The Best Abdominal Exercise

exercise Jan 13, 2023

What’s the best abdominal exercise?

I’ve been asked this question a few times over the years.  The answer:  it depends…

The abdominal wall is a complex area of the body.  It is comprised of 3 distinct layers of muscle and 4 different groups of muscles.  Each muscle group has its own unique function while also having overlapping functions with the other muscle groups.  And each group of muscle can perform more than one function simultaneously.

We add to this complexity when we consider that every abdominal exercise targets the muscles of the abdominal wall differently, requiring a unique coordination of function.

It’s this last point that provides the key to choosing one exercise over another – function.

The muscles of the abdominal wall can flex, rotate, and stabilize as well as assist with respiration all at the same time.

It’s the stabilizing functions that are most critical to a solid foundation upon which to build dynamic strength.

The deepest of the abdominal muscles – the Transverse Abdominus – plays a primary role in stabilizing the lumbar spine, especially in conjunction with the diaphragm.  This is especially important when moving anything heavy.

The lower section of the external oblique muscles play a key role in stabilizing the pelvis during movement.  Without this stabilization, too much movement gets transferred to the lumbar spine.  And that’s not a good thing, especially over time.

All the muscles of the abdominal wall work synergistically to help stabilize the trunk of the body so that force can be generated through the extremities.  Throwing, pushing, pulling, jumping, kicking all require a stable platform – the trunk – from which to begin.

The muscles of the abdominal wall also play an important role in posture.  Imbalances in the relationships between the different abdominal muscles are typically contributing factors to poor posture.  And this can lead to a cascade of effects throughout the body.

It is the particular areas of abdominal wall function that are most deficient that take priority in our training.

By selecting exercises that specifically target these areas, we can begin to develop the optimal function that we need in order to achieve our overall goals.

Function, is what determines the best abdominal exercise for us.  And a thorough assessment can reveal the functions that we are most in need of developing to achieve our optimal health and performance.


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