We love our cores. Well… we love to think about our cores, to work them, to tirelessly strive for that all-too-elusive six pack. It’s really not surprising, then, that a common conversation that you’re likely to hear in any fitness establishment revolves around this question: What is the best core exercise? Plenty of people have their opinions, with the plank being the current favorite in most circles, but what does science have to say on the matter?
Looking At The Research
Two related studies, both sponsored by the American Council on Exercise but conducted 13 years apart, compared a variety of different core exercises and devices to see which did the best job of the activating that troublesome region. It should be noted, though, that the real purpose of both studies was to see if any ab device – all of which promise to give you a six pack in just minutes a day – was actually worth the money. As a by-product, they also scored many exercises that require either no equipment or can be done on common gym gear.
Both studies also looked at activation in the different muscle groups of the core, but we’re going to focus on their findings in the relation to the rectus abdominus – the muscle that gives the six pack it’s characteristic shape. Here are the over-all winners:
1.Decline bench curl-up
2.Stability ball crunch
The problem is that these exercises require some sort of equipment, things that might not be an option for home-based exercises. What are the best core exercise that can be done with no equipment, then?
2.Yoga boat pose
You might notice that the glorified plank didn’t make the list. In reality, the plank performed poorly when compared to other core exercises and many experts argue that its effectiveness has been greatly exaggerated.
It’s often said that the best exercise is the one that you do and that principle holds up in the arena of core workouts, too. The truth is that, while the decline bench curl-up crushed the competition, you might not have access to that particular piece of equipment. There’s also the concern that you simply may not be able to safely execute curling or crunching movements. If that’s the case, static exercises like the yoga boat pose or variations on the plank would be your best option.
The bottom line is that you need to define what’s “best” for you and your situation. These studies, however, can give you some guidance in making your decision.