insanity workout probably being the most intense with its combination of strengthening, cardio, and endurance.
As a dancer, I’ve done all four of these and recommend alternating to keep interest high and boredom low, as many people who don’t feel continually challenged and by their workouts, tend to abandon them. I also like to think of P90X as the yoga form of the Insanity workout as it includes a lot of balancing exercises that help improve core strength and stability, but is also high on cardio.
You can get a good idea of how each of these benefits the body by taking a look at these videos.
Doing a combination of the exercises you saw in these videos means that you can strengthen your core and never do another crunch again in your life. When I workout at home, I actually pick and choose from these different exercises for something totally unique to my needs.
These are just a few of my thoughts on increasing abdominal strength while avoiding crunches and exercises that put a lot of strain on your neck. We must remember that workout plans are not “one fits all” and be flexible, creative, and open to new things when looking for something that tones not only our bodies, but our minds.