When most people think six pack abs, the best exercise for obliques, and losing belly fat, they think about long boring cardio workouts and hundreds of crunches. Fortunately, that isn't what it takes to get a beach body belly and sexy oblique muscles.
In fact, there are many exercises better and safer than crunches. After all, crunches involve spinal flexion (rounding forward), and research shows spinal flexion can lead to herniated discs.
This information has lead me to a long and exhaustive search for safe and effective ab training.
Last week I stumbled onto a new study supporting my "ab crunch ban" and my preference for exercises such as the Side Plank. In this study, researchers examined six common ab exercises performed by 120 subjects to see how hard the muscles were working.
J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2008 Oct;38(10):596-605.Related Articles Changes in deep abdominal muscle thickness during common trunk-strengthening exercises using ultrasound imaging.
When compared to other common ab exercises, the Side Plank and the classic Abdominal Crunch exercises both resulted in the greatest change in muscle thickness for the Transverse Abdominis and Internal Oblique muscles, meaning they were contracting the muscle more than the other exercises.
However, because the Side Plank does not involve spinal flexion and because it builds abdominal endurance (previously found to be associated with less low back pain), the Side Plank exercise wins this head to head battle hands down and is the best exercise for oblique muscles.
If you are looking for a new move to add to your total body fat burning workout, do a 15 second Side Plank hold per side if you are a beginner. For advanced core strength, hold for 45 seconds per side.
Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, MS
Click Here for the Bodyweight Exercise Ab Workout