► Best abdominal exercises
An American Council on Exercise (ACE) study used electromyography equipment to measure electrical activity generated as muscles work to measure the energy created in specific abdominal muscles (mainly the retus abdominus muscles—the six-pact muscles). Study participates performed 13 types of abs workouts, some with equipment, some without. The traditional crunch-style sit-up was used as a base line for the ratings.
- The top-rated exercise was a bicycle exercise where you lie on the floor on you back, knees raised, and then move your legs as if riding a bicycle. This exercise was 250 percent better than the crunch.
- The second rated exercise was the called the captain's chair. This exercise is done on two parallel bars that permit you to rest your weight on you forearms with the feet off the floor. The knees are then drawn up the chest and lowered. This exercise was 212 percent better than the crunch.
- The third rated exercise is sit-ups done while lying back on a large squishy exercise ball. This exercise was 39 percent better than the crunch.
Exercises using equipment were basically ineffective. For example, the Body by Jake Ab Roller was only 5 percent better than the crunch. The AB Rocker was 21 percent worse than the crunch.
► Muscles involved
Three areas of muscles make up the abdominal region:
- Rectus Abdomininis. This is the most visible muscle of the abdomen. It is often referred to as the main core of the "abs" and consists of the muscles that form the "six pack."
- Enternal Obliques. These muscles are located on each side of the torso.
- Intercostals. These muscle and tendon fibers run from the upper pectoral muscles to the lower latissimus dorsi.
Work all three areas to develop you midsection. On all ab exercises, focus tension on the abs without cheating by using body momentum to bounce into the movements. Always squeeze the abs for a few seconds during the tension element of an exercise before releasing the tension.
No ab exercise will remove the layer of fat over the abdomen. This must be removed using diet and calorie-burning aerobic exercises. Without losing this fat, ab exercises may make your abdomen look larges since the stronger muscle wall may push the fat outward. The stomach muscles become visible at 10 percent body fat and pronounced at 6 percent body fat, but most men cannot maintain 6 percent body fat for very long. Attaining a "six-pack" abdomen requires hard work plus the proper genetic make-up. Without the genes, you may still improve your appearance but six-packs are out.
► Secrets to flat belly
Anterior pelvic tilt is a posture in which your upper pelvis tilts forward, pushing your abs outward. This raises your risk of lower-back pain. A combination of imbalanced training, such as bending but not extending, and neglecting certain muscle groups often cause the condition.
To shift the pelvis back and flatten your belly, focus on your core with rotation exercises, such as medicine ball twists. Strengthen your hip flexors with a kneeling hip flexor stretch so the flexors will have the strength to move your hips toward your abdomen. Strengthen your hamstring and glutes with hip raises so they can help pull your pelvis back to its natural position.