February 28, 2019
Sure, crunches were the gold standard ab exercise for decades, but in today’s fitness climate, trainers flinch at the thought of their clients striving toward a flat stomach with this move.
The long and the short of it: crunches aren’t nearly as effective as other core exercises. Yet people still continue to do them. “A lot of exercise enthusiasts do crunches ad nauseam without really increasing their core strength,” a trainer tells NBC News. What’s worse is the move can lead to neck or back pain and sometimes hip issues.
To understand why fitness professionals hate crunches, it’s important to know more about the move and your abdominal muscles. According to My Fitness Pal.
Abs have four main functions: to flex your spine (as when you bend forward), resist spine extension (so you don’t bend over backward, literally), brace to keep you upright and help you rotate or avoid rotation. If you want your abs to be strong in these functions, you need to prioritize exercises that help you accomplish each function,
If you’re in the crunches game because you’re interested in a flatter stomach, the key is working the entire body to build more total lean muscle mass, thus increasing your fat-burning potential, Popsugar reports. Those changes only happen with full-body strength and cardio training. Isolation work will increase endurance in the targeted area, but you can't burn fat in one area at a time.
The most simple alternative to crunches? Well, that would be planks. That said, SELF put together a list of 30 exercises to work abs.
Since fear of back or neck injury is one of the main arguments against crunches, taking your ab workout off the ground might be a good idea. For that, Men’s Health has your back (quite literally) with these six upright ab exercises.