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In a new study commissioned by the American Council on Exercise, researchers found that the traditional crunch is actually more effective at activating the abdominal muscles than several popular abdominal tools and other exercises. The University of Wisconsin–La Crosse research team incorporated popular equipment as well as bodyweight exercises in the study, which used electromyography to measure muscle activation. But triathletes should also do other “trunk-strengthening” exercises, says ACE exercise physiologist and triathlete Jacque Ratliff. By doing exercises “that emphasize the mobility of the thoracic spine and stability of the lumbar spine, [triathletes] are protecting themselves from injury and promoting efficient movement patterns.”
The Correct Crunch
Lie face up, either with feet on the floor or feet off the floor with knees bent at 90 degrees, and rest your head on your hands, which are interlaced behind your head (or you can cross your arms over your chest—the study showed there was no difference between the two). With your chin off your chest, focus on using the abdominals to move your rib cage toward your pelvis, lifting your shoulder blades off the ground, then come back to the floor for one rep.
Find some resistance training exercises to add to your repertoire at Triathlete.com/Resistancetraining.