Background and purpose: Performing nontraditional abdominal exercises with devices such as abdominal straps, the Power Wheel, and the Ab Revolutionizer has been suggested as a way to activate abdominal and extraneous (nonabdominal) musculature as effectively as more traditional abdominal exercises, such as the crunch and bent-knee sit-up. The purpose of this study was to test the effectiveness of traditional and nontraditional abdominal exercises in activating abdominal and extraneous musculature.
Subjects: Twenty-one men and women who were healthy and between 23 and 43 years of age were recruited for this study.
Methods: Surface electromyography (EMG) was used to assess muscle activity from the upper and lower rectus abdominis, external and internal oblique, rectus femoris, latissimus dorsi, and lumbar paraspinal muscles while each exercise was performed. The EMG data were normalized to maximum voluntary muscle contractions. Differences in muscle activity were assessed by a 1-way, repeated-measures analysis of variance.
Results: Upper and lower rectus abdominis, internal oblique, and latissimus dorsi muscle EMG activity were highest for the Power Wheel (pike, knee-up, and roll-out), hanging knee-up with straps, and reverse crunch inclined 30 degrees. External oblique muscle EMG activity was highest for the Power Wheel (pike, knee-up, and roll-out) and hanging knee-up with straps. Rectus femoris muscle EMG activity was highest for the Power Wheel (pike and knee-up), reverse crunch inclined 30 degrees, and bent-knee sit-up. Lumbar paraspinal muscle EMG activity was low and similar among exercises.
Discussion and conclusion: The Power Wheel (pike, knee-up, and roll-out), hanging knee-up with straps, and reverse crunch inclined 30 degrees not only were the most effective exercises in activating abdominal musculature but also were the most effective in activating extraneous musculature. The relatively high rectus femoris muscle activity obtained with the Power Wheel (pike and knee-up), reverse crunch inclined 30 degrees, and bent-knee sit-up may be problematic for some people with low back problems.