Ever since our fitness tests in elementary school, we have been conditioned to believe that crunches and sit-ups are effective. If I knew then how disadvantageous crunches are for your core, I would have told my “sit on the ankles” partner. Certainly, he would have appreciated this advice more than the high five I gave him every time I came up from a sit-up. Now what would I, a six-pack-less gal, know about ab workouts? To be fair, just about as much as the next six-pack-less gal. But actually, by taking crunches and sit-ups out of my routine, I am protecting my body from harm and engaging with more dynamic core exercises when I do my ab circuit. Tight abs are not easy to come by, and if you think crunches are the answer to the frequently Googled “How do I get a six-pack?” question, you’d be sorely mistaken (pun intended). Here are just four reasons why you should consider taking crunches out of your future ab circuits.
1. They are bad for your spine
The spine naturally has curves, and your ab workouts should be adapted to support them. However, crunches and sit-ups require you to tuck in your butt, hold in your abs, and flatten your spine on the ground. When coming up for the crunch, your shoulders hunch forward and pressure moves throughout the vertebrae on your neck, upper back, and lower back. These tucked in bottoms and shoulder hunches cause flattened spinal curves, which is terrible for the back and your posture. The best core movement to better your posture and straighten out your back are yoga flows or poses like the downward dog.
2. They do not work the core in depth
Ab workouts are supposed to challenge the core and engage as many muscles as possible. Crunches and sit-ups isolate the abs, but not in a beneficial way. They only target the surface muscles and do not strengthen the whole core. The biggest misconception about the efficiency of crunches comes from the “ab lines” they leave you with after a set. However, this definition is temporary. Because sit-ups do not train the depth of the core, the core will never grow truly defined because it is not challenged. Additionally, crunches and sit-ups define the wrong part of the core. The main focus area of core workouts should to be the lower abs: the hardest to tighten. Oppositely, crunches and sit-ups focus on the upper abdomen, which won’t flatten the part of your tummy that needs flattening.
3. They are not engaging for the whole body
You will be able to diversify your ab workouts and work different parts of the core by doing dynamic workouts. This will allow you to work out your core longer by changing the ab workouts up. Some workouts you can do that will work the whole body are planks, mountain climbers, and leg raises. Not only do these workouts challenge the whole core, they demand every muscle group to get involved and get fit together.
4. They are not fun!
Repeating the same motion consistently will bore you in your workout and make you more likely to tire out faster or stop completely. Workouts are going to be painful no matter what, but they’re going to be less painful and more enjoyable if they’re fun. I’m not suggesting that V-ups and bicycles are my idea of fun, but at least they’ll add movement to your workout and burn more calories in the process. When it comes to tightening your core, add as much motion as you can. It’s like inviting every muscle for a group hangout: the more, the merrier.
Our abs deserve nothing less than a fun and engaging workout. Now you know that sit-ups and crunches won’t provide, it’s time to change things up at the gym.