The 5 Best Ab Exercises to Include in Your Ab Workouts!

Here are the 5 best ab exercises to include in your ab workouts as well as how to perform them correctly in order to get the best results!

We will also explain why each of these stomach exercises qualifies as one of the best abdominal exercises to include in your ab workouts and what you need to do in conjunction with your ab workouts in order to improve the definition around your midsection so you can get a flat stomach and perhaps even 6 pack abs!

Before we look at each of the best ab exercises, we will examine a few interesting facts about training the abdominal muscles in your ab workouts.

Multiple Muscles
Firstly, there are several muscles that make up the abdominal muscle group. They are:

Best Ab Exercises
  • Rectus abdominis
  • Transversus abdominis
  • Internal rotators
  • External rotators
  • In order to get a complete abdominal workout, you must exercise each of these muscles by using the best ab exercises.

    Origin / Insertion / Function of Rectus Abdominis
    The rectus abdominis is a very interesting muscle when you examine its origin, insertion and function/ action. The origin of a muscle is defined as the more fixed end of the muscle or the end of a muscle that is closer to the mid-line of the body. The insertion of a muscle, on the other hand, is defined as the more moveable end or the end of a muscle that is further away from the mid-line of the body. The function/ action of a muscle is defined as being when the insertion contracts towards the origin. This is known as a concentric contraction (when the muscle is shortens).

    Now, in the case of rectus abdominis, both end of the muscle can be the more fixed end or more moveable end depending on the abdominal exercise being performed. Furthermore, both ends are located in the mid-line of the body. These features, which are shared with the erector spinae muscles of the back, are quite unique when it comes to muscles in the human body.

    Myths and Facts About Ab Workouts
    The most common myth surrounding ab workouts and the best ab exercises is this: 'Performing stomach exercises will burrn the fat that overlies your stomach!' This is simply not true. Whilst, performing ab workouts may burn up a few extra calories, they do very little when it comes to helping you burn the fat that overlies your stomach, i.e. you cannot 'spot reduce'.

    Mobilising and utilising fat as a fuel source is actually quite a complex process involving several steps. It is certainly not a case of pulling the fat out of the fat stores and putting it into the abdominal muscles to be burnt off. If only it was that simple! Nevertheless, by following a suitable nutritional plan that uses the guidelines for good nutrition, a good exercise program that uses both cardio and resistance exercise and a range of weight-loss supplements, you are sure to burn off the fat that overlies your stomach so you can display a mid-section to be proud of!

    Here Are The 5 Best Ab Exercises:

    Swiss Ball Crunches
    This is easily one of the best ab exercises for several reasons. Firstly, when you lie on an unstable surface your body must use a greater number of muscle fibres in order to stabilise your body as you perform the movement. By using more muscle fibres when you perform the exercise means that there is a greater degree of muscle stimulation and stimulating more fibres is definitely a good thing.

    Best Ab Exercises

    Also, the exercise itself provides you with a greater range of motion compared to the standard crunch exercise. This is because you have the ability to lie back on the ball and arch your back slightly. A greater range of motion also means a greater number of muscle fibres may be stimulated.

    Having the ability to lie back on the ball and arch your back also means you can stretch the muscles against resistance. This is a little-known secret to getting the most benefit from your resistance exercises. Stretching your muscles against resistance breaks the muscles down more and stimulates more muscle growth, which should be one of your goals in your ab workouts even if you want to lose weight. Keep in mind that stimulating muscle growth is very different to actually 'allowing' your muscles to grow.

    Once you can do this exercise quite comfortably for 20 repetitions or more, it is time to start using a weight plate as well for added resistance. Simply hold the weight plate in both hands behind your head and perform your crunches in the same manner. Remember not to use your arms to assist with the lift. Your arms are simply there to hold the weight plate behind your head.

    Since you are crunching your torso towards your pelvis in this movement, it tends to put a greater emphasis on the 'upper abs'. Even though it is impossible to isolate 'upper' and 'lower abs', I believe you can definitely emphasise one end depending on the movement being performed. The reason why I believe this is simply because during my ab workouts if I include 'Hanging Leg Raises' I can definitely feel it in my lower abs the next day compared to those abs workouts where I don't include it.

    If you have trouble performing this movement, simply perform standard crunches on a bench or on the ground instead. Nevertheless, swiss ball crunches are definitely one of the best ab exercises.

    Hanging Leg Raises
    This is one of the best ab exercises for emphasising the lower abs. It is best to perform it on the 'hip flexor/ chin/ dip machine'. If you can, hang from the chin-up handles and perform this exercise or alternatively, rest your forearms on the pads at the side. Either way, you need to face outwards, away from the machine and have to have your legs hanging with your feet off the floor.

    When you perform this movement you want to lift your legs (with knees slightly bent) upwards from a vertical position to a position slightly past horizontal. The purpose of this movement is to flex your spine upwards, curling your torso, not to simply flex at the hip joint. If you have trouble performing this movement try bending your knees and doing it, otherwise try performing reverse crunches instead.

    One of the major benefits of performing hanging leg raises in your ab workouts is the fact that you can put additional loading on your abdominal muscles during the eccentric phase (lowering phase) of the movement. This results in a significant increase in training intensity and therefore, results!

    The best way to do this is once you start fatiguing towards the end of the set and you are getting close to momentary muscular failure, bend your legs more so you shorten the lever. By doing so, the movement wil become slightly easier. Then, when you reach the top position of the movement straighten your legs again and lower them down. By doing this for a few reps in this manner towards the end of your sets, your abs will feel like they're on fire! This really is one of the best ab exercises to perform!

    'Balancing' Crunches
    This movement involves lying on the floor or on a bench with your legs out straight. This is the starting position. From here, slowly crunch your upper body and lift your torso off the floor. At the same time, lift your feet off the floor, bend your knees and bring your knees towards your torso. The finishing position should one where you are balanced, sitting in an upright position with your legs and torso off the floor. Then, slowly reverse the movement and return to the starting position.

    This exercise requires an enormous amount of strength, co-ordination, balance and stabilisation. It works all of the abdominal muscles, particularly the transversus abdominis, which is the most important abdominal muscle from a functional point of view. This means it provides the most benefit when you perform everyday activities or sport and is one of the best ab exercises to include in your ab workouts.

    'V' Crunches
    This is one of the best ab exercises and involves lying on the floor with your arms and legs straight out above you at a 45 degree angle away from each other. Then, slowly bring your arms and legs together in the middle at the same time. Keep your head off the floor throughout the performance of this exercise. Then, slowly return your arms and legs back to starting position before commencing the subsequent reps.

    This is a great exercise for the rectus abdominis muscle and can give your a powerful muscle contraction because both ends of the muscle are being contracted at the same time.

    Wood Chops / Reverse Wood Chops
    This exercise puts greater emphasis on the internal and external obliques, which are the abdominal muscles at the sides of your torso. It also requires a great deal of stabilisation of the torso, which means your transversus abdominis will also be working. In order to perform these two movements you will need an adjustable cable. They involve you holding onto a cable with both hands and twisting your body. When you pull the cable across your body from a high position to a low position, the exercise is called, 'Wood Chops'. When you pull the cable from a low position across your body to a high position, the exercise is called 'Reverse Wood Chops'

    It is important that when you perform these movements that you focus on using your torso muscles to twist your body rather than using your arms.

    So there you have it! The 5 best ab exercises to include in your ab workouts. Here are several other abdominal exercise that are deserved of 'honourable mentions'. These include: cable crunches, reverse crunches and 'jack knives', just to name a few.

    For more detailed information on how to perform these abdominal exercises and more, get a copy of The New Abs Diet: The 6-Week Plan to Flatten Your Stomach and Keep You Lean for Life.

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