Dr. Peter Francis at the San Diego State University Biomechanics Lab conducted a study designed to rank 13 of the most common abdominal strengthening exercises from best to worst.
In the study, 30 volunteers were asked to perform 13 different abdominal exercises in random order while hooked to electromyography equiment (EMG). Muscle recruitment was measured in the upper and lower rectus abdominus and the external oblique.
The study revealed that the most effective abdominal exercises were those that required abdominal stabalization and body rotation.
The top 5 abdominal exercises according to results of this study:
1. Bicycle Maneuver: To do this exercise, you lie flat on the floor with your lower back pressed to the ground. Put your hands beside your head. Bring your knees up to about a 45-degree angle and slowly go through a bicycle pedal motion. Touch your left elbow to your right knee, then your right elbow to your left knee. Breathe evenly throughout the exercise.
2. Captain's chair: This was one of the few on the "most effective" list that involves gym equipment. To do the exercise, stabilize your upper body by gripping the handholds and lightly pressing your lower back against the back pad of the chair-like equipment. The starting position begins with you holding your body up and legs dangling below. Now slowly lift your knees in toward your chest. The motion should be controlled and deliberate as you bring your knees up and return them back to the starting position.
If you do not have access to a captain's chair, Francis says you can improvise by hanging from a bar, although that may be difficult for many people who aren't in shape.
3. Crunch on exercise ball: A high-quality exercise ball, which costs about $30 depending on the size, is needed to do this exercise. Sit on the ball with your feet flat on the floor. Let the ball roll back slowly. Now lie back on the ball until your thighs and torso are parallel with the floor. Cross your arms over your chest and slightly tuck your chin in toward your chest. Contract your abdominals raising your torso to no more than 45 degrees. For better balance, spread your feet wider apart. To work the oblique muscles, make the exercise less stable by moving your feet closer together. Exhale as you contract; inhale as you return to the starting position.
4. Vertical crunch: Lie flat on the floor with your lower back pressed to the ground. Put your hands behind your head for support. Extend your legs straight up in the air, crossed at the ankles with a slight bend in the knee. Contract your abdominal muscles by lifting your torso toward your knees. Make sure to keep your chin off your chest with each contraction. Exhale as you contract upward; inhale as you return to the starting position.
5. Reverse crunch: Lie flat on the floor with your lower back pressed to the ground. Put your hands beside your head or extend them out flat to your sides - whatever feels most comfortable. Crossing your feet at the ankles, lift your feet off the ground to the point where your knees create a 90-degree angle. Once in this position, press your lower back on the floor as you contract your abdominal muscles. Your hips will slightly rotate and your legs will reach toward the ceiling with each contraction. Exhale as you contract; inhale as you return to the starting position.
-Unlike strength training, Francis says abdominal exercises should be done frequently rather than for intense periods. "Abdominal strength isn't the same as working on big muscles with large resistance," he says. Instead, what's needed is "endurance training for the abdominals."
Five minutes a day of abdominal exercises can make a difference if you do it regularly. HealthAtoZ.com
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