A closer look at the ab exercise charts shows that some of these differences are quite dramatic - the leading exercises being anything from two to three times more effective than the basic crunch, and up to ten times more effective than the worst!
Indeed, the ab rocker, so beloved of gyms and health clubs, came in last in both tests, registering as only 10% as effective as the Bicycle Manoeuver and the Captain's Chair for working the rectus abdominus!
In general, the researchers found that exercises that require constant abdominal stabilization and body rotation generated the most muscle activity in the obliques.
When the results of the two muscle groups were combined, the most effective exercises were the bicycle manoeuver, followed closely by the captain's chair. If you're looking to purchase a piece of home exercise equipment, note that crunches on a swissball ranked third overall.
Interestingly, although crunches on an exercise ball scored lower on the ECG scores than the top two exercises, they also generated significantly less activity in the rectus femoris, (one of the four quadriceps muscles, required for hip flexion) leading researchers to conclude that they are arguably, the best overall exercise.
However, not all the various crunches fared so well, with both the long arm crunch and the crunch with heel push barely more effective than the traditional crunch.
(Go to the next page to get links to our exercise videos and exercise tests)