13 BEST Ab Exercises

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Eating right and still not getting the abs you want? Maybe that way you're going about it could be a little or even a lot better.

If you only do those traditional crunches I'm sad to tell you they are not as great as you may think they are. The Biomechanics Lab at San Diego State University recently took a deeper look at thirteen of the most common abs exercises and ranked them from best to worst. Ready to see how they stack up??

Led by Dr. Francis, Ph. D, they recruited 30 healthy people between the ages of 20-45 that ranged from occasional exercisers to those who do so daily. Using and an EMG (electromyography equipment) they monitored each person's muscle activity during each type of ab exercise.

Dr. Francis an his researches concluded that the muscle activity took place during exercises that required contact abdominal stabilization and rotation of the body.


 3 Best Abs Exercises

1. Bicycle Maneuver

Lay on your back with finger tips behind your ears (or on your temples). Bend knees and raise them up into a 90 degree angle. Simultaneously extend one leg out while bringing the opposite knee towards your face. As knee is brought forward bring the opposite elbow to that need being sure not to bring your fingers off your head or yanking on your neck.

2. Captain's chair

Stabilize your upper body by gripping onto the handles and press your lower back against the back rest. Be sure to keep your shoulders away from you ears. There are many various ways move your legs. You can start by bringing your knees up as if doing high knees or running. Alternate or move them simultaneously. Another option is to keep your legs straight and bring them forward as high as you can.

3. Exercise ball crunches

Sit on the ball and walk your feet forward until your lower back is on the ball. Please your hands behind your head (or finger tips behind your ears), crunch forward until abs are engaged and lower yourself back to starting position.

4. Vertical Leg Crunch

Cross ankles and raise legs into the air. Please hands behind your head or finger tips behind the ears and crunch forward. For additional intensity, slightly lower the legs being sure to keep the lower back pressed against the floor.

*Tip: If you can't keep your lower back against the floor your legs are lowered too much.

5.  Torso Track

Kneel on the floor and bring the handle bars on either side of the track. Keeping back in neutral position (aka straight) and arms straight, lean forward bringing your gluts away from your heels and allowing yourself to move down the track. Only go as far as your feel comfortable that you will be able to retract back to your starting position.

6. Long Arm Crunch

Get into the standard crunch position with kneed bent and lower back against the floor. Extend your arms over head and overlap your hands as if diving into a pool. Crunch forward bringing  hand over head and reach high above the knees.

For a partner exercise, you could reach forward and slap hands with your workout buddy or punch a focus mit.

7. Reverse Crunch

Lay on your back against the floor and arms out to your side for stability. Starting with knees bent, keep them together and raise your kneed to your chest. Once you get closer to your chest extend them upwards toward the ceiling and allow the hips to raise off the floor.
....
Imagine you are pressing something on top of you off.

8. Crunch with Heel Push

This exercise is very similar to the standard crunch. The main difference is that the feet are flexed with only the heel touching the floor. While in the top of your crunch, press the heels into the floor.

9. Ab Roller

This exercise is identical to the torso track. Quite frankly, I'm very surprised the EMG measurements were not closer.

10. Hover (Plank)

With elbows on the ground and palms open for additional support raise up onto your toes keep your back neutral (aka straight). Be sure not to have an exaggerated curve in the lower back.

Many times this can be corrected by rotating your pelvis in (aka tucking your butt in).

11. Traditional Crunch

Lie on your back keeping it pressed into the floor. Legs are bent at a 45 degree angle and hands are bend with finger tips behind the head. Breath out and crunch forward, making sure the raise the chin and not tuck it into your chest.

12. Exercise Tubing Pull

Start by anchoring the tubing to something heavy behind your head, like a table leg or coach leg. Lie down with your lower back pressed against the floor, knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Grip the handles and hold behind or next to your head while keeping the tubing taught. Be sure to keep your elbows in line with your ears. Contract your abs, breath out and crunch forward raising your shoulders off the ground, inhaling as you slowly come back down. The farther away you are from the tubing anchor the more resistance you will have.

13. Ab Rocker

Sit with your glutes lined up with the center of the pad, feet in front of you in a comfortable position and knees bent. Placing your arms on the arms of the rocker and roll into your chest. The abs are engaged pushing the arms forward. The forward motion of the ab rocker arms will roll the seat back, contracting your core in a seated crunch.

If it feels like this machine makes doing abs easier its because it does. It doesn't allow the core to activate very well, which pretty much makes it a waste.

Read the full study report here.

Happy exercising!


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