For many years crunches and sit ups have been the ideal exercise to achieve those six pack abs. We’ve all heard it before at some point, “you have to do x number of crunches or sit ups to look like this”. However, the standard crunch / sit up is not the best exercise for your core. There are many other effective ways to work your midsection. First it is important to better understand this area. The core muscles make up your torso, consisting of your rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis and external and internal obliques. The key problem with crunches and sit ups is that they do not target the actual core muscles. These exercises actually end up working more of your hip flexors. Below is a video that details why you shouldn’t do crunches and why they are ineffective
If crunches aren’t good, you’re probably asking yourself what can I do? Here are some great videos showing you some effective alternatives exercises for your core. As well show you how to do crunches correctly.
People who are new to exercise or even people who have been exercising for many years do not fully know some of the physiological phases your body is going through. Who would have ever thought that doing crunches, something that most of us as well as myself have been doing for many years, could potentially be harmful? Not until my second year of my kinesiology degree did I find out and learn that performing the go-to ab training crunch can pose a great risk for the health of someone’s back. Lumbar (lower back) pain is quite common in a wide range of people and avoiding these types of exercises can be beneficial.
The picture below is an animated version of what a typical spine looks like (image 1). The intervertebral disk that sits in between your intervertebral bodies can be herniated (posterior/backward movement). A herniated disc is not only quite painful but can be dangerous since it puts pressure on the spinal cord (see image 2).
So how can crunches cause this herniated disk? When your spine constantly undergoes forward flexion (performing a crunch), your intervertebral bodies are compressing the front end spinal discs causing the disc to be pushed back in the direction of your spinal cord. When this happens many times you are at risk for a herniated disk.
Play it safe and try to avoid doing the flexion motion when you’re training your abs. Instead you can perform a variety of planks, and V-sits as well as other core and back exercises.
-By Kamille Colucci