What’s the Best Ab Exercise?

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As a strength coach and personal trainer, I get asked a lot of questions. You hear them all the time, such as “what should I eat to lose weight,” and “what’s the best way to lose weight?” However, the one question that would make me extremely rich if I had a nickel every time I was asked would be “what’s the best ab exercise?” I could have a client leaning against the wall claiming that they’re about to suck in their last breath suddenly perk up at the mention of training abs. I know people who don’t even regularly train who knock out a few sets of sit ups throughout the week.

Direct ab work itself is relatively useless. See, the body doesn’t like when we chop it up into body parts like abs and arms. Rather, the body likes to perform as a functional movement, and that’s why movements like deadlifts, squats, cleans, and snatches are the best choice for training your abs.  Nothing hits the abs harder than lifting a heavy weight off the floor or having a serious load on your back. Novices can benefit from lunges, presses, and rows to train their abs. Studies show that exercises like deadlifts and squats provide more direct abdominal work than direct abdominal exercises (1).

Crunching to your heart’s desire isn’t the best way to get in shape. Abdominal exercises aren’t very taxing on your metabolism, and relying solely on sit ups and leg raises won’t actually boost your metabolism to the point of losing weight. In fact, a six week study in which subjects trained abdominals three times a week found that no one lost any body fat through the entire length of the study (2). Lastly, excessive abdominal training can be hazardous to your health. With constant direct abdominal training, one of the muscles that flex the hip can become too tight and actually affect the function of your hips (3).

Want a set of strong looking abs? Then the best route to go is to get strong and the abs will take care of themselves.


[toggle title=”References“]

1. Nuzzo, J.L., McCaulley, G.O., Cormie, P., et al. “Trunk Muscle Activity During Stability Ball and Free Weight Exercises.” (2008) Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.22.1, 95-102

2. Vispute, S., Smith, J., LeChiminant, J., Hurley, K. “The Affect of Abdominal Exercise on Abdominal Fat.”(2011) Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 25;9, 2559-2564

3. Chek, Paul. Awesome Abs! Mississauga, Ontario; MuscleMag International. 1996, pp 11 [/toggle]


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