Day 293 (R, 111020) — More about Ab Exercises

Figuring Out What to Do About Ab Training.  In light of yesterday’s revelation that I’ve been doing crunches rather than sit-ups for my “Sit-up” Challenge, I mined the ‘net a bit and come up with some information which may help me in my quest to do the right thing, ab-wise: a study done American Council on Exercise by the Biomechanics Lab at San Diego State University in 2001.

Using EMG equipment, researchers monitored [muscle activity in] the upper and lower rectus abdominus and the external obliques.  Researchers also measured activity in the rectus femoris to indicate activity in the hip flexors [to make sure the exercise was not] done incorrectly or requires the body to recruit muscles other than the abdominals and obliques.

They broke down the results for thirteen exercises into two categories: ACTIVITY IN RECTUS ABDOMINUS and ACTIVITY IN THE OBLIQUES.  Combining their two tables, resorting by the new total score, and removing the commercial products tested, here’s the upshot of the study:

Rank Exercise Total Activity
1 Bicycle Maneuver 538
2 Captain’s Chair 522
3 Reverse Crunch 349
4 Vertical Leg Crunch 345
5 Hover (aka Plank) 330
6 Exercise Ball 286
8 Long Arm Crunch 237
9 Crunch with Heel Push 233
11 Traditional Crunch 200
12 Exercise Tubing Pull 169

My only complaint about the study is that they did not include a standard sit-up as one of the exercises tested.  It would have been nice to see how it compared.

Anyway . . . since I don’t have a Captain’s Chair, I will shift my ab workouts to two of the other top exercises — the Bicycle Maneuver and the Crunch on an Exercise Ball* (specifically, Tim’s version: the Myotatic Crunch) — plus the Cat Vomit Exercise.**

  1. Bicycle Maneuver. 1. Lie flat on the floor with your lower back pressed to the ground, hands beside your head. 2. Bring knees up to 45 degrees and slowly go through a bicycle pedal motion: left elbow to right knee, right elbow to left knee. Relax and breathe evenly.
  2. The Myotatic Crunch. 1. Stretch your arms overhead as high as possible, behind or next to your ears for the entire exercise. 2. Lower under control for 4 seconds until your fingers touch the floor, attempting to extend your hands further away from the ball. 3. Pause for 2 seconds at maximum elongation. 4. Rise under control and pause in the upper, fully contracted position for 2 seconds. The arms should not pass perpendicular with the ground. 5. Repeat for 10 reps.
  3. The Cat Vomit Exercise. 1. Get on all fours and look down. 2. Forcefully exhale from your mouth until all air is fully expelled, contracting your abs from this full, forceful exhale (necessary to contract the transverse abdominals) using gravity for resistance. 3. Hold your breath and pull your belly button upward toward your spine as hard as you can for 8–12 seconds. 4. Inhale fully through the nose. 5. Take one breath cycle of rest (exhale slowly out the mouth, inhale slowly through the nose), repeat for 10 reps.

If I find I don’t like (or can’t do) any of these exercises, I’ll substitute a different one and try again.

Now all I have to do is decide if I want to finish the 200 sit-ups crunch challenge or do I ditch it right now for the more effective exercises?

On the downside, I hate to leave the challenge unfinished, especially since it will only take a few more weeks to complete.  Plus, the crunches are helping my abs so these exercises are still a net positive.

On the upside, if I make the switch, I’ll be getting a better workout and it won’t be hard to rework my table to include a line for each ab exercise, removing the sit-ups row.

What to do what to do . . . . . . . .


Plan for Week 42.

Day Fast? SCD? Run/Exer?
Sunday No Yes No
Monday Yes Yes Yes
Tuesday Yes Yes No
Wednesday Yes Yes Yes
Thursday Yes Yes No
Friday Yes Yes Yes
Saturday No No Yes
Red = a negative deviation | Green = a positive deviation | Blue = a note


* “Although crunches on an exercise ball generated less activity in the obliques and rectus abdominus than the top two exercises, the exercise also generated significantly less activity in the rectus femoris — making it, arguably, the best overall exercise of the lot.”
** The study did not measure the Cat Vomit Exercise, so I don’t know where it would have landed in the list.  Imma do it anyway.

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