Why it made the list: Those infomercials got one thing right! Some EMG data suggests that using an ab wheel may beat out hanging leg raises, sit-ups, and reverse crunches for the top muscle activator. This movement capitalizes on the concept of anti-extension perfectly; as you roll out, your trunk must actively fire (eccentric motion) to maintain a neutral spine without collapsing under your body weight and gravity. Watch that you don't risk your back by allowing it to droop into extension at the bottom, though!
"I like a challenge, and someone telling me that it wasn’t possible was just the kick I needed to see if it was possible. So I started eating healthier—really focusing on figuring out what foods I had an intolerance for, were causing me to bloat, or were just notoriously hard on the gut—and learning how to get more out of my workouts. One trainer pointed out to me that I wasn’t doing situps in a way that was as effective as it could be, and to this day I still think of his advice (tilt my pelvis so my back lies flat on the floor!) every time I do core work.” —Dorothy Beal, @mileposts
Fitness gurus know that the average person is lazy and will never put in the hard work to get six pack abs. If they manage to convince him that he already has six pack abs hiding under his belly fat then they can sell him their bullshit diet product. Since the average person doesn’t possess the necessary personal discipline and the diet knowledge to lose his belly fat, he never discovers that he’s been lied to. Hence the lie “abs are made in the kitchen” is perpetuated.
Why it made the list: Decline-bench crunches amp up the challenge by increasing the range of motion over standard crunches, and you can dial up (or down) the degree of difficulty by adjusting the angle of the bench. Adding a medicine ball or weight plate against your chest adds a further level of customizable resistance. This also allows you to manipulate where you want to fail: low, medium, or high reps.
I use the ab machines at the gym. I do a couple variations on crunches (sitting up and lying down both on machines with weights. I can crunch 55lbs on the one that’s sitting position, 40 on the other), hanging leg lifts (which kill my shoulders), the oblique twist machine, as well as full body workouts. I just started the gym about 2 months ago and have really upped the weight since then so my body is definitely progressing.
But instead of just trying to perform as many reps as possible, slow down and really focus on the quality of the movement—especially the eccentric, or downward motion, of the exercise, he says. “The eccentric contraction is the most important phase when sculpting any muscle.” Plus, focusing on quality over quantity will help protect your back (some experts say crunches can be potentially troublesome for guys with back issues.)
After having achieved this goal, there’s a seemingly big void in my life. I intend to fill it up with another ambitious goal instead of more training, though the latter is far more tempting! I find that training, staying fit, and eating right fits in very well with my lifestyle. I intend to keep it that way while being content with slow but lean and steady gains over time. I do intend on dabbling in boxing and advanced callisthenics in the future.