The best exercises for the abs, arms and butt | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

If you only have five to 10 minutes  to spare for resistance training, which are the best exercises to do?

There’s always confusion regarding the best exercises to do for a particular body part. So here are the results from different studies on the top exercises to get the most muscle activation, especially if you only have a few minutes.

It is important to remember that these exercises will not spot reduce your extra fat in a particular body part. You still need to incorporate calorie-burning cardio exercises like running, resistance training exercises for other major muscle groups like the back, chest and thighs, and an effective and balanced eating plan (less junk food, alcohol, sugar and fat, and more fiber from vegetables and  whole grain foods).

Consult a fitness expert to learn the proper form and technique, and to know if  certain positions should be modified depending on your posture, muscle strength, special conditions, or existing joint injuries. Perform the following exercises by doing one to two sets of 10- 15 repetitions, two to three times a week. You can use your body weight with some exercises or use different equipment like a Swiss ball, ankle weights and dumbbells.

Abdominals (Muscles involved: Upper and lower rectus abdominis, internal and external oblique)

Ten years ago, results of a study conducted by the American Council on Exercise (ACE) on the best abdominal exercises revealed that the bicycle maneuver, the captain’s chair, and crunches on the exercise ball are the top exercises for the rectus abdominis (upper and lower abs, as one muscle). The best exercises for your waist or obliques are the captain’s chair, bicycle maneuver, and reverse crunch.

New study

Last year, a new study published in the Journal of Sports and Orthopedic Physical Therapy was conducted to test how eight Swiss ball  exercises, including exercise roll-out, pike, knee-up, skier, hip extension right, hip extension left, decline push-up, and sitting march right, and two  traditional abdominal exercises (crunch and bent-knee sit-up) activate core muscles.

Results  show that pike and roll-out exercises elicit that greatest activation for the upper and lower rectus abdominis and external and internal oblique, while minimizing contraction in the lower back and hip flexor muscles.

Bicycle maneuver

Lie flat on an exercise  mat and lift your legs to table top position.  Bring your hands behind the head and lift your head and shoulders off the mat.  Inhale as you straighten one leg and lift your opposite shoulder off the floor and bring it towards the opposite knee, leading with your armpit and not the elbows.  Exhale as you do the other side. Make sure that you activate your abdominals and you avoid arching your back as you do this.


Put your feet on top of a Swiss/gym ball and place your hands on the floor, directly below your shoulders. Contract your abs as you lift your hips up towards the ceiling, and come up to the toes until your upper body is almost vertical to the floor with the top of your head pointing straight down, then slowly return to starting position. An easier modification of this exercise is to roll the ball in by pulling the knees into the chest, and return. You need  stronger and well-developed core muscles to be able execute this exercise.


On your knees, position your forearms on top of a Swiss ball while keeping a strong and straight torso.  Inhale as you shift your weight forward and roll the ball away from you up to the point where your back is stable and form is nice and strong. Exhale and contract your abdominals as you slowly return to starting position. This type of exercise can also be done using a suspension trainer.

Best for triceps

Arms (Muscle involved: triceps)

ACE just recently sponsored another study to identify the best triceps (muscle at the back of the arm) exercises. The research team recruited 15 healthy female subjects ages 20-24 with previous weight training experience. Triangle push-ups, kickbacks and dips were the top exercises.

Triangle push-ups

Start the exercise in a push-up or plank position keeping your toes on the floor.  You can start by doing this on your knees.  The only difference with the push-up is that your thumbs and forefingers form a triangle shape, and are not placed directly under or wider than your shoulders.

Inhale, contract your gluts and abs as you lower yourself, bending your elbows until your chest touches the floor.  Exhale as you push yourself away from the floor, still maintaining the alignment between your head and spine.


Place your left knee and hand on top of an exercise bench and slowly lean forward, transferring most of your upper body weight onto that left side. While holding a dumbbell, bend your right elbow to 90 degrees or up to a point where your forearm hangs vertical to the floor. Slowly straighten your elbow as you exhale, then inhale as you slowly return your arm to your starting position. Switch sides.

Buttocks (Muscle involved: gluteus maximus)

Another study conducted by ACE  concluded that there are five exercises that can be effective alternatives to squats—quadruped hip extensions, lunges, step-ups, single-leg squats and four-way hip extensions. John Porcari, the researcher, confirmed that the quadruped hip extension and squat have  the greatest butt-beautifying potential, especially when performed with extra resistance like ankle weights and dumbbells.

Quadruped hip extensions

On hands and knees, lift one leg up, with your knee at a 90-degree angle throughout the movement. Without arching the back, keep lifting the leg until the bottom of the foot faces the ceiling and the hip, thigh and knee are all in alignment and parallel to the floor. Lower back down and complete a set of repetitions before you switch legs. Add ankle weights for more intensity, or hold a light dumbbell behind the knee.


Stand with feet about hip-width apart as you put your hand on your hips or you lift dumbbells by your sides. Inhale as you bend your knees, as if you are sitting and not going beyond 90 degrees, and push into the heels to go back to starting position.

Email the author at [email protected].

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