The abdominal muscle group is extremely important since it helps stabilize
the torso, may alleviate back pain and acts as the foundation of your
strength and power. Athletes and coaches have long debated the topic of
the best abdominal exercises, but it's up to scientists to prove it. Scientists
used a tool called electromyography to measure electrical activity and
thus strength of contractions in the abdominal muscles. Theory has it
that the bigger the signal, the more electrical activity in the particular
muscle, the stronger the contractions and the more effective the exercise.
These studies showed that the three best exercises for the abdominal muscle
are the bicycle crunch, the hanging knee raise and the crunch on an exercise
1. The bicycle crunch
Exercise execution: Lay flat on your back as if doing a crunch. Lift your
legs up with the upper leg being parallel to the floor but not resting
Start the exercise just like a normal crunch whereby you lift your upper
shoulders off the floor but in a twisting motion. Performa a "one
shoulder at a time" crunch and in a bicycle fashion, bring the left
knee and your right shoulder off the floor towards the centre of your
body. Next repetition, switch your crunch so that your left shoulder and your
right knee come closer together.
Tip: Remember to slowly but deliberately lift your shoulder off the floor
and focus on the abdominal muscle doing the work. Don't aim to get your
shoulder off the ground as much as possible but to feel the abdominal
contraction. You should not focus on bringing the shoulder up with any
other muscle group such as the neck and shoulder.
2. Hanging Knee Raises
Exercise Execution: Position yourself for this exercise so that both your
legs stay off the floor, preferably while hanging from a high bar, such
as a chin up bar. This exercise can be also be done with your arms supporting
your bodyweight on a dip bar. Start the exercise movement by simply bringing
your knees to your chest and hold for a second while in this position
and then bring the legs back down again.
Tip: Do not let your legs swing in the bottom position as this enables
for momentum to take over and the abdominal muscles will get a less effective
workout. Control your legs especially on the way down also called an "eccentric"
muscle contraction. Too slow on the way down can lead to increased muscular
damage and fatigue and is thus not recommended for those with less than
2 years exercise experience.
3. Abdominal Crunch on an exercise ball
If you haven't invested in one of these yet, do yourself a favour. The exercise ball
is perhaps the best tool to not only help work your abdominals, but your entire
Exercise Exection: Firstly sit on an exercise ball until you feel comfortable
with it. Slide your body underneath the ball and lie on it with your lower
back. The exercise ball should be sitting somewhere from above your butt
to your upper back. The more you position the ball towards your butt on
your lower back, the more difficult the abdominal exercise. Start the movement by performing a regular crunch which is done by moving
your upper shoulders more towards the roof and only slightly forward towards
Tip: Your shoulders should only move a maximum of a few inches and thus
your lower and middle back should never leave the ball. Don't pull on
your neck or head when initiating the movement, keep your neck and and spine in a straight line, and instead let the abs
do the work.