The Best Abdominal Exercise you're not doing.

I’m betting there are plenty of core exercises you aren’t doing, but today we’re going to talk about the BEST one you’re not doing.

I’ve taught exercise for fifteen years now, and I have seen people crunch, flex, strain, bulge, and jut just trying to get their stomachs in shape.  And most of that effort was in vain.  The natural tone of the abdominal muscles will kick in when the pelvis and ribs are in the right position.  It’s true!  Here is another fun fact.  The strength of the abdomen always matches the strength of the back.  In trying to maintain “good posture” we tend to pull the shoulders back and slightly arch the lower-mid back, creating tension and stiffness in the spine, just above the waist.  Now you have a tight and weak back, with over-stretched and weak abdominals on the other side, or what I like to call “a back spasm in the making“.

When we think of a strong stomach, we usually picture the long, up-and-down “wash-board” abdominals (rectus abdominus), but it’s actually your oblique and transverse abdominal muscles (they run right to left and on diagonals) that give you a waist.  If you don’t have good waist definition, a crunch can actually widen your middle.  Not what you had in mind when you bought that last 3 Minutes to Better ABs VHS, I know.

Looking trim in the mid-section is a great bonus, but the true benefit to a waist that is equal to or less than your hip measurement is the stress it removes from your cardiovascular system.  The smaller arterioles in all your muscles should be holding their share of blood, reducing the pressure in the larger arteries. The tighter the muscles, the less blood they hold, and the higher your arterial blood pressure.  The abdominal aorta is most susceptible to plaque accumulation because the pressure there tends to be very high.  It tends to be high because most of us have a very tight mid-section as a result of the excessive time we spend in hip flexion (sitting), the lack of rotational movements we have in our daily lives, and the tension we have in the back (holding ourselves upright with the spine instead of the glutes and hamstrings).  Tight, larger abdominal muscles (obliques and transverse) can’t aid your cardiovascular system in they way they should – which is why a larger waist size is a risk factor for coronary heart disease.

To start whittling your waist and decreasing the pressure in your arteries, try a simple spinal twist.


Lie on your back and bring one knee towards your chest.  Try to take (don’t force it!) your knee to the ground, leaving the rest of the body where it started.  If you waist is very tight, you won’t twist as much as roll to get the knee to floor.  You can tell you rolled if your spine and shoulders all rotated over with your hips.  Ideally your shoulders and chest all stay planted on the ground and your waist muscles are long enough to allow your pelvis to move.   If you are a “roller”, do this exercise every day until you start to twist,  decreasing waist size, increasing the strength of the stomach and back musculature, and decreasing your blood pressure. Make sure to do both sides.  (This is also a great exercise to improve your golf game too!)

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21 thoughts on “The Best Abdominal Exercise you're not doing.

  1. Can’t picture this. Is this akin to a hurdler’s stretch. Confusion is “take your knee to the ground. Is there a picture somewhere that would clear the “Huh?”

  2. Good article Katy. I see people in my gym do hours of crunches every week and never have I noticed any one of them have a small waist. However, I have seen gymnasts, swimmers, and spring board divers with great mid-sections and glutes. They are doing turns, twists, hip rotations, hip flections and extensions. This should make us trainers of the world reconsider the value of crunches for getting a tight, small mid-section and butt. The entire core needs to be trained from different angles using a variety of exercises.

  3. thank you Katy for delivering this great info to the masses I can’t tell you how many people I have seen as a masseuse that have strained their necks, backs, etc. just doing crunches!

  4. Qyestion about this twist. You don’t say that you should bring your right knee over the body to the floor on the left, *abd vice versa with the left knee) I asssume that opposite side twisting is what ou mean? But since to assume is doom, wanted to ask. thanks.

  5. This twist is also the most gentle way to get a self induced adjustment.
    I do it every morning after a shower and before work to start my day off right.

  6. Hi Katy, I just love reading all your articles ! They are so informative. I met you a year ago and I have Scoliosis. Would this exercise be okay to do for my back? Thanks !

  7. Are you saying that it is o.k. to “roll” and allow your shoulder (right shoulder for right leg twist) to come off of the ground and that eventually it will stay on the ground?

  8. Thanks Katy, for the reminder. Seems like we assume that exercise has to be hard to be effective. Your simple solutions are easy, but hopefully, not easy to forget!
    In yoga, this spinal twist is essential, and it always brings relief. I like to do it at the beginning and again at the end of each session.:)

  9. Would this be safe to do if you have high blood pressure already? Or other forms of heart disease? And also my mom is healing from congestive heart failure. It’s been 9 months and she’s much better, but her heart is still enlarged, and her cardiovascular system is still healing (with some meds and herbs an chi gung). Would this be safe for her?

  10. How long and how many reps (in general) would you recommend doing each leg? It doesn’t hurt, but it’s not easy for me to do, either.

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