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The 13 Best Abs Exercises

Fitness News Flash

-- By Nicole Nichols, Fitness Instructor
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We often get questions about the best abs exercises—after all, who doesn't want to tone their tummy in the least amount of time? There are countless exercises that target the abs, including fitness DVDs (Does "8 Minute Abs" ring a bell?) and even pricey machines that you often see on infomercials. But do you need a video or specialized piece of equipment to get the abs of your dreams?

A study conducted at San Diego State University's Biomechanics Lab (and published by ACE, the American Council on Exercise) says no. Their research revealed that the best exercises for your abs don't require any gizmos, and are surprisingly easy to fit into your day.

Researchers looked at the effectiveness of 13 common abdominal exercises—everything from crunches to the "Ab Roller"  machine. Using EMG (electromyography), researchers measured the muscle activity of the participants to determine which exercises best targeted the abs and the obliques, while also limiting the activity of the hips and thighs (because when an abdominal exercise is executed poorly, the hips and thighs engage to "help out" the abs).

Overall, researchers said that all of these exercises are "relatively effective" ways to train the abs—but some are more effective than others.
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About The Author

Nicole Nichols Nicole Nichols
Nicole was named "America's Top Personal Trainer to Watch" in 2011. A certified personal trainer and fitness instructor with a bachelor's degree in health education, she loves living a healthy and fit lifestyle and helping others do the same. Her DVDs "Total Body Sculpting" and "28 Day Boot Camp" (a best seller) are available online and in stores nationwide. Read Nicole's full bio and blog posts.

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Member Comments

  • I am having trouble around the waist as well I can lose hips easily but not the "waist buldge". - 6/23/2014 9:39:15 AM
  • DBESMAN
    I need to get rid of the ' spare tyre ' around my waist. I've tried almost everything. Nothing seems to work HELP !!!!!!!!




















    - 3/26/2014 10:19:18 PM
  • I'm surprised that planks rate so low! When I do traditional ab exercises (like the #1 rated exercise) my abs never feel worked out (none of that "good" soreness the next day) but my hip flexors sure do! The most workout I feel that my abs have gotten is when they need to help me stabilized myself for other exercises, like tricep presses (believe it or not) or standing (slightly leaning back) rows. Best yet is some of the belly dance moves that I've learned, done drill-style (100 chest lifts - working the upper abs, 100 omi - working lower abs, lower back, and obliques, camels - working lower back and lower abs, they are also really awesome for a sore lower back!). - 2/21/2014 11:23:11 AM
  • I love working with the ball, so much easier on my back then the floor - 8/27/2013 6:53:14 AM
  • My trainer agrees with those comments. In fact he recommended that I don't put them in my exercise routine. - 7/17/2013 9:29:01 PM
  • Most physical therapists are very against crunches! Too much strain on the back for the majority of people. A P.T. who specializes in pelvic disorders (from a broken pelvic bone, which is what I had last year, to incontinence, what they treat the most), would tell you that sit ups are the worst thing for your pelvic floor muscles. Mine told me doing a push up is encouraging your female organs and your bladder to SHOOT right out of you! Do planks and bridges instead! I learned a lot from her and my general P.T. about NEVER EVER doing sit ups! - 7/17/2013 12:52:02 PM
  • I like working my abs on the stability ball....but I have some inner ear issues and doing the ball makes me really dizzy, even nauseous. Weird but true. - 7/17/2013 6:27:09 AM
  • Thanks - 7/16/2013 2:11:37 PM
  • Thanks. Loved it. - 7/3/2013 8:16:09 AM
  • ab rocker machine? are you guys nuts? - 1/21/2013 8:40:18 PM
  • CHRISTINASP
    It's confusing that the title says 13 best exercises while the exercises listed are from best to worse.
    Also, too bad that of the first three, you do need materials for two of them, and of the first five, you need materials for three of the exercises, also. - 12/25/2012 5:46:09 AM
  • The instructions do not match the video. RIGHT ELBOW needs to touch RIGHT KNEE and LEFT ELBOW to LEFT KNEE....sure seems like model is doing the opposite elbow to knee! - 10/22/2012 10:56:40 AM
  • The title of this article doesn't match up with the content. How can something that experts say is 'relatively effective' make it into the list of "13 Best Abs Exercise?" - 9/27/2012 12:48:32 PM
  • I'd love to save this article, but I am finding it really hard to see a save to favorites button? I'd really like to refer back to these great ab exercises!
    - 7/28/2012 8:52:44 AM
  • MZNEWYEAR4LF
    even though I'm new to this it's been very helpful to me and my kids - 7/22/2012 10:30:59 PM
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