When you talk to people and ask about their goals, the first things that usually come out are Weight Loss / Losing Inches, Building /Toning Arms, and GETTING ABS! It's ironic because some of the best ways to develop all of these things is by training the larger muscles and not even training the abs and arms directly at all! I'm not saying to not train them. Of course you have to, but by doing the large leg and back exercises along with core movements that develop the transverse abdominals, you will definitely get a tighter stronger midsection as well as stronger and more muscular arms even if you don't do any direct ab and arm work.
Therefore it stands to reason that if you are going to do ab exercises, then you don't want to waste time doing crap that won't work or exercises that train other muscles. It helps to have a basic understanding of anatomy. There is the Rectus Abdominus which is what you see when someone has a Six Pack and then there is the Transverse Abdominus underneath which is a long thick muscle that actually gives your core stabilization and strength. It's far more important to develop the transverse abdominus for actual function. That's not to say that you shouldn't train the outer rectus abdominus, but it should NOT be your focus. That being said, having well developed abs still has benefits. But it is not the most important thing.
Now that we've gotten that out of the way, let's talk AB TRAINING! There is one simple rule to picking good exercises for your abs and it's not a difficult one. YOUR ABS HAVE TO CONTRACT! The distance between your pelvis and your ribcage must shorten in order for this to happen (like a crunch or a reverse crunch). Only then can they contract properly. If you look at a traditional situp where someone holds your feet and you're just hinging at the waist, you are NOT training your abs. You're training your hip flexors and putting some strain on your lower back, but you're doing nothing for your abs. Same with straight leg raises. If you want to train your abs, pick movements where your body curls in and your abs are actually contracting. Some good ones are Crunches, Reverse Crunches, Crunches with legs elevated, Cable Rope Crunches, Hanging Knee Raises, Frog Crunches. There are more, but those are my favourites. Remember the golden rule: SHORTEN THE DISTANCE BETWEEN THE PELVIS AND RIBCAGE!
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