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The Top 5 Worst Abdominal Exercises

In the quest to get a flat stomach or maybe even a six-pack it’s essential that you choose the right exercises or you’ll either end up booking an appointment with for the immense pain due to the wrong posture or be disappointed with the results of your workout. While there is no shortage of TV infomercials with gadgets promising you ripped abs, the truth is none of them can deliver a complete solution.

In fact, most of them are not worth a red cent as you could get far better results with ab exercises using your own bodyweight. One of the most integral parts of an effective abdominal exercise is the involvement of the core muscles and far too many of the ab gadgets neglect those vital muscles completely.

Let’s take a closer look at the anatomy of the abdominals you can really understand what will make an exercise effective. When you see someone with a six pack it’s the result of well-developed rectus abdominus muscle being made visible by a low level of bodyfat.

Diet and exercise to reduce body fat has far more to do with making the rectus abdominus visible than any amount of crunches or sit-up’s you could ever do. The core muscles, such as the deep lying transverse abdominus, act to stabilize, balance, and support real world movement.

The transverse abdominus acts as a sort of an internal girdle and is a primary contributor to the “flat tummy.” If you focus on exercises that isolate the rectus abdominus while neglecting the inner core musculature it can lead to the appearance of a pooch belly. This is exactly what you’re trying to avoid.

It’s important to understand that the ab muscles work with integration as one piece in the kinetic chain. They’re never called upon to work in isolation with everyday human movements. Therefore you’ll want to focus less on isolation exercise and more on exercises that integrate all the muscles activating the core.

Some of my favorite integration exercises include cable or weighted wood chops, cable or band rotations, planks, 1 leg dumbbell RDL, V-up’s, wheel roll-outs, and TRX knee tucks just to name a few. Having said that, here are the 7 worst ab exercises you can do to see a flat stomach.

1.  Bent Over Twist

This exercise has been around forever and you’ve probably seen it being done in the gyms. The exerciser holds a weight bar or a broomstick behind his neck with his arms outstretched, bends forward from the waist so his upper body is parallel with the ground, and begins twisting from left to right.

While this movement does require some involvement of the obliques, the primary muscles at work are the spinal erectors. There is a lot of strain that’s put on the low back with this exercise and it’s simply not worth it, causing the lower back pain. There are far better ways to work the external obliques that won’t put unnecessary strain on the low back.

2.  Straight Legged Sit-ups

You may remember this ab exercise from high school. You sit down with legs extended, knees locked, and have someone hold your feet while you do sit-up’s. While you could get away with this movement as a teenager due to forgiving connective tissue, it’s not going to be the same as an adult.

Performing straight legged sit-ups with your feet stabilized is another way to put undue pressure on the lower spine. You’ll also find that your hip flexors will do most of the work here along with your back instead of the abdominals.

The last thing you want to be doing is further tightening the hip flexors and low back muscles. These are two areas that are more than likely already over-tight due to sitting too much during the day.

3.  Dumbbell side bends

Another ab exercise I see being done all the time in the gyms. The misconception is this exercise will help to produce a slimmer waistline since it’s targeting the sides. While there is some involvement of the external obliques, I don’t recommend isolating them in this way.

For starters, the exercise is not very effective in the first place. Holding onto a dumbbell with each hand negates the resistance. In other words, as you return from a position where you’re bent to the right side, the dumbbell in the left hand is actually assisting, adding momentum.

There’s also the issue of flexing the spine in this way, it’s simply not a natural human movement. You’d never pick something up from the floor this way, think about it. The last thing you want to be doing is really targeting the external obliques to increase muscular density anyways as it can make your waist appear bigger not smaller.

Remember, that layer of fat you’re carrying at your sides, aka “love handles,” can never be removed through spot reduction. Diet, cardio, and resistance training on the larger muscle groups will be the only thing to help you lose your love handles. That is of course unless you want to have liposuction, but that’s a whole other issue for another discussion.

4.  Ab rocker

This is one of the devices sold via infomercials with creative visuals supporting promises of abdominal improvement. As most infomercial products, it is presented as a quick and easy way to see a flat stomach. The premise is that a simple rocking motion can be used to “smooth” the tummy and waistline.

Of the 13 exercises ranked in a recent study to show core strengthening effectiveness, the ab rocker ranked dead last. It proved to be 80% less effective than even the traditional abdominal crunch.

You’ll also see offers for devices that swing or glide the abs in order to bring you that coveted six-pack, at least according to the claims. These are simply new “twists” on the flawed premise that a device will prove to be the ab solution.

5.  Seated Spinal Twist Machine

These machines, found in most health clubs allow the exerciser to flex the lumbar spine while twisting at the waist. This results in a great deal of pressure placed upon the spinal ligaments. Don’t be fooled by the equipment placard that shows you’re targeting your sides. Your low back is doing most of the work here and not your abdominals.

This is just one of the numerous cases of machine exercises attempting to work your abs in isolation. Remember, your abs don’t work that way with everyday human movements. I want you to think about how many times outside of the gym you’ll actually be sitting down and rotating from side to side? When you figure it out let me know.

These exercises only further enhance the most common muscle imbalances people have from sitting too much. As a result they could actually be doing more harm than good. I’ll go ahead and tell you right now you should avoid using every single piece of seated ab machines in the gym. They’re not your answer and not only could you be wasting your time, but you could also be opening the door to injury.

I go into a lot of detail on why these exercises are completely worthless in my article entitled “The Top 5 Machines To Avoid In A Health Club.” Refer to that article for more information.

If you’re looking for a great abdominal routine you can do in the comfort of your own home, without a single piece of ab gadgetry, check out my DVD “How To Get A Flat Stomach In 30 Days.”

I created this program after years of trial and error with finding the most effective ab exercises. There are four weeks of workouts all lead by myself as your personal trainer. You’ll learn not only how to do these amazingly effective exercises but also how to do them correctly.

At the end of the day you can have the flat stomach you’ve always desired with as little as 15 minutes of ab work a day. The secret is combining effective ab movements that integrate the deep core muscles along with resistance training, cardio, and a clean diet.

There are no short-cuts as you’ll definitely have to work at it, but you can save yourself a lot of time and frustration by simply learning how to do the best exercises.

Shane Doll is a certified Charleston personal trainer, fat loss expert, speaker, and founder of Shaping Concepts Personal Training Studios. He specializes in helping people achieve a body transformation with burst training exercise and whole food nutrition. You can receive a FREE no-obligations trial of his Charleston personal fitness programs and start experiencing the Shaping Concepts difference today.

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Category: Fitness Training.