12 Crunch-Free Core Strengthening Exercises

by | Sep 26, 2018 | Last updated Feb 15, 2022

Most people equate abs with crunches — lots of ’em. Truth be told, some of the best “ab exercises” aren’t what you’d typically think of as “ab exercises.”

Many upper body and lower body strength training exercises (like push ups or squats), when done with proper form, also strengthen your core. Noom calls these primary core exercises, “core-strengthening” exercises.

There are also what we call assistance exercises that target smaller abdominal muscles and more specifically target your core. Noom calls these “abdominal-focused” exercises.

Together, core-strengthening and abdominal-focused exercises can help you target and strengthen your core as a whole.

We’ve created two circuits (one core-strengthening, one abdominal-focused), consisting of 12 different exercises to help you work your core — crunch-free. Whichever circuit you choose (or you can try them both, alternating days!), complete 2-3 sets of 12-20 reps of each exercise, resting 20-30 seconds between each set.

Ready? Set. Go!

Core-Strengthening Circuit
Upper Body Core: Set 1
  •      (Back): Pull-Up (Assisted)/Lat Pulldown/Row  
  •      (Chest): Bench Press (Flat or Incline)/Push-Up (Elevated or Floor)
  •      (Shoulders): Overhead Press (Arnold or Military) /Raises (Frontal or Lateral)
Lower Body Core: Set 2
  •      (Quadriceps): Squats (Conventional or Sumo)/ Lunges (Forward, Reverse)
  •      (Hamstrings): Deadlift (Conventional, Romanian, or Sumo)
  •      (Glutes): Hip Thrust/Hip Bridge
Abdominal: Set 3
  •      Forearm Plank Jack or Alternating Toe Taps
  •      Russian Twist
  •      Side Lying Clamshell
Abdominal: Set 4
  •      Side Plank (optional: Hip Dip)
  •      Dead Bug
  •      Fire Hydrant


New to some of these exercises? Here’s a step-by-step guide!

Forearm Plank Jack: Begin with forearms on the floor about shoulder-width, shoulders stacked over the elbows, and feet together. Imagine self as a pencil from head to toes. Jump both legs wider than shoulder-width then together again. Keep your hips low to ground in line with rest of body the entire motion.

Russian Twist: Sit on floor with bent knees. Lean upper body back to create V-shape with top of thighs. Extend arms slightly out in front of body. Twist torso to one side of body and pause for one second. Twist torso to other side and pause for another second. Allow your hands to follow each twisting motion.

Fire Hydrant: Both hands and knees positioned on the floor. Keep knee bent at 90 degrees and raise away from the body. Pause at top for one second. Lower into the starting position. Perform all reps then repeat on opposite side.

Dead Bug: Lie on your back on the floor. Extend arms toward ceiling over shoulders. Keep knees bent 90 degrees over hips. Extend right arm and left leg away from body. Stop before your lower back arches. Pause at bottom for one second the return to starting position. Perform all reps then repeat on opposite side.

Clamshell: Lie on your side on the floor. Legs stacked on top of each other. Both knees bent in front of body at 45 degree angle. Feet stay touching the entire time. Lower leg touches floor entire motion. Raise upper knee away from body. Stop before hips rock backwards. Lower upper knee to starting position. Perform all reps then repeat on opposite side.