What is the best lower abdominal exercise? Good question as there are a few to choose from, but only one that really targets these toughest to reach abs.
And they can be hard to isolate and work effectively.
Go to any gym and you’ll see all sorts of weird and wonderful contraptions that people strap themselves into.
You’ll see people hanging from bars and perched on benches…
But with all things being equal, there’s only one exercise that truly isolates the lower abdominal and forces them to do all the work…the only exercise that you really need bother with.
The Best Lower Abdominal Exercise – First Understand the Movement
The key to an effective lower ab workout — to any workout — is to appreciate the role of the muscle and its working range of motion.
Your abdominal muscles are made up of several muscles, but the one most people are concerned with is the rectus abdominus – more commonly known as a “6-pack”.
It’s the big slab of muscle that runs from the sternum (chest) to the pelvis (hips).
It’s one muscle, not six. The striations that give the coveted 6-pack appearence are caused by the connective tissues that criss-cross the muscle, attaching it to the skeleton.
Your abs work opposite your lower back muscles as a girdle, supporting your upper body.
Many lower back problems are actually caused by weak abs, which force your back muscles to take the strain…literally!
The rectus abdominus brings your sternum towards your pelvis and vice-versa.
The former movement targets your upper abs, the latter your lower abs.
This provides a clue as to the type of exercise you should choose to work your lower abs.
The Best Lower Abdominal Exercise – So What are the Contenders…?
First off – do not expect to burn body fat by doing ab exercises! The best lower abdominal exercise in the whole wide world will not lead to any significant fat loss.
Ab exercises are great for strengthening, toning and conditioning your mid-section, but only aerobic exercise burns significant amounts of body fat.
However, resistance training will build lean tissue mass, which increases your metabolism, resulting in more calories being burned at rest over the course of the day.
Ok, back to the best lower abdominal exercise.
People often cite the leg raise as the best lower abdominal exercise.
Granted, this is a great exercise but doesn’t isolate the lower abs.
Leg raises are commonly done hanging from a bar.
The legs hang straight down and are kept straight and brought up until they’re parallel to the ground, then slowly lowered.
Forget it! If you’ve got a bad back – or want one – you’re asking for trouble!
This movement is fundamentally flawed, because it engages your whole mid-section, with the powerful ilopsas and psoas muscles (hip flexors) doing most of the work, no matter how hard you flex your abs.
It’s tough, you’ll work hard but your lower abs will only play a supporting role – lots of effort for little result!
Leg raises can be made much more effective by bending the knees and bringing them slowly up towards your chest, then lowering them slowly.
Hanging for the few minutes it takes to do a set will be beyond many people, so you can use a machine called the “Captain’s Chair”, instead…never mind, ask at the gym!
Is this the best lower abdominal exercise? Just about, but not quite.
There’s still a tendency for the hip flexors to take over, and there’s a better way to isolate the lower abs…
The reverse curl, otherwise known as the reverse crunch.
The key to this exercise’s effectiveness is in understanding the role of your lower abs, which is to ‘curl’ your pelvis towards your sternum.
It’s a very small movement, just a few degrees but this exercise allows you to fully concentrate on making your lower abs do all the work!
As you get stronger, try two then three sets, working up to three sets of 20 reps with a 30 second rest in between.
Three sets should take you no more than 2-3 minutes.
Try working up to doing them 6-7 days a week.
The Best Lower Abdominal Exercise – The Bottom Line…
If you want flat, toned, strong lower abs give the reverse curl a try. A few weeks and you should start to see a difference.
Combine it with crunches for your upper abs and you’ll get a balanced ab workout that will only take a few minutes every other day or so.
However, you’ll never see those washboard abs under a couple of inches of fat so don’t neglect the aerobics and a healthy, balanced diet!
If you’ve a few pounds to lose and want a personalized exercise program designed around your goals and lifestyle, then you may want to check out eDiets and let Oprah’s trainer comes to you – Bob Greene’s Total Body Makeover.