Best Ab Exercises Based on Scientific Research

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Best Ab Exercises Based on Scientific Research

If you watch TV late at night, there is no doubt that you will see an infomercial for some revolutionary new ab training device to get “Six Pack Abs.”  There are even the new electronic devices that you wear which electronically stimulates your abs to contract so you get rock-hard abs, but are these devices and machines backed by science? NO.  American Council on Exercise (ACE) commissioned exclusive research to determine just how effective some of the most popular devices and ab exercises are in comparison to the traditional crunch.

Researchers recruited 16 healthy volunteers (eight men and eight women) between the ages of 18 and 24.  To determine which exercises are the most beneficial for activating the abdominal musculature, researchers chose popular equipment including the Ab Circle Pro, Ab Roller, Ab Lounge, Perfect Sit-Up, Ab Coaster, Ab Rocket, Ab Wheel and Ab Straps, as well as ab exercises including the yoga boat pose, stability ball crunch, decline bench curl-up, captain’s chair crunch, bicycle crunch, side plank and front plank.

Researchers attached electrodes all over the abdominals of the subjects and measured muscle activation of each of the muscles while they performed various abs exercises.  Ready for the shocker? Topping the list of the most effective exercises was the bicycle maneuver, followed closely by the second ranked, captain’s chair. As for home exercise equipment, crunches on an exercise ball ranked highest—coming in third overall. Another interesting result centered around the traditional crunch itself. Researchers initially tested two types of the crunch individually—with the arms folded across the chest as well as with the arms and fingers interlocked behind the head. The data showed, however, that there was no difference in muscle activation between the two types of crunches. So what about all those great ab machines?  In fact, the Ab Wheel, Ab Circle Pro, side plank and front plank all had significantly lower muscle activation in the upper abdominals compared to the traditional crunch. For the lower abdominals, the Ab Circle Pro, side plank and front plank all had significantly lower muscle activation than the traditional crunch.

Captains’ Chair Exercise

Interestingly they also compared some of the more popular yoga moves to the various ab machines and found that the yoga moves were superior to the machines for various ab muscle activation.
Comparison of upper rectus abdominis (URA) activation for the various exercises compared to the traditional crunch.

Comparison of lower rectus abdominis (LRA) activation for the various exercises compared to the traditional crunch.

As for the obliques, there were six abdominal exercises that had significantly higher muscle activation than the traditional crunch: the decline bench curl-up, Ab Lounge, Ab Wheel, captain’s chair crunch, Ab Straps and the Ab Coaster (Figure 3).

Figure 3.  Comparison of external obliques (EO) activation for the various exercises compared to the traditional crunch.

So it seems that the best ab exercises can be done right at home without spending money.

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