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Ab-solutely No Other Way

In San Diego, summer doesn’t stop just because the calendar says fall is closing in. Therefore, the battle of the belly bulge can be a year-round series of skirmishes. Fear not. A San Diego State University study has the straight scoop on what works—and what doesn’t—to keep your abdominal muscles as flat as your fat intake allows.

Of 13 exercises tested, most were fairly traditional do-it-yourself moves, but three used “infomercial” equipment. None of those made the top three, says Dr. Peter Francis, director of the Biomechanics Lab at SDSU. If you do floor moves properly, “You get more for nothing,” he says. “You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure that out.”

Naturally, that doesn’t wash with Roger Dahle, president of Terrastar, manufacturer of the Ab Roller, which didn’t score well in the SDSU tests. ‘“They felt the [exercise] that caused the most strain to be the most effective,” says Dahle. Strenuous workouts can discourage beginners, he says, but “that’s what we like about our product. Everyone can do it.”

Even though use of an exercise ball came in third, Francis recommends using one (which retails for about $30), because it requires balance and continuous use of muscles.

In first place was the “bicycle maneuver.” This floor exercise is more effective than a regular crunch, Francis says, because it allows no resting periods. The crunch’s downward movement allows the muscles to temporarily relax. “Continuous movement is good,” he says. “Do abs anytime, all the time. ... Don’t put off toning just because you haven’t lost a good amount of your target pounds.”

We’re listing the best and worst for the rectus abdominus (that would be the “six-pack” you want) and the obliques (the ones you’d like on the side). For more information about the exercises, call the American Council on Exercise, 800-825-3636, or check out the ACE Web site at www. acefitness.org.

—Kendra Strey

a man exercising his abdominal muscles

The bicycle maneuver is effective for both rectus abs and obliques.

Rectus Abdominus
Most Effective:

* Bicycle maneuver
* Captain’s chair
* Crunches on exercise ball

Least Effective:

* Traditional crunch
* Exercising tubing pull
* Ab Rocker

a woman in a Captain's chair exerciser

The captain’s chair may be too hard for beginners.

a man exercising with an exercise ball

Doing crunches on an exercise ball placed third—but is highly recommended.

Most Effective:

* Captain’s Chair
* Bicycle maneuver
* Reverse crunch

Least Effective:

* Traditional crunch
* Exercise tubing pull
* Ab Rocker

The reverse crunch strengthens obliques and lower abs.
a woman does reverse crunches

Acura Classic

They’ve Got It Good

Jennifer Capriati and the women on today’s professional tennis circuit “have no idea how good it is for them,” says a woman who ought to know. Raquel Giscafré of Carlsbad remembers the days in the ’70s when she was among the top women players and made $40,000 in her best year. Capriati —whose amazing comeback took her to the semifinals at Wimbledon last month—joins other big-name stars for the Acura Classic at La Costa July 28–August 5. First place earns $125,000—not bad for a week of work. The total purse is $750,000—a far cry from the $50,000 prize money offered at the first incarnation of the tournament in Balboa Park in 1984.

Giscafré, now 52, doesn’t begrudge the reigning women of tennis a dime. She and partner Jane Stratton (another former women’s pro player) have for years been reaping some direct benefits of this tennis generation’s bigger paychecks. As the bosses at Promotion Sports, which owns the Acura Classic, they remain the only former women players who own a Women’s Tennis Association tournament.
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