For eons—and plenty of sets that seemed to take eons to complete—crunches were thought of as the key to building lean, hard abs. And if not crunches, experts seemed to suggest some other "feel the burn" movement you were supposed to slog through workout after high-rep workout until your abs popped. But that's about to change.
Do crunches have their use? Sure. But that use definitely isn't building abs as strong as they look. There's a better way, according to Performix athlete Michael Vazquez, a trainer who combines elements of breakdancing, calisthenics, and circuit training into his high-energy hybrid training programs.
Instead of the same-old ab routine, you'll power through a dynamic full-body fat-throttling routine that's as fun as it is effective.
"This regimen, done once or twice a week within your regular training split, will hit your whole body, with a focus on building core strength," Vazquez explains. "If you do it with intensity and put forth a lot of energy while taking minimal breaks between exercises—15-20 seconds, max—you can burn calories at an accelerated rate, which will contribute to a strong, shredded look over time."
Each of the following exercises should be done explosively while maintaining strict form. That means you'll rep quickly, but with enough body control to pause briefly at the start and midpoint of each rep. Keep it smooth, never sloppy.
You Know The Moves, But Not Like This
Vazquez's crunch routine comprises several key phases: chin-ups, push-ups, squats, lunges, and some final burpees with a quick sprint. Each of the first four phases starts with a high-rep lightweight or bodyweight movement, and then increases the difficulty or adds weight to the same movement for lower reps.
Yes, the weighted versions will feel particularly difficult compared to all those bodyweight reps. But what might surprise you is where you feel it: not just in your arms, back, or legs, but deep in your core, which will get taxed as it stabilizes your body throughout such a challenging series of exercises.
Oh, and if you've never paired movements this way, be prepared to use a far lighter weight than you're accustomed to. They're going to tax your entire body, not just the target muscle groups.
And then, just when you're weak, comes the killer: three minutes of burpees, followed by three sprints of 400 meters. Does Vazquez expect you to do burpees for three minutes straight? Of course not. Just keep moving, rest when the world starts spinning, and then start again. Yes, this last part will be tough. But the conditioning and athleticism it builds can't be replicated. This is what will make your new, strong abs visible, if you can stomach (so to speak) the work.