Ditch the crunches and use this five-move workout to develop your core instead

You don't need any equipment to get a great ab workout

A man performing a side plank as part of an ab workout
(Image credit: Getty)

Crunches are one of the most popular ab exercises out there, and there's no arguing that they do work your rectus abdominis (the muscle responsible for the six-pack shape). However, we think there are more effective ways to work your core — and we're not alone. 

James Stirling, better known as trainer and accessible workout expert the London Fitness Guy, has shared five ab exercises he prefers to crunches for a comprehensive core workout. What's more, you won't need any pricey equipment to give them a go for yourself (although you might appreciate one of the best yoga mats (opens in new tab) for a bit of extra grip and cushioning). 

If you're wondering how to structure your training, Stirling has also gone to the trouble of programming the five moves into a short ab workout, so all that's really left for you to do is hit the mat and give them a go.

In a video posted to Instagram, he challenges his 564,000 followers to perform each exercise for 40 seconds, rest for 20 seconds, then move on to the next one. Once you've completed each exercise once, repeat this circuit for three rounds if you're new to core training, or five if you fancy a spicy challenge. 

Watch his video below and copy his technique for each of the five exercises to make sure your form is up to scratch. 

Watch the London Fitness Guy's alternatives to crunches

One of the main reasons we use crunches sparingly is the impact they can have on your back. They push your curved spine against the floor and work your hip flexor muscles, the Harvard Medical School (opens in new tab) says. When these muscles are too tight, it reports, they can pull on the lower spine and cause discomfort. 

The London Fitness Guy's selected movements require far less curving of the spine, instead using alternative movement patterns and isometric holds (where muscles remain under tension in a stationary position) to strengthen your abs.

The best abs workouts (opens in new tab) also work more than just your rectus abdominis, as the core is made up of several muscles which are all worthy of your attention. This is something this workout does well, using slow climbers to work your trunk-stabilizing transverse abdominis, and side dips to fire up your internal and external obliques (the long muscles that run down the side of your stomach, sometimes called the "side abs"). 

If you want to add these ab exercises into your fitness routine, try tagging it on to the end of a strength training like this chest and back workout (opens in new tab), or one of the best leg workouts (opens in new tab)

Harry Bullmore is a fitness writer covering everything from reviews to features for LiveScience, T3, TechRadar, Fit&Well and more. So, whether you’re looking for a new fitness tracker or wondering how to shave seconds off your 5K PB, chances are he’s written something to help you improve your training.


When not writing, he’s most likely to be found experimenting with a wide variety of training methods in his home gym or trying to exhaust his ever-energetic puppy.


Prior to joining Future, Harry wrote health and fitness product reviews for publications including Men’s Health, Women’s Health and Runner’s World. Before this, he spent three years as a news reporter with work in more than 70 national and regional newspapers.