The exercise ball crunch came in third on a San Diego State University study comparing the best ab exercises. It works so well because not only do you work your abs by crunching, but also by keeping your body balanced.

To do this exercise, sit on the ball with your feet flat on the ground. Roll the ball toward your back until your body is parallel to the ground. Then do a small crunch without moving the ball. Since you are using the entire midsection to balance on the ball, the crunch should only lift you about 45 degrees.

To get even more oomph out of the exercise ball crunch, place your feet closer together. You'll be forced use more muscles to balance.

woman working out with captain's chair

No. 2: Captain's chair

The captain's chair exercise came in as the second best exercise for the abdominals and the best exercise for the oblique muscles, according to a San Diego State University study, and it's easy to see why after doing just a few.

It takes some specialized equipment, so you might have to head to the gym for this exercise, but it could be well worth it.

To do this exercise, grab the handholds of the captain's chair with your legs dangling beneath you. Then, slowly, raise your knees up and in toward your body. Slow is the key on this exercise, keeping a controlled speed helps you balance with your obliques and abs.

Then, let your legs slowly return to the starting position below your body. The captain's chair crunch is not something that could qualify as low-impact. So make sure you don't overdo it the first time.

woman doing push ups floor exercises

No. 1: Plank/hover position

The final exercise is another ab-busting technique that doesn't require any equipment and takes only a few minutes max. The plank or hover position looks deceptively simple, but really gets your whole core working and will probably have you sweating in no time.

To do this exercise, lie face down on your elbows and your toes, keeping your back straight the whole time.

That's it, just hold that position. The plank works so well because it forces you to balance with your entire core and your lower back, working the entire midsection at the same time.

The first time, try doing it for 30 seconds. Work your way up to a minute and two minutes max. It seems like no time, but you'll see why it's ranked among the top ab exercises after just a few seconds.

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