Abs recover from fatigue faster than other muscles in the body, so you benefit more from not resting between exercises and getting in an effective ab workout in five minutes. Many people think the most effective ab exercise is undoubtedly the crunch, but most people are unaware that it's actually a less-effective ab exercise. Using the most effective ab exercises ensures you get the best results out of every second of your workout. This workout should be completed every other day.
Muscles of the Abdomen
There are four main muscle groups that make up your abdominal muscles, and they are used to complete different tasks. The rectus abdominis muscles are the muscles you see in the six pack and are worked whenever you bring your rib cage and pelvis closer together. The internal and external oblique muscles are the muscles that outline the six pack on the sides of your torso. The obliques are used to perform twisting motions. The transversus abdominis is the deepest muscle layer of the abdominal muscles and cannot be seen; its function is to stabilize the trunk.
The bicycle maneuver uses the weight of your legs as resistance to work the retus abdominis, obliques and transverse abdominis. To complete this exercise, lie flat on the ground and press your lower back against the ground. Put your hands behind your head but do not use your hands to push your neck forward. Bring your knees up to a 45-degree angle and, in a controlled rhythm, simulate a bicycle motion. Touch your right elbow to your left knee, then your left elbow to your right knee. Continue this for 30 to 45 seconds.
Exercise Ball Crunch
The ball crunch is far more effective than the standard crunch because the lack of support given from the ball targets your transversus abdominis to stabilize your body, while the crunching motion works your rectus abdominis. Sit on the exercise ball and position your feet flat on the floor. Roll back slowly onto the ball until your thighs and torso are parallel with the ground. Tuck your chin to your chest and cross your arms over your chest. Raise your torso to 45 degrees. Make the exercise less stable by moving your feet closer together to challenge the obliques, or position your feet farther apart for more support. Continue this for 30 to 45 seconds.
Vertical Leg Crunch
The vertical leg crunch is an ab exercise that combines two effective ab working motions, stabilizing the hips and flexing the abs to target the transversus abdominis and rectus abdominis. Lie flat on the floor and press your lower back against the floor. Put your hands behind your head, but do not push your head forward. Lift your legs up in the air at a 90-degree angle and cross your feet at the top with a slight bend in the knee. Lift your torso toward your knees but do not touch your chin with your chest. Exhale as you crunch upward; inhale as you return to downward. Continue this for 30 to 45 seconds.
People naturally hold their breath during ab exercise, so be conscious to breath during your workout. More oxygen is required for your body during exercise and holding your breath can lead to neediness and even cause you to black out.
- ACEFitness.org: New Study Puts the Crunch on Ineffective Ab Exercises; Mark Anders
- ACEFitness.org: American Council on Exercise (ACE)-sponsored Study Reveals Best and Worst Abdominal Exercises
- Muscle and Fitness: Spot-On Abs; Jim Stoppani, PhD, and Joe Wuebben
- Better Health Channel: Abdominal Muscles
Jason Cooley began writing in 2005 as the owner of a personal-training business, authoring advertising copy and business contracts. He has since served as a writer with Oral B and On Top of My Diabetes.