The Best Abs Crunch Exercise

This has got to be the most popular and asked question, ever. And it’s also one without a real answer, since there are dozens of great abs crunch exercises. The best is a matter of continued debate and opinion, with personal trainers, bodybuilders, fitness experts, nutritionists, yoga instructors and hobbyists all arguing over which abs crunch exercise is the best.

Luckily, they do generally agree on a few things, which is that the best abs crunch exercise is actually a combination of several exercises rolled into one. This killer abs crunch exercise will work out your upper and lower abs (at least, it will work your rectus abdominis from several angles to ensure maximum fiber stimulation along the entire vertical length of the muscle, since isolation is impossible within a single muscle), it will attack your obliques, and promote size and strength of the entire abdominal section.

So here it is, the best abs crunch exercise. Be warned though, it’s not for the faint of heart. If you want all in one, you have to be prepared to put in all your effort.

Lie on your back, and cup your hands behind your head. Lift your head off the ground, but don’t use your hands to pull. They’re just there for support – your abs should be the muscles doing the work. Next, bring your knees up to your chest. OK, that part was easy. Now comes the hard part.

Straighten out your right leg, keeping your foot 10-12 inches off the floor. Your left leg should stay where it is, bent with your knee up to your chest as far as is comfortable. As you straighten your right leg, lift your shoulder blades off the floor, lean forward and twist your upper torso so you touch your right elbow against your left knee. Feel the abs and obliques working?

To complete one repetition, you basically swap legs. Relax your shoulder blades back onto the floor, then draw your right knee back into your chest and simultaneously extend your left leg. As you do so, lift the shoulder blades off the floor and twist your upper torso the other way, touching your left elbow against your right knee as it reaches your chest. You should be doing a kind of bicycle motion with your legs, and twisting your torso left and right alternately whilst doing mini crunches. Perform 10-15 reps, then rest. After 90-120 seconds, do another set, and then another if you can manage it.

After doing a few sets of the best abs crunch exercise, you should be able to feel the effect all over your abs. The twisting works your obliques, the crunches work your upper abs and the bicycle legs work your lower abs, all at once. So there you have it. The best abs crunch exercise.

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The following is what I consider the best abs exercises.  I use the word abs just as a term so that you the end user can find this article easier.  A better term though is core.  Your core is made up of not just your abs (rectus abdominis), but you internal oblique’s, external oblique’s, transverse abdominis, back extensors and one more.  Strengthening your abs in the method given will not only produce great looking abs.  It will also provide better overall functioning of the body and prevent injury on a day to day basis.

The idea or philosophy behind this method is to train the abs or core as you would any other muscle group for strength.  This means you may need to add other forms of resistance.  Your goal will be to complete following exercises and not to exceed 12 repetitions.  Since we are training with heavier resistances you will need a resting day in between.  To maximize the results you may want to do some type of calisthenics in between sets.  We use calisthenics because these exercises include the major muscle groups, work your core and elevate your heart rate fast.

By no means is this an easy workout.  You may actually find that just doing the abs routine will elevate your heart rate enough.  If this is the case skip the calisthenics and stretch or walk during the rest periods.  You should only do this routine 2 or 3 times a week.  Make sure that you cannot do more than 12 repetitions of each exercise.  If you can do more than 12 you need to add weight.  If you cannot do at least eight repetitions you will need to lessen the weight or change to an easier exercise until you can complete eight repetitions.

Before starting the routine you need to be warmed up.  Make sure that you spend 5 to 10 minutes doing cardio and active stretching to warm up your body to prevent injury and spikes in heart rate.  Just as important, when the routine is completed make sure that do some walking and cool down.  Let your heart rate drop.  You then can finish the routine with some static stretching.  This will help prevent blood pooling.

So with that all being said here are the 10 best abs exercises.

The Crunch

The crunch is getting a bad rap lately.  I see so much stuff out there reporting “Get six pack abs without doing crunches” or “Never do a crunch again.”  Well the crunch is still one of the best exercises for training your rectus abdominis, especially focusing on the upper abs.  But we still want to perform this exercise slightly different.  You want to make sure that you go through a full range of motion.  You cannot get full range of motion lying on the ground.  The use of a stability ball or bosu can help you reach the full range.  Note that the higher your lower back is up on the stability ball the more difficult it will be.  When you perform the crunch, focus on pushing your lower back into the stability ball as hard as you can.  Crunch up, hold for a sec and come back down slowly for about 3 seconds.  When using a weight makes sure that the weight is directly over the eyes with the arms straight.  Breathe out as you come up and inhale as you go back down.  I like to focus my eyes on one point on the ceiling to make sure that I am not pulling my chin to my chest.  Holding the weight over the eyes makes the exercise more difficult.  If you really want to make the exercise more difficult, bring your feet together or perform the crunch with one leg straight out.  This should only be done once you have experience performing this exercise.  The crunch may not be the most functional exercise, but it is one that will help you make that six pack visible. 

Hyper Extensions

We need to make sure that we train all areas of our core and this includes our lower back.  Some of the best exercises for strengthening the lower back I am not going to get into.  These include but are not limited to dead lifts, squats and stiff leg dead lifts.  An alternative is the hyper extension.  We are going to be using a hyper extension machine to perform these exercises.  We are going to let our body slowly fall down.  It is OK to allow your back to curve a little.  Then with control we are going to bring our body to the upright position.  Once the height is reached we are slowly going to twist to the left and then the right.  Once we get to the 12 rep max range we need toad weight.  Place a weighted plate or dumbbell behind the head to add resistance.  Start out slow with this exercise.  It may not feel like you are doing much.  But if you not used to the exercise you will definitely feel it the next day.

Side Bends on the Hyperextension Machine

You are going to use the same machine in this exercise as you did for the hyper extensions.  We are going to turn our body sideways in the machine.  We are next going to slowly bend at our side.  Once we are at our full down position we are going to pull our upper body back up using our oblique’s.  When you are able to do 12 repetitions add resistance by holding a weight in hand.  Do both sides.

Hanging Leg Raises

This exercise you can do a few ways.  You can either hang from a pull-up bar or you can use the roman chair.  Start by lifting you legs straight up and holding for a second.  Then slowly go back down.  It should take at least 3 seconds for your legs to reach the starting point.  Your legs should be straight.  If you cannot perform the exercise with your legs straight, start with our knees bent and work your way up to having them straight.  Once you can complete 12 repetitions, hold a dumb bell between your feet for extra resistance.  A close variation of this exercise is the wind shield wiper.  With this exercise you will start out to one side and bring your feet in the air.  Your feet will then cross at eye level or higher and coming down on the other side.  At this point you could either go back the other way or just complete a full circle.  If you chose to the circle method make sure that you go both directions.

Wood Chops

This is another great exercise for strengthening your obliques.  You are going to start out kneeling down.  The next step is to bring your left leg up as if you were going to stand.  So right now you will kneeling on you right knee.  Your upper body will be aligned vertically with your right thigh.  Your will have a 90 degree bend at the hip and then a 90 bend at the knee with the left leg.  You are going to hold a dumbbell or medicine ball with your hands.  You will start by keeping your body upright and twisting at the waist to the right and bringing the weight just above eye level.  Your arms will remain straight throughout the exercise.   You are then twist your upper body to the left keeping your body upright bring the weight just to the left and outside the knee.  Repeat 8 to 12 times and then switch sides.

Reverse Hyper Extensions

With this exercise you will use a stability ball.  Start by placing your stomach on the stability ball.  Go forward on the ball until your hips are at the very top of the ball.  You may need to grab onto something that will not move with your hands to perform this exercise.  The next step is to lift your feet in the air extending the lower back.  Hold at the top and slowly return to the starting position.  Once the exercise has started make sure that your feet do not touch the ground.  If more resistance is needed, add ankle weights.  This exercise along with regular hyper extensions, I recommend starting slow and light.  As I said before, it may feel like you are doing much, but you will definitely feel the next day.

Reverse Crunch on the Decline Bench

Find a decline bench and adjust so you will have around a 30% decline.  You are going to lie on your back with your head close to where you would lock your feet into if you were doing a decline bench.  With yours grab hold of where you usually lock your feet.  At this point you are going to bring your feet straight out so legs will be parallel with the floor not the bench.  During this exercise it is critical that your lower back does not arch and that you are always pressing it into the bench when your legs are fully extended and parallel with the floor.  Pull your knees into your chest and pull you lower back off the bench.  If more weight is needed place a dumbbell between your feet.  A simple variation would be to bring your knees first to the side and up and over the other and then back down.  Make sure that you go in both directions.

Weighted Crunch with the Cable Crossover

This exercise is performed easiest when you use the rope connection on the cable crossover machine.  Set the height of the rope so that it can be grabbed while kneeling.  Pull the rope down with both hands so that the hands rest on your upper chest.  Your head will be between your rope.  You also want to position yourself slightly ahead of the pulley so the pulley will try to pull you back.  This forces your abs to stay contracted through the entire exercise.  From here we want to crunch down.  This means spinal flexion, not bending at the hip.  When we bend at the hip we are training our hip flexors and putting the emphasis on the abs.  Find a weight that you can complete 8 to 12 repetitions.

The last two exercises we are going to use time instead of repetitions.  Both exercises are great functional exercises to improve your core strength.  Our Goal for the next two exercises is to complete 1 minute sets.  Once this is completed we just ad variations to make the exercise more difficult.

Plank

The plank is almost like the starting point of a pushup position.  The main difference is that you will be on your elbows instead of your hands.  When you are on your elbows you want a straight line up from your elbow to your shoulder.   This should be perpendicular to the floor.  Your hips are going to be slightly higher than a push-up.  At this point try pushing you stomach outward and hold this position.  Make sure you breathe while performing this exercise.  Hold for a minute.  Once a minute is reached try variations as in holding one leg or arm up.  Try holding one arm and the opposite leg in the air.  A weighted vest will also make the exercise more difficult.  Add a stability ball.  Place your toes on the stability ball and elbows on a bench.  This is another great variation.

Crab

Not only will this exercise strengthen your lower back it will also help you gain flexibility.  You are going to start out on your lying stomach.  Next bend your knees and so your heels go towards your butt.  Reach back with your arms and grab your ankles.  From here you want to try to arch your back as much as possible while pulling with your arms and hip flexors.  Try to straighten your legs even though it will not be possible.  You want to get your chest off the ground as much as possible so only your stomach will be touching.  Keep your knees relatively close together.  Make sure that to breathe while performing this exercise.  Do this for 1 minute.  No extra resistance is needed.