The Crunch is one of the most popular ab training exercises. Simple to perform, it has long been touted as the key to a strong core and shredded abs. But are more crunches really the answer?
Many trainers have actually begun removing the Crunch and similar exercises from their training programs. Learn what’s causing the slow death of the Crunch.
Stability Over Flexion
The Crunch and the Sit-Up involve a flexion of the spine and primarily engage the abdominals. Although the movement is great for the upper abs, it does very little for the rest of the core and doesn’t really enhance athleticism.
Think of any athletic movement that you regularly perform. You probably aren’t crunching up off the ground. Most sports skills are performed standing, and they involve power generated from the legs, up through the core and into an upper-body movement, like blocking a shot or pushing through an opposing lineman. If your core isn’t stable during these movements, you lose valuable power, have poor balance and put yourself at risk for injury.
Stability exercises increase strength in the entire core, including muscles in the front, sides and back of the body. A full 360 degrees of core strength locks in your spine and provides the stability you need to perform powerful athletic movements.
The basic stability exercise is the Plank. During the Plank, the entire core engages—even deep core muscles that are dormant during the Crunch—to maintain the position. Although the Plank doesn’t simulate an on-field skill, resisting gravity helps you maintain stability during other exercises and athletic movements.
The basic Plank can also be adapted for other stability exercises. The most common modifications are the Side Plank and the Superman, which target the sides and back of the body, respectively. However, you can take this a step further by performing a standing Plank with the Pallof Press; asymmetrically loading your core with a Standing Single-Arm Cable Press or Row; or performing exercises with the TRX Rip Trainer.
If you want to get the most out of your core training, stability exercises are better than Crunches. Even though you aren’t crunching to directly engage the abs, you get a stronger and a more defined core with stability exercises.
You don't have to completely eliminate crunches from your training; just make sure they’re not the featured exercise in your core workout. Final verdict: the Crunch is not dead, but it's moribund.