Ab Exercises Ranked (BEST TO WORST!)


There are many different ab exercises, but which are the best of the best and which exercises for abs should you avoid? In this video, I’m breaking down fifteen 6 pack ab exercises to come up with the ones you should focus your effort on and the ones that you are likely better off avoiding all together.

The key to this selection of movements is that they are all popular abs exercises for men or slight variations of them.

Likely, you are doing or have done many of these at some point in your ab training. The key is determining whether or not you have wasted some time on exercises that aren’t giving you the type of results you are looking for.

We start at the bottom of the ranking chart with the worst ab exercises for men and women

Here we have the basic plank, russian twists, dumbbell side bend, lying leg raises and the bicycle crunch. You may be surprised at the inclusion of some of these movements but there is a reason why each of them are mentioned at the bottom. The criteria for selecting and ranking these exercises for abs in this way is based on the need for equipment, ability of the exercise to scale to all ability levels, danger of the movement, or the simple ineffectiveness of the choice considering that there are much better alternatives.

When it comes to the Russian Twist, I actually like the exercise. The problem is, it is probably the most commonly misperformed exercise in the gym for abs. Too often, people do not rotate at all on the exercise and instead tap their hands side to side. This turns this move into nothing more than an isometric with very little benefit to your six pack.

Likewise, the bicycle crunch is regarded as not only one of the most popular ab exercises but one that is most capable of giving you six pack abs if you do it. The problem once again is, due to this high praise many many people do it. However, most do it incorrectly. The lack of rotation at the shoulders is evident and it turns what should be a good move into one that is commonly done wrong.

The obvious choices for the bottom of the rankings are the dumbbell side bend and the lying leg raise. Both of these add unnecessary stress to the low back by either overworking the quadratus lumborum or the hip flexors. The goal of any best ab exercise is to be sure it’s actually working the abs primarily. Neither of these do that.

The basic plank is one of my least favorite exercises for abs since it is too easy and remedial for almost all doing it. You need to find a version of the movement that is challenging enough to knock you out of being able to do it in 90 seconds or less.

Moving up the chart from the worst to the best ab exercises, we have the better category. Here we have the hanging leg raise and the ab wheel rollout. These are actually good movements as well but they have major limitations that renders them less globally successful in helping everyone that does them. For instance, if your grip strength is weaker than your abs then you are likely to have to come down from the bar before your abs fatigue on the hanging leg raise.

Up the scale even further we have the better still category. Here you find the hanging knee raise, hanging corkscrew and the single sided slow carry. The hanging knee raise is an improvement on the hanging leg raise since it minimizes the tendency of the hip flexors to become too dominant in the movement.

The single sided slow carry is an amazing way to build up your lateral pillar strength of your core and abs. You will see that in order to keep your shoulders level you have to contract the opposite side oblique hard. The extended time under tension by walking slow is going to add an extra demand to your abs.

The almost best category gives us some ab exercises that are amazing. The swiper works the lower abs while ensuring that you lift your pelvis instead of your legs. The gymnast tuck is a home option that also hits the lower abs hard. The levitation crunch works the upper abs with a minimal ab exercise that anyone can do, and the side bridge twist involves rotation as well.

The best ab exercise however is the sliding tuck. This bodyweight ab exercise can be done with just some socks on a slick floor. The key is to not pull with the hip flexors but rather to hinge the pelvis into posterior tilt with the strength of the abs. Add a slight turn at the bottom and even pull in the knees if you desire more lower ab exercises.

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