What are the Best Abdominal Exercises to Use in Class?

Believe it or not, many of the abdominal exercises that instructors choose for classes (or meatheads use in the gym) tend to work other muscles more than the actual abdominals. Sit-ups, leg lifts, hanging leg raises, etc. anatomically have little to do with the core. Raising your legs (or raising your body to meet your legs) is the responsibility of the hip flexors, a group of muscles which attach between the lower back and the top of the femur. The rectus abdominis (the main ab muscle) attaches from the ribs to the pelvis and is responsible for spinal flexion.

That’s not to say that the abs have nothing to do with leg lifts and other hip flexor movements, but they are not the prime movers.* They are instead used isometrically as stabilizers to keep the spine from extending as the legs come toward the torso. Lower back problems can result as these stabilizers tend to fatigue before the end of the set which results in arching and spinal compression. Sit ups, especially are...

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