Worst Ab Exercises

Proceed With Caution With These Ab Exercises!

We've already talked about the best ab exercises, so now what makes the list for the worst ab exercises? I will share with you a few that make my list and would be interested to hear what you would rate as the worst ab exercise.

Abs Exercise that Place Stress on the Lower Back

As a Physical Therapist, I believe that the risks outweigh the benefits for any abdominal exercise that places increased strain and stress on your lower back. Since 80% of people will have back pain at some point in their lifetime (1), it is wise to proceed with caution. I always say, "Better safe than sorry!"

I also believe that if you are going to take the time and energy to do any exercise, you should make it as effective as possible. Getting the "biggest bang for your buck" so to speak. So, if an exercise has been shown to have little effectiveness, then why waste your time doing it when there are plenty of other exercises to take its place.

So taking that into account, let's look at a few of my picks for the worst ab exercises.

#1 Worst Ab Exercises - Electronic Ab Stimulator (EMS machine)

worst ab exercises graphic We've heard many infomercials promising results without effort, if only you will use an electronic ab stimulator. Sounds too good to be true, right? Well, I have found that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

To determine the effectiveness of the electronic ab stimulator, a research study was done by the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse, led by Dr. John Porcari (1). They had their volunteers undergo EMS training three times a week for 8 weeks using a popular EMS machine on the market. Not only were there no significant results after 8 weeks (no changes in weight, body-fat %, strength or overall appearance), but it was also found to be painful. In order to be effective at 80% of the person's maximum voluntary effort, the machine had to be turned up to a point that caused pain. Doesn't sound like much fun to me!

The machine they used cost $500 and also took significant time to complete this training. For the same price, they could have purchased a gym membership, a piece of home equipment or time with a personal trainer and possibly had much better results doing traditional cardio and strength training!

#2 Worst Ab Exercises - Bent Over Twist

This is still a popular exercise among some people. You hold a bar behind your neck, bend over until your back is parallel with the floor and then twist side to side. Even though this exercise does work your obliques, it also puts significant strain on your back.

It has been found that there is increased stress on the discs in the lower back in these positions: forward bending, sitting and twisting. There is twice as much pressure on your back in sitting than standing and 7-10x as much pressure on your back when bent over (3).

This exercise is performed in one of the worst positions for the back...forward bending combined with twisting. Definitely one I would suggest, especially if you suffer from lower back pain. Try an exercise like the plank instead.

#3 Worst Ab Exercises #3 - Traditional Full Sit-ups

I know that this is a favorite of many, but the reason I chose to put this on my list is due to faulty technique and effectiveness. When doing a full sit-up, it's easy to use primarily the hip flexor muscles instead of the abdominal muscles.

It is easier to use the correct technique when doing a partial crunch. To mix it up, try a partial crunch on an exercise ball! You will really feel the burn with ball exercises (plus, you can get a good exercise ball for $20-30, which is cheap compared to many abs exercise machines you'll see advertised.)

#4 Worst Ab Exercises - Ab Rocker

ab rocker There are people who like the Ab Rocker and get good results from it. I chose it simply because it ended up on the bottom of the list for effective abs exercises for both the rectus abs and the oblique abs in the research study done by Peter Francis. See the entire list here.

What Do You Think is the Worst Ab Exercise?

There are plenty to choose from with all the abs gimmicks and abs exercise equipment out there. Which abs exercise do you think is the worst? Either the worst for comfort, the worst for results or the worst for any other reason you can think of! Share your opinion!

*Note* After you enter your submission for the worst abs exercises, you will get a link to download the PDF version of my Favorite Abs Exercises on a Ball!

Worst Abs Exercises? Read What Others Have Said...

Click below to see contributions from other visitors to this page...

Traditional sit-ups 
causes pain in my tailbone and lower back.

I dont like these ab exercises. 
getting down onto the floor, getting flat with legs out and arms out, then getting up to a standing position. it has to be the worst. just getting down …

Worst ab exercise from an ex trainer 
traditional sit ups.especially when you put your legs straight or try to pull your neck up with your hands in back of your head. especially if you have …

Worst ab exercise - who needs those disks 
A supine twist with the torso face-up on the floor and the legs in the air will put damaging torsion on lumbar disks. In commision of the exercise, the …

Oblique machine at the gym 
This is one of the worst exercises if you have lower back issues. You kneel on a pad and using your lower body muscles twist back and forth. The twisting …

Small Ball Crunches Tear Up Low Back Tendons 
Small Ball Crunches stretch to the extreme the connective tendons of the low back pelvic area. Easily, you can rip enough of this tendon tissue to cause …

Worst Ab Exercise - Bad Diet 
You can do all the bicycle crunches and captains chair workouts, but if you don't eat right, it is all for nothing. It is amazing what just an inch of …

Ab Crunch Machine 
I am a tall (5'10), overweight woman who has been trying my luck at the local gym. There is a machine that is for your abs that is supposed to simulate …

Personal Choice of the Worst Ab Exercise 
Honestly, the worst ab exercise, in my opinion, would have to be the Traditional Full Sit-ups. Descriptively, it is a simple exercise, where you just …

6 Second Abs a Waste of Money 
I have always had a tummy and now that I have two children, it is a constant struggle to maintain my abs. So I have tried everything you can think of. …

This Abs Exercise Caused My Daughter Back Pain 
An ab exercise that is popular among many high school had given my daughter, now 28 years old back problems since she was a junior. In this exercise, …

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1) Duane Saunders, M.S., P.T. The Back Care Program Fourth Edition. Back Facts

2) John P. Porcari, Karen Palmer McClean, Carl Foster, Thomas Kernozek, Ben Crenshaw, and Chad Swanson. Effects of Electrical Muscle Stimulation on Body Composition, Muscle Strength, and Physical Appearance. J. Strength Cond. Res. 16(2), 165-172. 2002

3) Nachemson A: The lumbar spine, an orthopedic challenge. Spine 1:50-71, 1976

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