Most Effective Ab Exercises

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To Look the Best, Work the Best

Whether you’re going for the six pack or you just want a trimmer waist, doing the most effective ab exercises will get you better results in less time. You’ve probably been crunching your brains out without seeing improvement, and it’s not your fault.

The Biomechanics Lab at San Diego University performed an experiment in 2001 where they hooked volunteers up to electrodes to measure muscle activity during abdominal exercises. The traditional crunch, that bane of your workout, came in at number 11 in terms of effectiveness.

Why waste your time doing the eleventh most-effective exercise? Why not go for number one? This way, you’ll stimulate more muscle fibers and actually notice tone and definition instead of just aching abs.

And the Winner Is…

Actually, two exercises came out on top. When researchers rated the exercises, they created two lists – one for the rectus abdominus, or your six pack muscle, and another for your obliques, which nip you in from the sides.

The Bicycle Maneuver came in at number one for the rectus abdominus and number two for the obliques. The Captain’s Chair came in at number number one for the obliques and number two for the rectus abdominus.

Bicycle Maneuver:

  1. Get into your crunch position, on your back with your knees bent and feet raised six inches off the floor.
  2. Straighten your legs and contract your abs until your shoulder blades are raised from the floor.
  3. Bring together your opposite knee and elbow – your lower body should be pedaling like a bicycle, and your upper body should be twisting from the waist. Keep your elbows wide. Repeat.

Captain’s Chair:

  1. Climb into the Captain’s Chair apparatus with your back against the back rest and your forearms resting on the arm rests. Grab the handles.
  2. Step off of the side rails so your legs dangle, then bring your knees into your chest. Repeat.
  • To make it harder, straighten your legs and lift them out in front of you as a unit.


If you don’t have access to a Captain’s Chair, the Reverse Crunch is the next most effective oblique exercise.

Reverse Crunch:

  1. Get into crunch position again, on your back with your knees and hips bent at a 90-degree angle. Your lower legs should be flat like a table.
  2. Contract your abs to lift your butt off the floor, sending your knees straight toward the ceiling, not toward your head. Don’t arch your back. Repeat.

These exercises will get you the abs you’re looking for, and you’ll never have to do another crunch. Oh, and those late-night TV commercials for the latest ab gadget? Don’t bother. Researchers found that the only one found to be more effective than a traditional crunch caused lower back pain, and another device was found to be 80 percent less-effective than the crunch, which remember, is only the eleventh most effective to begin with.


American Council on Exercise: New Study Puts the Crunch on Ineffective Ab Exercises