When it comes to the worst ab exercises, there are so many that you should absolutely avoid. The sad part is that these worst abdominal exercises are the often the very same moves that you see in popular workout programs and on TV infomercials.
Now, before I reveal the 10 worst ab exercises that waste your time and kill your spine, let me quickly tell you 2 big reasons why you should avoid these 10 “old school” exercises.
Reason #1: Forget About Burning Fat…Even If You “Feel the Burn”
If your goal is to lose belly fat, isolated ab exercises like crunches and sit-ups are simply too small a movement to elicit any metabolic fat burning effect. Don’t let that “ab muscle burn” after doing 100 sit-ups fool you. You’re doing nothing to burn fat.
That’s because 8-pack muscles these exercises train – called the rectus abdominis – are too small a muscle group to burn any significant calories.
Don’t believe me?
Try this: I’d like you to flex your right biceps muscle (kind of like a bodybuilder showing off “their guns”).
Keep flexing… see that biceps muscle in your upper arm bulge… feel it harden.
Now let me ask you this: Do you notice your body getting warmer at all? Are you out of breath? Are you sweating?
The answers are likely no, no, and no, right?
And that’s because – just like sit-ups, small isolated movements do nothing to elevate your metabolism (ie. generate heat) and thus do nothing to burn calories.
You can spot strengthen but You cannot spot reduce!
Here’s some more proof if you need it:
A study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research followed two groups of men and women to see the impact of traditional ab exercises on losing belly fat.
The first group did 7 different ab exercises – 2 sets of 10 reps for each one – five times per week, for six weeks solid. The second group was the control group. They didn’t do any ab exercises. Both groups followed the same diet.
After six weeks, the people in the first group were great at doing crunches yet, they weren’t any closer to having flat, toned abs than the control group, even though they did all those ab exercises.
So, if you’re doing small isolated ab exercises like crunches and sit-ups with the hope of burning fat, then that’s like running east hoping to see a sunset – it’s just not going to happen!
Reason #2: The Worst Ab Exercises Ruin Your Back, Hips, and Posture
Many people still do these ‘old school’ ab exercises because they think that these exercises are going to give them strong, defined abs.
As we’ve seen above, the worst ab exercises may make you feel like you’re accomplishing something, but you’re really not.
First, if you have excess fat covering your ab muscles, you’ll never see them anyways.
Secondly, sit-ups and similar ab exercises are heavily reliant on what’s called “hip flexion”, which poses a big pulling force on your lumbar spine (ie. lower back).
Basically, as these hip flexor muscles activate, they pull your torso and hips closer together, pull your spine, and wedge your intervertebral discs together, which is over time could lead to a herniation.
When you do a sit-up or even leg lifts, your abs are not the primary mover of that exercise.
Studies involving electromyography testing – which looks at muscle activation patterns – shows that the hip flexors, not your abs, are doing most of the work.
What’s worse, because the hip flexors attach at your lumbar vertebrae they pull forcefully on that sensitive area.