An university study, sponsored by ACE (American Council on Exercise) set out to study 16 of the most common abs exercises and abs equipment to see which led to the most muscle activation, and thus can be called the best abs exercises.
Electromyography (EMG) was used on the upper rectus abdominis, lower rectus abdominis and obliques of participants (eight males and eight females, aged 18-24)
They tested the following popular equipment and abs exercises:
The Ab Circle Pro, Ab Roller, Ab Lounge, Perfect Sit-Up, Ab Coaster, Ab Rocket, Ab Wheel and Ab Straps, yoga boat poses, stability ball crunches, decline bench curl-ups, captain’s chair crunches, bicycle crunches, side planks, front planks and traditional crunches.
Fig.1 Comparison of upper rectus abdominis activation for the various abs exercises compared to the traditional crunch.
Fig.2 Comparison of lower rectus abdominis activation for the abs various exercises compared to the traditional crunch.
Fig.3 Comparison of external obliques activation for the various abs exercises compared to the traditional crunch.
Researchers found none of the moves had greater muscle activation than the traditional crunch.
All of the other exercises and machines were compared to the traditional crunch (it showed the most muscle activation).
In fact, the Ab Wheel, Ab Circle Pro, side plank and front plank all had significantly lower muscle activation.
Another interesting result was about the traditional crunch itself. Researchers tested two types of the crunch—with the arms folded across the chest and with the arms and fingers behind the head. The data showed, however, that there was no difference in muscle activation between the two types of crunches.
“We expected there to be a difference because when people put their hands behind their neck they often wrench their head and pry it up,” says Edward Stenger, M.S., “but there was no difference.”
Obviously, laying on the ground doing the traditional crunch is not appropriate for everybody. Especially people with low-back pain. But for the average person who wants to work his or her abdominal muscles to get stronger, old school crunches could be a good exercise in your workout plan.
Don’t forget – It’s all about form!
The key to develop strong blocky abs is to do your exercises correctly and keep upping the resistance, like you would for any other part of the body.
That’s how you’ll get the most out of your workout.