A strong core improves your posture, balance and endurance; it decreases your risk of back pain, and is a great confidence booster.  Basic crunch moves can be boring, repetitive and ineffective. Nutrition is a key element, so remember your abs are made in the kitchen and strengthened in the gym.  Want to be hard to the core?  Try some of these core muscle builders- they are a little more complex, very challenging, and highly effective.


Bicycle Crunch

Lie face-up with your right knee bent and left leg straight, parallel to the floor, fingers placed lightly behind your head.  Lift your upper back from the floor, directing your left elbow to your right knee as you extend your left leg straight.  Hold for 5 seconds.  Repeat action on the opposite side.  That is 1 rep; complete 5 reps.  For the next set, repeat the same action but hold each rep for 2 seconds on each side, completing 5 more reps.  Finally, complete 5 more reps at 1 second each.  Be sure that abs are engaged the entire circuit.


360 Planks (4 Positions)

Lie on your back with legs straight and your forearms to your side.  Lift your hips up off the ground, keeping your body straight and elbows bent.  Hold this position for 45 seconds.  Return to start.

Turn body to left side with legs straight and your right leg stacked on your left.  Lift hips off the ground so your body forms a straight line from your neck to your ankles; your left forearm & left foot support your weight.  Hold your right arm straight up.  Hold for 45 seconds. Switch sides & repeat.  To intensify your workout, hold a 3-5 lb. dumbbell in your straight arm.

Lie face down on the floor with legs straight.  Push hips up, holding body in a straight line on your forearms for support.  Hold for 90 seconds.  Return to start.  To intensify your workout, raise 1 leg and hold for 10 seconds, then alternate legs, continuing to switch legs throughout the 90 seconds.


Long Leg Rotation

Lie face up on the floor and extend right leg up with left leg straight hovering a few inches above the floor.  Crunch up and hold, reaching your left hand toward your right foot, as your right arm is bent behind your head.  Switch arms and legs to complete on opposite side.  That is 1 rep.  Complete 25-30 reps.


Reverse Straight Leg Crunch

Lie face up on a bench, arms overhead holding onto bench.  Place your bottom along the edge of the bench, legs straight out (parallel to the floor) so you are in a straight line with abs engaged.  Keeping legs straight, raise legs to the ceiling; pause for 1 second as you lift your hips off the bench toward the sky, then lower hips to bench and slowly bring straight legs back to the starting position.  Abs are engaged and legs are straight throughout the entire move.  Complete 10-15 reps.



Lie down on back with legs straight and arms to your sides.  Bend right knee and lift body off the floor by pushing off with left arm and right bent leg.  Then touch right hand to your left leg.  Lower to starting position and switch sides to start again.  That’s 1 rep.  Complete 10-15.


Place a towel on a hardwood or tile floor. Get into a push up position with your feet together and toes on the towel.  Bend knees together towards chest; then push back out to starting position.  That’s 1 rep; complete 10-15 reps.  Once you have finished that set, work your obliques by completing the same move but bring your legs to the right side and then to the left for another 10-15 reps each side.

Download a copy of the workout here: FN Hard Abs Workout.

Andrea Miano is certified by the American Fitness Association of America (AFAA), has a cycling certification through Keiser, and is currently completing her personal training certification. She previously taught at LA Fitness and is a spin instructor at Spin Crazy.