Now, we already know that ab crunches are one of the most unexciting exercises out there, but did you also know that they can be damaging to your body, doing more harm than good? Dr. Stuart McGill is a prominent kinesiology researcher at the University of Waterloo, and he wants to make it clear that crunches and sit-ups place significant trauma onto your spinal discs. These are integral parts of your body that do not have the ability to heal themselves. In fact, McGill was able to measure the force placed upon the spine and found out that “the compression created by a crunch is so high that if you knocked out a set on the job and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration was there to measure the load, your employer could be charged with violating workplace-safety laws.” Now I’m no lawyer but I think what that would mean is, if you are your own fitness boss, and you force yourself to perform traditional sit-ups or crunches, you could then be liable to being sued by … yourself, for damages. I’m just being cheeky, but really, a herniated disc is no joke. 
OK. So what do I do to get a stomach I can show off without shame? First, it is common knowledge that a flat belly comes from the kitchen, not the gym. I have provided a separate article detailing what foods you should eat, and which you should avoid in order to eschew bloat and let those stomach muscles shine through. Click here to learn more!
Second, we recommend cardio to burn calories. At least 30 minutes on 5 days of the week. Work up a sweat, but exercise at a pace which still allows you to carry on a conversation.
Third, lift weights at least twice a week. Target your arms, shoulders, abdominals, legs, hips, chest, and back. Why do weights lead you to the abs you are looking for? Strength training builds up muscle tissue, and since muscle is more metabolically active than fat, it burns more calories.
And finally, choose a few of these (non-back breaking) core-targeting exercises to customize your fat blasting routine:
1. Side Plank
This is more challenging than a traditional plank, since you support your entire body weight on two contact points, instead of four. Therefore, you work your core harder to stay stabilized
A. Lie on your left side with your elbow directly beneath your shoulder, and your legs stacked. Place your right hand on your left shoulder or right hip.
B. Brace your abs and lift your hips off the floor until you’re balancing on your forearm and feet so that your body forms a diagonal line. Hold for 30 to 45 seconds. If you can’t hold that long, stay up as long as you can and then repeat until you’ve held for 30 seconds total. Switch sides and repeat. 
3. Alligator DragThis abs exercise uses your entire core to keep your body stabilized and burns additional calories by adding movement (dragging yourself along the floor). It mixes cardio, stability, and strength training to get you fast results.
A. Find a stretch of floor that allows you to go forward 10 to 20 yards, and grab anything that will slide over the surface with minimal friction. Dinner plates or plastic bags work on a carpeted floor, while towels work on wood or tile.
B. Start in push-up position with your feet on the slides, towels, or plates.
C. Walk yourself forward with your hands to the end of your runway (aim for at least 10 yards). Rest for 60 to 90 seconds (or as long as you need to recover) and repeat the alligator walk back to where you started. That’s one set. Repeat one more time. 
A. Sit on the ground with your knees bent and your heels about a foot from your butt.
B. Lean slightly back without rounding your spine at all. It is really important, and difficult, to keep your back straight, but don’t let it curve.
C. Hold a weight or a medicine ball just below your chest. Keep the weight close you and progress by moving weight further away from your body.
D. Pull your navel to your spine and twist slowly to the left. The movement is not large and comes from the ribs rotating, not from your arms swinging. Inhale through center and rotate to the right. This completes one rep.
5. Flutter Kicks with Resistance BandA. Sit on a mat or carpeted floor. Loop one handle of the resistance band on either foot. Hold on to the middle of the tube with both hands and lie on your back.
B. Draw your navel toward your spine and press your low spine into the floor to protect your lower back, then lift both legs up so they are almost pointing straight up toward the ceiling.
C. Holding the band securely, scissor your legs up and down one at a time, starting with the left leg. Move slowly and point your toes. Each time your right foot lowers down counts as one set. Complete 10 to 15 sets.
D. To make this move more difficult, lower your legs so they are about six to 10 inches above the floor. Make sure to keep your abs scooped when you work with your legs close to the ground. Scissor your legs for another 10 to 15 sets.
6. Stability Ball Rollouts Standing Ab Rollout
A. Place your palms on the ball, and stand with your legs wide, about three or so feet apart. Walk the ball out so your back is straight and your hips are in the same line as your ankles.B. From here, lean your body forward, allowing the ball to roll down your forearms. Stop once your elbows reach the ball and you’re balancing on your tiptoes.C. Then use your core and legs to get your body back to the starting position. Keep your abs engaged throughout this move.
A. Kneel on floor or mat facing stability ball within arm’s reach. Straighten hips with subtle bend. Also straighten arms with slight bend, down in front of body. Place fists side by side on upper side of ball closest to hips.
B. Lean forward and roll ridged arms out over ball. Roll forward as far as possible. Raise body back up by pulling arms back until kneeling upright in original position. Repeat.
7. Pilates Corkscrew
A. Lie on your back, and pull your knees into your chest. Reach your legs up to the ceiling, and tightly squeeze them together, focusing on connecting your inner thighs.
B. Reach the legs over to the right, allowing the hips to lift away from the floor.
C. Reach the legs back to center but still engaged, ensuring that the lower back remains on the floor.
D. Reach the legs over to the left, grounding the shoulders and allowing the hips to move first, the rib cage if possible next. Pull the legs back up in toward the body. This counts as one rep.
E. Repeat 10 times.
This classic Pilates moves strengthen your obliques, core, and legs, while stretching your hips away from your ribs.