Sit-ups are a drag. They sap your energy, destroy your spirit, and sabotage your workout. Also, they don’t work: Your core’s true function is not to produce movement but rather to act as a bridge to transfer force from the lower to the upper half of your body. You should train it to resist movement rather than generate it, which means lose the sit-ups.
Begin by swapping in wall press abs as your go-to core exercise. Lie flat on your back with your feet in the air and knees bent. Push your hands lightly into a wall behind you, and push your lower back into floor. (As you get more comfortable, push with more force.) Your palms should be flat against the wall, and there shouldn’t be any gap between your lower back and the floor. Keep form as you let your legs fall down and away from your hips. Extend them as far forward as you can. Take three seconds to extend your legs, hold for one second, and then take three seconds to get back to the starting position.
Next, try barbell rollouts. Put a couple of 45-pound plates on a barbell before setting the bar on the ground. Get onto your knees, roll the barbell about a foot in front of you, extend your arms, and grab the bar. With your chest out, ribs tucked, and butt squeezed, slowly roll the barbell forward. It should feel like you’re gradually lowering yourself into push-up position. Control the descent, going as far forward as you can while maintaining a neutral spine position. When you feel like your back is just about to arch, stop and start pulling the barbell back toward you by pushing your knees into the ground.
Finally, planks and side planks, the new classics. Start with a side plank on your left side. Try to straighten your body out from ear to ankle before reaching your right hand across your chest and resting it on your left shoulder. Hold for three seconds before rolling into a basic plank. Both feet and both forearms will be on the ground now. With your knees locked out and glutes tensed, press into floor with your fingertips and forearms. Hold for another three seconds before transitioning to a side plank on your right side, which mirrors the movements in the left-side plank. Hold for—you guessed it—three seconds before rolling back into a basic plank, and then continue to seesaw between the three positions.
Scrap sit-ups, and your six-pack will be happy you did.
Photos by Robert Daly / Getty Images