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Best 3 Ab Exercises

Updated on August 17, 2011
The Bicycle Crunch
The Bicycle Crunch | Source

We all know why the abs can be the most frustrating muscles to train. A lot of us might remember targeting them with exercises for an hour, only to wake up the next morning without any of the soreness that means you made progress. Or maybe they’re just never clearly visible, no matter how many crunches or sit ups you do. This hub will explain the basic reasons of why you aren’t seeing the results you’d hoped for, and specifically what exercises will strengthen and give definition to your abdominals.

When it comes to getting a six pack, what you really need to do is fight a three-front war. Ab exercises are one third of the equation; you’ll also need cardio to burn fat in order to make your abs visible. Thirdly, nutrition is essential; you’ll need plenty of protein and healthy fats, and trim simple carbohydrates from your diet. The steps to getting a six-pack are a topic for another hub, so with that caveat, here are the top three exercises to target and strengthen core and abdominal muscles.

Thanks to a study done by the San Diego State University, these three exercises were measured for stimulation of the abs and obliques, and came in first out of thirteen measured abs exercises.

Bicycle Crunches: Lie on your back, lifting both legs so your knees are bent as shown in the picture. Your head and shoulders should be raised off the floor, which will happen naturally as you take turns pressing your elbows to either kneecap. This is a very efficient exercise for the lower half of the abs; you might even feel the familiar burning of muscle failure before the first rep is over.

Tip: Make sure the only part of your body in contact with the floor is your lower back. This will put more tension on your abs as you go through the exercise. There’s no specific number of repetitions and sets you should go for, but try to reach muscle failure.

The Captain's Chair

This exercise is second only to the Bicycle Crunch in the war it targets abs, but unfortunately it’s one of the few abs exercises that requires equipment.

Begin the exercise by standing, letting your arms grip the handles as if you were in an armchair. Use your arms for support as you lift your legs off the ground. Beginners can start this exercise by merely bending their knees, while more experienced people can keep their legs straight and try to lift them until they’re parallel to the ground. Repeat these movements until muscle failure, then rest and start again.

Tip: This is an extremely tough exercise, which is why it’s so good. Working out with a friend is optimal for these challenging workouts; you can motivate each other and keep track of your progress.

The Captain's Chair



This exercise looks deceptively easy. It’s only when you try it for yourself that you realize how hard it is. Lie on the floor with your stomach facing the ground, and make a trialngle with your forearms. Use your forearms to lift your body off the ground, so only your forearms and toes make contact with the floor. Keep your back straight, your butt out of the air and your abs clenched. Hold this position for as long as you can, rest and repeat.

It’s a great exercise for the core, and it has the advantage of being possible in any room in your house. I like to do it while listening to music in my office, holding form for sixty seconds, resting another thirty, then starting again.

These are all the most efficient exercises, but dedication and a flexible schedule will help you yield some progress with any abs exercise. Honorable mentions should go to crunches with exercise balls and vertical leg sit ups. Just remember to challenge yourself and stick with your exercises, and you should notice results.



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    • kittythedreamer profile image

      Nicole Canfield 6 years ago from the Ether

      Great tips on ab exercises, Mark. I voted up and useful on this hub. I have to say though, if I really want awesome abs (which I've hard before), I usually just pop in the P90X Ab Ripper routine three times a week and my abs are shaping up in no time! I'm too lazy though, and that's the problem. :)

    • Mark Sparks profile image

      Mark Sparks 6 years ago from Charlottesville, Virginia

      I know, it's the most annoying thing to not feel like progress is being made. hopefully mine will ache tomorrow morning :D

    • bwhite062007 profile image

      Brianna W 6 years ago from East Coast

      Great Hub! I have done all these ab exercises and they are very good for the core. They also are hard to do which I like. I love the feeling of soreness the next morning. Means I did something right!