Don't waste another minute with the crunches you were taught in grade-school gym class. If you want to see results, choose a workout that fits your needs–whether you're a cyclist, rookie runner or long-distance triathlete–and watch as the six pack peeks through.
For the Athlete Who Loves a Challenge1 of 10
This 30-day core challenge will strengthen your front, back and side muscles to help you firm up your whole body, especially your midsection.
For the Beginner Runner2 of 10
A strong core is crucial for power transfer of your midsection to your arms and legs," says Greenfield. "It helps you maintain proper run posture, which improves efficiency and economy, and facilitates turnover through the hip flexors." What's more? If your core muscles are weak, you won't be able to breathe as deeply, lift as heavily, or move as quickly.
For the Person Who Hates Crunches3 of 10
Crunches activate very few muscles. Most athletes perform multiple reps of crunches because of the limited range of motion. Therein lies the problem: Endurance athletes have high stamina, but little strength.
For the Triathlete4 of 10
All three disciplines of triathlon require core stabilization and strength. Strong core musculature helps you keep your body streamlined in the water, maintain a comfortable bike position, and complete an efficient run. Core strength also assists with generating, absorbing and stabilizing forces that occur during your bike and run.
For the Runner Who Loves Cross-Training5 of 10
Strength and core exercises will actually help your running and prevent injuries. Many runners know this but they're not sure when to do these workouts or what to do until today.
For Stability Ball Lovers6 of 10
Research shows that crunches atop a ball are approximately twice as effective as those done on the floor. But stop there and you're selling this multitasking tool short. "Most people think a stability ball is just for strengthening their core, but training with a ball can tone muscles throughout the entire body," says personal trainer and fitness author Larysa DiDio.
For the Busy Athlete7 of 10
Who can resist a toning two-for-one deal? That's why we love this strengthening and shaping workout from instructor Maryanne Blake at the Sports Club/LA—Boston, based on her hot ZenCore class.
For the Cyclist8 of 10
Research on cyclists shows that when core muscles fatigue, pedaling mechanics break down (learn the Perfect Pedal Strike for more efficient rides), paving the way for poor performance and injury.
For Jump Rope Lovers9 of 10
While sit-ups, crunches and abdominal machines are worthy tools to build your core, they can get repetitive and boring. A weighted jump rope workout is one unconventional and challenging alternative to strengthen your core.