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Want Tight Abs? Forget Crunches

Posted Jun 12 2009 5:53pm


Think the best way to tight, flat abdominal muscles is through endless crunches? Nope. It turns out that crunches are not the best way to exercise your core - and they may harm your back.

The full flex movement of crunches often places too much strain on your back at its most vulnerable point. The back of the spine has the greatest potential for nerve damage and it’s this body part that bends and strains during a crunch.

Your spine only has a certain number of bends in its lifetime and too much flexing can lead to a disk bulge or herniation which can cause back and leg pain.

‘Who cares about back health - I want great looking abs’, you say? Well, crunches are not the best way to a flat stomach either. Working your abs in isolation through crunches gives you a great looking stomach from the front, but when you turn to the side, your belly actually sticks out.

A better strategy is to use your ab muscles to do what they were designed for - using them to brace your spine during movement. Working all of your core muscles together - rather than isolating your abs via crunches - gives you a great looking stomach and makes you a better athlete.

Focus on exercises that work your abs while holding your back straight. Pushups are a great core exercise because they force you to stabilize your trunk while your arms and back work.

A plank position where you hold your body straight while propped on your elbows is another great ab workout. Also try leg drops where you lie on your back with your hands at the base of your spine and raise your legs to a 90 degree angle, then slowly lower them. Your stomach will be burning in no time.

Of course, all the core workouts in the world won’t show off your tight abs if they are covered in a layer of fat. Dropping body fat by good nutrition and burning calories is the only way to showcase your well-developed core.

photo credits: top d_vdm; bottom whyld

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Want Tight Abs? Forget Crunches

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