June 24


Best Abdominal Exercises Proven to Get You Stronger Faster

By Adam Drinkwater

June 24, 2012

Ab Exercises, Ab Workout Study, Ab Workouts, ACE Study Ab Workout, Best Ab Workout Study, Best Abdominal Exercises

Abdominal Muscle PhysiologyDo you believe that you can get a six pack?  Do you think the number 13 is unlucky for you?  In 2001, the American Council of Exercise (ACE) proved that this number is actually lucky for you.

ACE conducted a study on the effectiveness of certain exercises and equipment on the rectus abdominus and obliques.

You will get a firm analysis of why this study was good and why it may be flawed.

You will also discover the best abdominal exercises to start doing now.

You might have wasted money and time doing the wrong exercises for years but it is not too late.

The study was conducted by the Biomechanics Lab at San Diego University, testing thirteen of the most common abdominal workouts.

The entire testing of the thirteen workouts took one hour per person. This may have had an affect on technique and muscular activity if fatigue kicked in near the end, it just depends on how fit and used to the specimen was at the time.  Lets face it, have you seen anyone doing abdominal exercises for one hour?  Or have you ever completed one hour of abdominal exercises?

What I really liked about the study was that all the exercises were compared to the common traditional crunch which was given a mean muscle percentage activity of one hundred per cent, the baseline for comparison.

A women exercising on a Torso Track
A women exercising on a Torso Track
A women demonstrating the use of an Ab Roller
A women demonstrating the use of an Ab Roller
A women sitting on an Ab Rocker
A women sitting on an Ab Rocker

The popular Torso Track (far right), Ab Roller (right, middle) and Ab Rocker (near right) were also tested. You have probably seen these lying about in gyms and on music channels in the early hours of the morning, usually nowadays used as bad examples of training your abdominals and praying on peoples fears of doing strenuous sit-ups and getting acute back pain from other exercises.  They also use well chiselled models giving the impression that the equipment got them the result.

Electromyography (EMG) was used to measure muscular activity.

As well as the activity levels being measured in the abdominus rectus and obliques, the activity in the hip flexors was also recorded. This was important because if there were high levels of activity here then the workouts were not getting done properly or the body was using other muscles to aid the abdominal muscles.

The subjects, aged between twenty and forty-five, ranged from occasional exercisers to daily exercisers. The age factor should not have had an affect on the study but those who exercise daily would be a lot fitter and stronger in the midsection hence they should have been able to do the exercises more easily.

Do you want to get stronger?
American Football Image with Quote:  Do You Want to Get stronger?

The subjects completed ten to twelve repetitions of each exercise. Personally, I think they should have done an equal amount of reps to keep the results equally comparable.

The repetition time of four seconds was ideal (two seconds on the way up and two seconds on the way down) as the muscles would be working to their full capacity. The only thing is that in reality, you do not see people working out at this pace. Most of the time the reps I have observed people doing are in quick bursts, where the electrical activity would give out sudden impulses.

The study stated: “As expected, the effectiveness of each exercise varied from subject to subject depending on factors such as athleticism, familiarisation with the exercises and past injuries.”  These factors should have been more controlled, with the subjects being trained up to the same levels of fitness and having a very similar background of abdominal training.

Quote: “Either you run the day or the day runs you”. Jim Rohn

Dr. Francis recommends that you do several exercises. I would agree with this as variation is important to combat boredom and to keep the muscles guessing. If you are stuck for time you should do the top three exercises in the results as these had the highest levels of activity (subject to having access to the right equipment).

Five minute sessions a day were recommended but I would say that if you were to do two sets of twelve reps of five of the exercises it would take fifteen minutes to do.  In this way you should get more toned and have stronger abs.  Also, if these exercises are new to you, then build up the reps steadily and after three weeks try adding another set.

Do two seconds in the upwards phase, hold for two seconds and two seconds down. Have thirty second breaks between each set. The session should be performed every second day as the muscles need recovery time, as opposed to being performed the daily recommended regimen which can cause fatigue and increase the chance of injuries.  The soreness may even put you off the exercises all together.

By incorporating a fifteen minutes ab workout session into your workouts, just as you should be doing other components like cardiovascular fitness, you can get stronger abs which will help alleviate back pain, promote good posture, help you live longer and enjoy other great benefits.

Table of ACE Study Results

As you can see in the table the Bicycle Maneuver is the best exercise to work the rectus abdominus recording a mean activity of 248%. The second best exercise is the Captain’s Chair with activity levels of 212%. The third best exercise is the Exercise Ball with an activity of 139%.

The Captain’s Chair is a great workout for the obliques with activity of 310%. The Bicycle Maneuver was again an effective workout with recording of 290%. The Reverse Crunch was excellent too, recording 240%.

Overall, the study was worth conducting as the results were significantly better for five of the exercises and proved that the above equipment was a waste of money.

Unfortunately, activity in the rectus femoris to indicate if the hip flexors were used during the exercises were not published in the study.  It would be great to know which exercises were the best for all three of the core muscles.

Are you going to incorporate these exercises from now on?

Have you wasted time on doing exercises that have given you no ab strength at all?

Have you wasted money on useless equipment?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this study and like to hear your thoughts about your ab workouts.

Please feel free to leave a comment.

Recommended Reading:

¤ 15 Great Benefits of Strong Abs. This was my very first post on the site. I needed to tell you why you should do abdominal workouts and give you the motivation to workout when you are feeling low.

Adam Drinkwater

About the author

Adam Drinkwater MPharm (Hons) is a YMCA Certified Professional Gym Instructor, Pharmacist, Scottish Football Association Qualified soccer coach, specialising in goalkeeping. He has a keen interest in evidence based information and is a long-time player in the fitness industry. He holds many nutritionist certificates and has a Masters in Pharmacy.

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