What Are the Most Effective Ab Exercises? The Top 3 Ab Workouts

Most Effective Ab Exercises - 3 Best Ab Workouts

3 best abs exercises to sculpt well-defined, toned abs without the gym. 

Sculpted, flat tummy is everyone’s envy. It exemplifies your fit physiques and is surely impressive to look at.

While most people think it takes hours in the gym to get rock hard abs, but the truth is, if you know-how, it’s actually a lot easier to achieve them than you think. 

One essential is a clean diet. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “abs are made in the kitchen.” 

It’s almost impossible to build your flat, toned abs without a healthy diet. A good diet not only lowers your body fat but also helps melt off your belly fat that’s covering your abdominals. Not to mention, a diet rich in protein helps build your lean muscles while fiber and other vitamins nourish your body. 

A healthy diet is the cornerstone of your flat tummy endeavor, to say the least. 

But your ab transformation also comes from effective ab workouts. You need more than a general fitness program.

You need ab exercises that target not just a part of your abdominals but all adjacent abs with maximum muscle activation. 

Luckily, the study sponsored by the American Council on Exercise (ACE) has revealed the best methods for achieving definite results. 

And here is how ACE came to determine the most effective move for your tummy. 

What Is the Most Effective Ab Workout?

3 Best Ab Exercises
The Top 3 Best Ab Exercises

The best abdominal workout according to ACE is determined by how hard it activates the front and side abdominal muscles. 

Their study at San Diego State University evaluated 13 of the popular and common abs and core workouts to find the top-performing ones. To measure the effectiveness, electromyography equipment was used to monitor each move’s muscle activity level (1). 

Their 30 participants performed a slew of abdominal workouts including basic crunch, advanced crunch, bicycle crunch, and plank. Most were bodyweight exercises on the floor while others involved home fitness equipment like an ab roller. 

Each move was ranked for muscle activation level in two major abdominals muscles.

  • Front abdominals, known as rectus abdominis: it’s the long muscles you see in the front and center of the abdomen. 
  • Obliques: it’s the abdominal muscles that cover both sides of your stomach. 

Out of the 13 included in the study, the most effective ab workout is the bicycle maneuver or bicycle crunches. This crunch with twist movements is effective in activating all rectus abdominals while effectively engaging the obliques. 

So, Should You Only Do Bicycle Crunches?

The answer is no. 

Instead of doing the same workout every day, Dr. Francis, the study’s lead researcher recommends adding a variety. 

To maximize your results, combine the most effective moves to create a routine. This will help you hit the different areas of your abdominal muscles, giving you a more effective workout. 

And what better way to get the most out of your abs routine than focusing on the top 3 abdominal exercises? 

Based on the ACE study, here are the three most effective ab workouts to build a toned and stronger stomach and core. 

The 3 Most Effective Ab Workouts

Based on the rectus abdominals and obliques activation level, ACE named these three to the be most effective workouts. 

  1. bicycle maneuver
  2. captain’s chair
  3. crunch on an exercise ball

Bicycle Maneuver

ACE’s study ranked each workout based on its rectus abdominis and oblique muscle activation. Bicycle maneuver or crunches ranked highest for strengthening the rectus abdominis and second-highest for working the obliques. 

It’s the most effective exercise for shaping abs according to science. 

It targets not just the front of your abs to create the definitions, but also work the side of your abs to shrink the waist size. If your goal is to achieve an hour-glass shape in your torso, this bicycle crunch is the one to add. 

Here Is How to Do the Bicycle Crunch: 

  1. Lie on your back on a mat and support your head by placing your fingertips behind your ears. Extend your legs straight out. 
  2. By contacting your abdominals and core, bring your legs up in the air and pull your knees close to your chest. 
  3. Brace your core and contract your shoulders as you lift up the right side off the mat. In the same motion, strengthen your left leg and rotate your body to reach your left knee with your right elbow. 
  4. Rotate your body and shoulder blade back to the starting position and repeat on the other side. Continue for the prescribed number of reps and sets. 

The key to performing this exercise is to make sure your knees are in the air when you start. It’s also essential to rely on your abdominals and core for the rotational movements and reaching of your knee and elbow. Your hands are there to support your head, thus fight the urge to pull from your neck and arms. 

If you are performing this crunch on the hard floor, be sure to use a yoga mat. 

Bicycle crunches are beginner-friendly; however, it requires some strength on your core and fitness level to perform without hurting your back. 

Captain’s Chair

Captain’s chair is the highest-ranking move for the obliques and second highest on the rectus abdominis. It’s one move that’s sure to stimulate both your front and sidelines of your trunk and all adjacent core muscles. 

The move is fairly simple, and almost everyone is familiar with this workout. 

It uses gym equipment known as a captain’s chair, which resembles a chair with armrests and back support but with no seat. While keeping the upper body firm and straight, the exercise is to bring your legs up using your abdominal and core muscles. 

Because there is gravity in play, you are forced to activate your muscles at a greater level to raise your legs high to your hip’s level. It’s one move that tests your fitness level and places high demands on your body, especially the trunk. 

How to Perform the Captain’s Chair:

  1. Stand inside the Captain’s Chair and grab the bars with your hands. Rest your arms on the armrests and keep your back straight and try not to curb your lower back. Let your legs dangle before you start. 
  2. Contract your ab muscles as if you are bracing for a punch. In one motion, bring up your knees towards your chest level while keeping your knees bent. Hold for a second.
  3. Slowly return to the starting position and reseat. Complete your target reps and sets. 

Crunch on an Exercise Ball

This exercise ball crunch is a floor workout that uses a rubber fitness ball called exercise ball. It’s an advanced crunch variation that turns the basic crunch into a more challenging one. 

Crunch is often the first exercise you think of when shredding your abdominals and getting a toned tummy. 

But by doing this classic move on an exercise ball, it engages your core even more.

This is because balancing on an exercise ball brings the unique need to balance, stabilize, and hold. It forces your rectus abdominis to work harder to stabilize, support, and hold your body in place. 

Here Is How to Do Crunches on an Exercise Ball:

  1. Place your exercise ball on the ground. Lie on a ball and make sure to keep your knees bent. 
  2. Engage your abs and core and Perform the standard crunch moves by placing your fingertips behind your head. 
  3. Once you at the top, hold for a second and return to the original position. 

While the crunch is a familiar, common exercise, doing this on a ball elevates your abs training.

Reference:

  1. Stenger, Edward. “ProSource™: April 2014 – Abs! Abs! Abs!” ACE, American Council on Exercise, Apr. 2014, www.acefitness.org/education-and-resources/professional/prosource/april-2014/3764/abs-abs-abs.
Misato Alexandre

Co-Founder

After making healthy living a priority, Misato lost over 20 lbs in less than 90 days. Instead of weight loss being a dreading experience, living the lifestyle of health and fitness granted her more happiness and joy than ever before. She co-founded Fitwirr to make health and fitness simple for everyone and share her tips through writing evidence-based articles on nutrition, weight loss, and exercise.

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