The No-Crunch Abs and Back Workout

For strong abs, you don't need to do crunches anymore. These intense, dynamic exercises will challenge your abs and back in a whole new way, giving a strong, firm core. With planks and bridges, ball exercises and more, you'll really feel your abs work. 

Abs and Back Workout Options

Man doing a crunch


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See your doctor before trying this workout if you have any injuries, illnesses, or other conditions. Modify any exercise to fit your fitness level and goals.

Equipment Needed: An exercise ball​

Warm-up: Light-moderate cardio for 3-5 minutes

Workout Options

  • Circuit Style - Perform each exercise for the desired reps, one after the other with little or no rest in between moves. Complete one circuit and then repeat 1-2 more times for a more intense workout.
  • Straight Sets - Another option is to do each exercise for your chosen number of sets, resting briefly in between, before moving on to the next exercise.

Bridge With Leg Drop

In a bridge position, straighten the right leg and drop it out to the side a few inches. Bring it back to center and repeat for 30 seconds. Switch sides and complete the exercise on the other leg for 30 seconds.

Reps/Sets/Duration: 1-3 sets of 12-16 reps

Change Intensity: Bend the knee to reduce the intensity.

Side Plank With Ab Twist

Begin by lying on your side and push up so that your body is supported by the right arm in a side plank. Stack the feet for more intensity or stagger the feet for easier modification. Straighten left arm and balance for a moment, then sweep the left arm down and twist the body, turning it towards the floor while keeping the rest of the body in place. Squeeze the abs and hold for 2 seconds, then go back to starting position. Complete all reps before switching sides.

Reps/Sets/Duration: 1-3 sets of 12-16 reps

Change Intensity: Do these with the bottom knee on the floor for a modification.

Ball Rollouts

Place your arms on the ball, parallel to one another. Pulling your belly button towards your spine and tightening your torso, slowly roll forward until your chest touches the ball. Keeping form, slowly pull your body back using your arms and abdominals. Don't collapse as you roll forward. 

Reps/Sets/Duration: 1-3 sets of 12-16 reps


Lie face up with lower back pressed to the floor. Cradle head in your hands, elbows out, and bend right knee, pulling it towards your chest while touching the knee with the opposite elbow. Begin a slow pedal motion by touching opposite elbow to opposite knee, alternating each side. Keep the abs pulled in and continue to breathe.  

Reps/Sets/Duration: 1-3 sets of 12-16 reps


Hold a barbell or dumbbells in front of thighs, feet hip-width apart and abs pulled in. Tipping from the hips and keeping the weight close to your legs, lower the weight to mid-shin (or wherever is comfortable) while keeping the legs straight (but not locked). Lift back to starting position and make sure the abs are pulled tight throughout the movement. 

Reps/Sets/Duration: 1-3 sets of 12-16 reps

Modification: Hold the band at different points to find the perfect amount of tension for this exercise.

Back Extensions on the Ball

The back extension on the ball can be done in a couple of different ways. Lie down (face down) with the ball under the hips, legs extended behind you with the toes on the floor for stability. Place the hands behind the head or under the chin. You can also keep the hands resting on the ball if you need a modification. Round down over the ball and then squeeze the lower back to lift the chest off the ball. Raise up until the body is straight (don't hyperextend), lower down and repeat.

Reps/Sets/Duration: 1-3 sets of 12-16 reps

Modification: Try this move on your knees for a modification

By Paige Waehner, CPT
Paige Waehner is a certified personal trainer, author of the "Guide to Become a Personal Trainer," and co-author of "The Buzz on Exercise & Fitness."