By Amy Rushlow for Prevention.com
What’s the best core workout: Crunches on the floor? A crunch on a stability ball? Some other ab contraption sold on late-night TV? It’s a question that’s been debated since before Jane Fonda was wearing leg warmers.
Recently, a team of experts combed through the research to find the scientific answer to the age-old question. The exercises they looked at fell into a few broad categories: traditional core exercises (situps), core stability exercises (planks), exercises involving a stability ball (like a crunch on a ball), free weight exercises (squats), and upper-body exercises (bicep curl). The studies they looked at—17 in total—used measures of the electrical activity in muscles to determine how hard different core muscles were working.
The conclusions, which were published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: Free weight exercises like squats and deadlifts are the best at activating the core muscle that stabilizes your spine, the lumbar multifidus—a group of deep muscles that run along your spine. (Research on other core muscles was either mixed, weak, or nonexistent.)
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