Crunch—the satisfying sound of biting into a potato chip… and the workout move to ensure said chip doesn’t go straight to your waistline. The end goal of a crunch is simple: six-pack abs (or, at the very least, something that less resembles a muffin top). But what if we told you there are exercises out there that are more effective than a crunch? Sure, you can read first-person testimonials and scroll through Kayla Itsines’s feed for endless #fitspo, but there’s another oft-overlooked source: science. Yes, there is actual scientific evidence on the better way to sculpt your stomach, and yes, you should definitely pay attention. Because if we’re going to grunt and perspire in the name of a sculpted tummy à la Lily Aldridge, then we sure as hell want to make sure the pain and sweat are worth it. Bye, crunches.
Keep scrolling for the most effective ab exercises, according to science!
Researchers from this study analyzed eight Swiss ball exercises and two traditional ab workouts (crunches and bent-knee sit-ups). The result? The roll-out and pike exercises done on an exercise ball were the most effective in activating the upper and lower abs, external and internal obliques, and latissimus dorsi muscles.
See how to do a roll-out and pike below!
In another study, researchers sought to find the most effective ab exercises that also least exacerbated the lower back. What they found? The hanging straight-leg raise elicited the highest maximal activity from all of the abdominals. You can read more about all the different exercises they tested and their results here.
See how to do a hanging straight-leg raise below!
Researchers at San Diego State University found that the bicycle maneuver was the most effective exercise in engaging the abs, followed closely by the captain’s chair. The bicycle is a step up from the crunch, and it involves touching your elbows to your opposite knee while moving your knees in a pedaling motion—and it turns out it’s more effective, too.
See how to do both of these exercises below.