The captain’s chair ranks as the top exercise for your obliques and near the top for your rectus abdominus, making it the No. 1-rated abs exercise. If your gym or Nest doesn’t have a captain’s chair though, you can give alternatives a try.
Hanging Knee Raise
The captain’s chair leg raise entails bending your hips to lift your lower body. You can perform almost the identical movement with the hanging leg-hip raise. Grasp an overhead bar with an overhand grip so that your feet are not touching the ground. Brace your abs and bring your knees to your chest by flexing your hips and knees. Pause slightly and extend your waist and legs to return to the starting position. This exercise is a more challenging alternative to the captain’s chair because it requires upper-body strength to hang from a bar.
Bench Leg-Hip Raise
The bench leg-hip raise offers an easier alternative to the captain’s chair because much of your body weight is supported on a bench throughout the exercise. Lie face up on a flat or incline bench. Place your hips and upper thighs on the bench and hang your lower legs off the bench. Hold on to the sides of the bench near your head to support yourself. Exhale, brace your abs and raise your knees to your chest by flexing both your hips and knees. Pause slightly and return to the starting position. The flat or horizontal bench is the easiest option of the lying leg-hip raise. Increasing the incline on the bench makes the exercise more difficult.
The ease of reverse crunches makes them a good choice for beginner exercisers. While they are less effective than the captain’s chair, they are still more effective than the traditional crunch for targeting your rectus abdominus and obliques. Lie face up on the floor with your arms extended at your sides, palms facing down. Exhale, brace your abs and raise your knees to your chest. Your hips and abs will lift off the floor as you flex, but keep your shoulders on the floor. Pause slightly and extend your waist and legs to return to the starting position.
While the captain’s chair leg raise and its alternatives are performed with bent knees, you can increase the difficulty of all these movements by keeping your legs extended in the exercises. If you are looking to put more emphasis on your obliques, keep your knees bent and twist your torso as you bend your waist, and focus on bringing your knees up to alternate sides of your chest.
Andrea Chrysanthou began writing professionally in 1993. Her work has been published internationally by "The Cyprus Mail," MochaSofa and My Favorite Trainer, among other magazines and websites. She holds a Bachelor of Applied Arts in journalism from Ryerson University. Chrysanthou is a certified fitness instructor and personal-training specialist with more than 10 years of experience in the fitness industry.