5 Ab Workouts Ranked From Worst to Best: Personal Trainer Tips

  • Dead bugs are one of the best ab workouts, according to personal trainer Brittany Noelle.
  • Noelle said many people perform ab exercises incorrectly, which can cause injury.
  • She said sit-ups are one of the worst ab exercises because most people do them wrong.

Ab exercises are convenient because you can do most of them anywhere, no gym or equipment needed. But people tend to do them improperly, or choose workouts that are generally less effective, according to personal trainer, Brittany Noelle.

Noelle told Insider that performing ab exercises incorrectly can put unnecessary strain on other parts of your body, which can eventually cause injury.

Noelle said sit-ups are one of the most injury-prone and inefficient workouts you can do to build strong abdominal muscles. She said workouts like side planks and dead bugs are some of the best.

5. Sit-ups can cause injury without proper form

Noelle said she doesn’t recommend sit-ups for ab strength, because most people who do the workout don’t use proper form. She said the number one mistake she sees clients make is over-engaging their hip flexors instead of their abs when performing the motion. Noelle said this movement can tighten the hips and lead to back pain.

Sit-ups can also put strain on the spine and neck, Noelle said, and put unwanted stress on different parts of the body, rather than engaging the abdominal muscles.

To perform a sit-up correctly, Noelle said to first secure your feet under something that can support your weight and place your hands in front of your chest. She said to then tuck your ribs towards your belly button in a crunching motion and, keeping your upper abs engaged, use your lower abs to raise your back off the ground. Make sure your back is not rounded and sit up as tall as you can before slowly returning to the ground by rolling each vertebrae.

4. Russian twists are easy to perform incorrectly

Noelle said she doesn’t recommend Russian twists because people often bring their backs too far forward with their tailbone directly underneath them, which doesn’t properly engage the core.

Noelle also said that many people twist too much with their arms and neck rather than actually activating their abs.

The personal trainer said to make sure you’re leaned back with your legs up and knees bent. Your back should be straight with your arms out in front of you, she said. Engage your obliques as you twist slightly to the right, return to center, and then slightly to the left.

3. Planks are not as effective after one minute

A plank can be a great exercise, Noelle said, but many people hold a plank for too long. Holding a plank for longer than 1 minute doesn’t make the exercise more effective, Noelle said. In a 2018 article, spine specialist Dr. Stuart McGill agreed, telling The Telegraph that holding a plank for minutes is not useful. He recommended 3 intervals of 10 second planks for the best results.

Noelle also said that the fixed position of a plank doesn’t replicate the day-to-day movements of our core.

She recommends keeping the time you’re holding the plank relatively short and incorporating additional movements, such as tapping each shoulder as you plank or lifting one leg at a time.

2. Side planks can prepare your body for other complex exercises

Noelle ranks the side plank as one of the best ab exercises because it engages the core and extends the hips, which can help with other exercises like deadlifts and squats. Noelle recommends placing one foot in front of the other instead of stacking them for even more hip extension.

She also said while doing the exercise, make sure not to round the shoulders, and keep the back straight to make the exercise most effective.

1. Dead bugs are easy to do correctly and good for back pain

Dead bugs are Noelle’s favorite exercise for core strength because it’s easier to maintain proper form. The exercise involves lying on your back with your arms pointing straight out in front of you and your legs bent at 90 degrees. You then extend your leg and opposite arm behind you and return to the starting position. Repeat with your other leg and arm.

Noelle said lying on your back keeps your spine neutral, which can be very helpful for people with preexisting back issues. However, if you feel pain while lying on your back, she said not to perform the exercise.

You can make the exercise more difficult by holding objects like a foam roller or stability ball in your hands, she said.

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