If the path to a flatter stomach were paved with crunches, every person with a gym membership would sport a six-pack. "But crunches only flex your trunk," says Todd Durkin, C.S.C.S., author of The IMPACT! Body Plan and creator of The 28-Day Fat-Torch. "To sculpt a stronger, more chiseled core, you need to train it the way it functions." Or, more specifically, all the ways it functions.
See, the more than two dozen muscles between your hips and shoulders are what allow you to bend and rotate your torso. They also stabilize your spine as you mow the lawn, carry unruly toddlers, do pushups, spike volleyballs, and otherwise go about the motions of daily life. That's why trying to build a solid center with only crunches, which target your rectus abdominis (the six-pack muscle), is like trying to build powerful legs by focusing only on your quads. The result is all show and no go.
Update your ab routine with these two exercises. "They'll challenge your core from every angle, making you stronger in everything you do," says Durkin. They'll also give you something to bare at the beach. For the best results, pair these core-sculpting moves with Durkin's 28-Day Fat-Torch, a metabolic training plan that will strip away the fat covering your abs for good.
Here's the fast -- er, slow -- way to score Rocky Balboa's rock-solid core. "Your muscles can handle more weight on the eccentric, or lowering, phase of a lift," says Durkin. So decreasing the pace of that phase forces your muscles to work harder, accelerating your gains. Keep your body as straight as possible and use your lower back, abdominals, and hips as a single unit to control the speed of the descent. Take 5 to 10 seconds to slowly lower your body down to the floor.
Three-Point Core Touch
The plank is one of the best core moves you can do. In one exercise, you stabilize your spine, blast your midsection, and prevent lower back pain. But let's be honest: It gets kind of boring just hovering there. That's why Durkin kicked it up a notch with the cutting-edge three-point-core touch. It has the benefits of the plank, plus some. "This athletic move will target muscles in your hips, groin, lower back, and often-neglected lower abs," says Durkin. "Plus, it'll crank up your heart rate." The result is not only more core strength, but also greater total-stability. Start slow, and increase your range of motion and speed with each repetition.