Crunches — along with their close cousin, the sit-up — are oftentimes viewed as the be-all and end-all of core and abdominal workouts. To be honest, there are good reasons why this misconception has persisted. Crunches are simple and challenging, they require no equipment or spotters, and they have been promoted by well-known fitness celebrities for decades. Nonetheless, science has shown them to be ineffective and possibly even dangerous.
If you actually want to strengthen and define your core, there are better ways to do it! Read on to discover three reasons why crunches and sit-ups are ineffective — and three alternative core exercises that you can do instead.
Reason #1 to Avoid Crunches: Targeted Fat Loss is A Myth
The notion that working muscles in one part of the body will “target” fat in that region seems pretty reasonable. And the notion of targeted fat loss is certainly a marketable one, forming the core message of countess weight-loss pills, workout programs, and fad diets.
The sad truth, however, is that this idea has been shown to be unscientific time and time again. There are no shortcuts — if you want to lose fat in one part of your body, you have to burn calories or reduce your caloric intake, period. And when it comes to burning calories, crunches are extremely inefficient. In fact, a study conducted at the Syracuse University estimated that it would take about 250,000 crunches to burn one pound of body fat. Yikes!
More efficient alternatives, such as sprint intervals, swimming, and Tabata-style training should be used to burn fat instead. After all, no matter how strong your core may be, your muscles are not going to show unless you have eliminated that tricky layer of belly fat.
Reason #2 to Avoid Crunches: Back Injuries are No Fun
If you have ever moved heavy furniture, worked with a personal trainer, or had a physical job with responsible safety policies, then you have probably heard the old saying “lift with your knees, not with your back.”
Unfortunately, people tend to throw this rule out the window when doing core workouts! Both sit-ups and crunches put undue pressure on your back by causing it to bend in a stressful manner, thus increasing your risk for herniated disks, sprained ligaments, and even spinal dislocation.
Reason #3 to Avoid Crunches: Alternative Exercises Can Work The Entire Core
Crunches focus primarily on the rectus abdominis muscles, and to a lesser extent the obliques. Sit-ups work a slightly wider range of muscles but are still pretty limited in scope. In truth, neither of these workouts is capable of providing the compound workout needed to build your entire core in a safe and efficient way.
So how can you achieve a solid and holistic core workout? Read on for three of the most effective methods:
Crunch Alternative #1: Planking
Simple and stress-free — simply support your body weight with your toes and your forearms while maintaining your core in a straight, plank-like form. Maintain this position for as long as possible to obtain optimal results!
Crunch Alternative #2: Cheerleaders
Lying on your right side, extend both legs with the left resting on the right. With your right elbow under your shoulder, extend your left arm overhead while lifting your hips off the ground. Allow your left hand and toe to touch above your belly, and then slowly return to the original position. Complete this motion repeatedly for 30 seconds to a minute, then switch sides.
Crunch Alternative #3: HIIT Training
High-intensity interval running provides a holistic yet moderate workout for your core while burning fat extensively. Check out the Top Fitness Mag HIIT Archives for more information on this dynamic exercise method!