No surprise here, but heading to the gym can feel like a chore. Demanding jobs, jam-packed schedules, and just regular, day-to-day activities can seriously hinder your ability to fit in a workout. However, when you can find that extra hour to squeeze in some gym time, you want to make sure you make the most of it. And with bikini season right around the corner, that probably means at least half of the time you spend at the gym is spent doing what feels like endless ab work. So, we spoke with Ngo Okafor, celebrity trainer and founder of fitness app FitMatch, to establish which abdominal exercises won’t get you the results you’re looking for.
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Dumbbell Side Bends
“It’s very easy to perform this exercise with poor technique, which makes it dangerous for the spine,” explains Okafor, referring to the exercise move in which you hold one dumbbell in your hand while standing up and then bending at your waist. “The average gym goer does not know how to stabilize their trunk and keep their spine in a neutral position, which is required to perform this exercise. In addition to potentially causing structural trauma, this exercise has a tendency to make the trunk bulky, which is not attractive.”
Depending on what kind of abs you’re hoping to achieve, holding your body up in a board-like position—better known as the plank exercise—won’t always deliver results. “Timed planks will give you better core strength and stability, but they will not shred your abs,” says Okafor. “The primary problem with the traditional plank is the lack of deep core activation over an extended period of time. Plus, the abdominal muscles were not meant to fire up for extended periods of time in isolation.” In order to get that chiseled appearance on your stomach, both deep and superficial muscles of the core need to be engaged with maximal force repeatedly over time. Unfortunately, planks just don’t do that, so defined ab muscles won’t develop from this exercise.
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The Ab Roller
In theory, the ab roller (which is the wheel that you use by rolling forward into a pseudo-plank position and then backwards towards your bent knees) seems like a great at-home device for strengthening your core, however, Okafor doesn’t agree. “This popular machine created for ab training actually does not allow deep contraction in the abdominal muscles, which is required for them to grow,” he says. “When most people use the ab roller, they pull themselves up and forward with their arms and not their ab muscles, which makes this machine useless.”
Twisting Ab Machine
“This exercise is dangerous because of the unnatural twisting it forces your torso to create,” explains Okafor. “Most people do not know how to stabilize their trunk before adding an unnatural twisting motion that this machine forces your torso to create at the lumbar spine.” Because the lumbar spine is a naturally stable area that is not anatomically meant to twist, you risk lower back injuries when using this workout machine.