Let’s start with one of the most popular exercises…
1. The Crunch
Crunches are done by curling the spine inward in a face-up position on the floor.
This creates a contraction of the rectus abdominis—the front part of the midsection musculature. That’s where the good news ends.
The bad news involves poor technique.
People have a tendency to excessively tuck their chins inward on the crunch and arch their lower backs on the descent.
One problem leads to lower back pain while the other leads to neck pain.
Together, they create postural distortions.
Now let’s look at the first cousin of the crunch—the sit-up. This exercise is often performed with the fingers interlaced behind the head.
That alone puts you in threat because you can easily pull your head forward as you perform the movement.
Instead of curling the torso inward, you sit all the way up with your back completely off the ground.
Errors often occur by pulling the head down and rounding the back as well as arching the back at the bottom of the movement.
Momentum is then created, which leads to the hip flexors taking over.
You end up not working your abs at all, but creating more of a muscle imbalance and possibly pain.
3. Weighted side bends
If you leaf through any old bodybuilding book, you will likely see a muscular man doing an exercise called a side bend.
You perform this drill by holding a dumbbell at your side with your arm fully extended, then bending laterally to that side.
You then bend back upright by engaging the obliques on the opposite side of your body.
It sounds pretty cool right? It is cool…If you like the appearance of love handles on your sides.
Side bends involve a short range of motion, which enables you to use pretty heavy weights.
This makes your obliques bulk up and stick out.
If you are trying to lose your love handles, this is not the exercise to do. And the slightest wrong move can tweak your back.
There are much better exercises to do than crunches, sit-ups and side bends when it comes to your abs.
Focus your attention on more functional movements and cross-body patterns. These recruit your entire abdominal wall.
Opt for exercises like:
- bicycle crunches
- contralateral limb raises
- mountain climbers
- alternating t-stands and
- lateral plank walks.
- side plank rotations (above)
And remember, crunches and sit-ups are not the enemy. They are effective as long as you use proper form.
Keep these pointers in mind at all times:
- Always move through a full range of motion.
- Never use momentum.
- Never pull your head forward
- Focus on using your abs to do all the work
- Place your hands on the side of your head by your ears
You now have enough information to spare your spine from discomfort and strengthen your abs with confidence. All you have left to do is practice.
Yours in Health,