Are you depending on traditional crunches to give you a great six-pack abs?
Stop. You’re wasting your time. There are better ab exercises you should be doing instead.
In 2001, researchers at San Diego State University evaluated the effectiveness of different abdominal exercises. 30 healthy men and women served as subjects in the study. The researchers used electromyography equipment to measure activity in the rectus abdominus (the six-pack muscle) and external obliques (the muscles around the six-pack) while subjects performed popular ab exercises.
Ever seen ads for the Ab Rocker device on TV? Don’t buy it! It was found to be even less effective than the traditional crunch. Other exercises, including the reverse crunch, the long arm crunch, and the crunch with heel push, were about as effective as the traditional crunch.
Top Two Excercises to Build Great Abs:
It was the bicycle maneuver and the captain’s chair, which both produced more than twice as much muscle activity than the traditional crunch, that stood out as the best exercises for your abs.
Bicycle Maneuver Ab Excercise
Of the 13 exercises evaluated in the study, the bicycle maneuver produced the most activity in the rectus abdominus and the second-most activity in the obliques.
Here’s how to do it: first, lie down and place your feet flat on the floor. Lift your right leg up, bending the knee at a 90-degree angle so your thigh is perpendicular to the floor and your calf is parallel to the floor. Straighten out your left leg and raise your left foot a couple inches off the ground. With your hands behind your head, use your core to pull your head and shoulders up. Aim your left elbow at your right knee and twist while you crunch.
Then, lift your left leg at a 90-degree angle, straighten out your right leg, and aim your right elbow at your left knee while you crunch. Keep alternating left elbow to right knee, right elbow to left knee while you do the exercise, so that it looks like you’re pedaling a bike.
Captain’s Chair Ab Exercise
In terms of how it ranks against the other exercises, the captain’s chair is the inverse of the bicycle maneuver: it’s the second-most effective rectus abdominus exercise and the most effective obliques exercise.
Unlike the bicycle maneuver, you’ll need some equipment for this exercise. Specifically, you’ll need equipment that has a raised backrest and horizontal handgrips.
To perform the captains chair, use the handgrips to pull yourself up and press your back against the backrest. Let your legs hang limp. Then, slowly lift your knees to your chest. Slowly lower your legs back down, and repeat.
Bicycle Maneuver vs. Captain’s Chair: Which One Is Right For You?
The bicycle maneuver packs a little more punch than the captain’s chair. It produced 148% more activity in the rectus abdominus than the traditional crunch, while the captain’s chair produced 112% more activity.
Convenience is another advantage to the bicycle maneuver. You can do it anywhere – there’s no need for expensive and bulky gym equipment.
The downside, though, is that it can put some strain on your back and neck. If you find the bicycle maneuver uncomfortable, try using the captain’s chair instead. With the captain’s chair, you can keep your back and neck straight while you sculpt your abs.
Do what works best for you. You can’t go wrong with these two exercises.