Since we were in school, sit-ups were always marketed as go-to exercises for gaining a stronger core. They were even part of dreaded NAPFA tests. But it’s time to rethink your ab workout. According to the Harvard Medical School, sit-ups (and crunches) target only a few muscles and may be harsh on your back due to the repeated motion where you push your curved spine against the floor. Do these moves instead to really fire up your core.

#1 Planks

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No surprises here. Planks are one of the best bodyweight exercises you can do. You can either do a forearm plank or a full plank with your palms pressed firmly into the floor. Both will fire up your core muscles in no time. When holding a plank, don’t let your hips dip. Keep your butt low with your glutes squeezed in to feel the burn. 

 

#2 Side planks

 

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#2 Side planks

Up the ante with side planks. This move challenges your stability so your core is engaged in a bigger way. You can start in plank position and rotate your body until you’re pivoting on your feet and balancing on one forearm or palm. Hold for 30 to 45 seconds and switch sides. 

 

#3 Hundreds

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This classic pilates move will warm your whole body in seconds. Lie on the mat with your legs bent. Slowly raise your head and arms, keeping your core crunched in. Lock your arms and pump them up and down without moving your torso. You can also do the more advanced option where you lift your legs and hold them at a 45 degree angle throughout the exercise.

 

#4 Bridge

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Lie on the mat with your knees bent and feet hip-width apart. Slowly lift your hips off the floor until your body is in a straight line. Keep your glutes squeezed in to protect your lower back, and hold for three seconds before lowering yourself back to starting position. This exercise strengthens your abs, butt and back muscles.

 

#5 Leg lifts

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This targets your lower ab muscles. Start by lying down, then slowly raising your legs while keeping them as straight as possible until they’re perpendicular to the floor. Hold for three seconds before lowering them down to starting position. Give yourself an added challenge by holding an exercise ball between your legs. Be careful not to hurt yourself though – you should not be feeling any tension in your lower back when you do this move.

This story was originally published in Shape