I just read an interesting article posted on Macleans.ca: “The Man Who Wants to Kill Crunches.”
I have seen first hand how crunches can actually do more harm than good to people who don’t have the overall core strength to perform them effectively. If you take a look in a crowded gym for people doing crunches there are many that make it look more like a neck straining exercise rather than an abdominal strengthening one!
Crunch variations have their place, however there are much better exercises out there that will target a greater portion of your core muscles and really build strength. The way I see it, if you cannot perform a plank (or variations) you have no business doing crunches. If you cannot perform a plank with good form for at least 30 sec, then you most likely have incredibly weak core stabilizer muscles, which is crucial to building strength and staying injury free.
For those that still believe that you can spot train the abdominals by doing crunches, it’s simply not going to happen! You need to include multi-muscle and leg exercises to build a strong core. Worry about building core strength, then you can worry about definition. Which, by the way, will not happen unless you have your diet in check.
To quote the article: “McGill suggests replacing sit-ups with exercises to strengthen the core while not bending the spine: bridges, planks, leg extensions, bird dogs, and stir the pot. The bird dog, for instance, simply involves getting on all fours and, while keeping the core muscles tight, extending the opposite arm and leg, then switching limbs. Stir the pot is a more complex movement: moving shoulders in a small circle while in a prone push-up position with forearms balanced on an exercise ball.”
In my opinion these are great exercises that surpass the results you will get from a conventional crunch. Certainly an article worth reading before your next ab workout!
Yours in Health,
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Image courtesy of rich115 on flickr