The Best Ab Exercise

Research Results: The Best Ab Exercise Is…

A couple of weeks ago a friend and I applied to be on The Amazing Race Canada. The show gets thousands of applicants each year so we wanted to stand out using a “Rocky” theme (you can watch our application video here).

While we were preparing our video we watched lots of Rocky training montages (like the fantastic one below) and were reminded of Rocky’s amazing abs! He is a specimen!

We’re not all going to have Rocky’s abs, but there are certain exercises that are a LOT more effective than others when it comes to core conditioning.

I Want A Flat Stomach!

Before we get into the exercises I want to address some common mistakes that will kill your chances of ever getting a flat stomach (even if you do the #1 best ab exercise I’m going to show you below).

1. Using Momentum

The first big mistake that far too many people make is using momentum to help carry them through their abdominal exercises. Swinging the torso or legs creates momentum and makes many exercises seem much easier.

hanging leg raise

A hanging leg raise is notorious for “swingers”…that is, people who swing their legs to make it feel easier!

Unfortunately, not only are you taking the focus off the abs, where it should be, but you’re also setting yourself up for a serious injury as well. It’s a lose-lose scenario.

2. Doing 1,000 Crunches

If you have five different variations of sit-ups in your ab workout routine then you are definitely guilty of this one. It’s vital that you engage the abs from a number of different angles using a variety of movement patterns.


Doing more crunches is NOT the path to more impressive abs!

Try to focus on movements that don’t involve a crunch at all…like the #1 best ab exercise that I’ll show you below! (is the suspense unbearable yet?)

Does this mean crunches are completely off-limits? Not necessarily. Properly performed crunches can still be beneficial for targeting the upper abs, but you should mix it up. This will not only keep your muscles responding to the increased variety, but also keep you more interested in the workouts as well.

3. Beginning Your Workout With Abs Exercises

Some people hit the gym and jump right into their ab workout. This is not recommended for a few different reasons. First, you will fatigue your core too early.

A fatigued core will not be able to act as a good stabilizer when you move onto more intense exercises such as squats, lunges, push-ups, and others. Again, injury alert!

Second, you’re wasting time. You can get an ab workout during more demanding exercises (again, think of a push-up as an example) that most people don’t even consider an “ab exercise”. A well-planned workout will challenge your ab muscles throughout, so you don’t need to spend much time isolating your stomach at all. Save time, get results.

4. Doing Ab Exercises Daily

abs every day

Your abs cannot handle being worked every single day. Give them a break!

Some people live by the “more is better” mindset when it comes to getting a flat stomach – This is very counterproductive.

The abs are just like any other muscle group. You need to bring them to a point of fatigue and then back off so that they can rest and recover before you engage them again. If you’re doing ab workouts dailyStop.

5. Neglecting Your Diet

I’ve written about this at length already. Most of the work required for a lean body is done in the kitchen. Don’t kid yourself – the best ab workout in the world isn’t going to give you results if you snack on cookies and pound back PB & J sandwiches on a regular basis. Sort out your diet and then your workouts will start producing results.

So What Is The Best Ab Exercise?

Many research studies have tested abdominal exercises using electromyography (EMG) technology to see which ones are most effective.

EMG Machine

EMG technology can show how much a muscle is engaged during a particular exercise.

An EMG machine detects the strength of muscle contractions by measuring electrical activity taking place in the muscles as they work. A more challenging exercise tends to produce a stronger muscle contraction, therefore it can be concluded that it is “better” or “worse” versus other similar exercises.

Watch this video to find out which ab exercise scored the highest on the EMG test.

As I mention in the video, this does not mean that all of your core training needs to be done with the most challenging exercise. Different exercises create more or less work in different parts of your core so using a variety of exercises is important.