Worst Abdominal Exercises

In American society, flat abs equal beauty and appeal. That is why Americans spend hundreds of dollars and thousands of hours trying to obtain the perfect, six-pack abs, only to find that it's not working.

The reason it is not working is simple: Six-pack abs involve a well-developed muscle made visible by the lack of body fat. In other words, perfect abs are created when you have toned muscles and no fat. They are a combination of diet and exercise.


A good abdominal workout is one that is both effective and safe. Most abdominal exercises focus on external muscles and neglect the inner core muscles, which are essential to a good abdominal workout. They do not provide the range of motion with reasonable resistance that is necessary to work both the central and side muscles. In addition, most common exercises put such pressure on the lower back that the risks outweigh any benefits.

The five least effective -- and possibly most damaging -- abdominal exercises are:

The traditional crunch (sit-up) -- The person lies flat on his back with knees bent, then he sits up to touch his knees. Not only is this exercise ineffective in working the abdominal muscles, but it also puts a great deal of strain on the neck and spine.

The straight-leg sit-up -- This is a variation of the basic sit-up in which the person's legs are straight instead of bent; this often involves another person holding the feet stabilized. This exercise puts pressure on the lower spine.


The Roman chair sit-up -- This variation begins with the person in a sitting position, with legs flat on the floor; he then lowers his back from a 90-degree angle to about a 120-degree angle. This exercise causes a compression of the spine that can be dangerous. In addition, the hips do most of the work, so the abs are not necessarily being worked at all.

Side bend with weights -- The person stands with arms outstretched (holding weights) and bends to one side and then the other. While the side bend can be useful in working the abdominal muscles, the use of weights actually negates the resistance by creating momentum when the person moves from side to side. Not only that, but because this exercise does not diminish fat at all, it can actually increase the size of the waist by creating a layer of muscle under the fat.

Bent-over twist -- The person bends forward at the waist at a 90-degree angle and then twists from one side to the other. The spine and ligaments do most of the work in this exercise, so excessive use of this exercise can put unnecessary strain on both those parts.

In addition to these five exercises, a number of abdominal machines are ineffective and potentially dangerous. The electronic ab stimulator does not really do anything. The ab rocker is about 80 percent less effective than the traditional crunch done properly. {relatedarticles}The ab wheel and TorsoTrack machines can be useful in maintaining great abs for someone who has the upper body strength required to use the machine. If you do not have the upper body strength already, then the ab wheel basically just works the arm and shoulder muscles. The Nautilus machine is effective but can be dangerous if not used properly.

The bottom line for great abs is that they take time, but you can help yourself by making sure the exercises you are doing actually target the inner core muscles without damaging the lower back.