You’ve probably included the crunch in your exercise regimen at some point, maybe even currently. They’ve been a staple at the gym for years, but I cringe every time I see someone doing them and routinely recommend that my patient’s do not perform them. It’s about time everyone knew the truth about crunches and why they aren’t the right exercise for strengthening your core or your back.
- Crunches load your spine at high levels of compressive force- over and above the maximum recommended by the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. For an exercise that is thought to help eliminate back pain by strengthening the core, crunches have only worsened the back-pain epidemic.
- When performing a crunch, the work is being done by the superficial muscles in the abdomen and the hip flexors, which shorten and tighten with each repetition. But here is the issue- these muscles are already short and tight due to all the sitting we do in our daily lives, so it makes no sense to further shorten and tighten them. In actuality, crunches weaken your core, mess with your alignment and set you up for back pain and pelvic floor dysfunction. In addition, we have all seen those individuals who recruit their neck muscles to perform a crunch and end up with neck pain- not a good idea.
- Crunches do not make your tummy flat. Next time you are at the gym, watch people doing crunches and pay attention to their abdomen – you will notice the tummy pooches outward, which is the opposite of the so-called purpose of this exercise. You will also notice that the shoulders round, the head tucks forward, the butt tucks under and the breath is often held. This is not beneficial to the core or pelvic floor and only serves to exacerbate the terrible posture we live in all day.
So the big question- what to do instead of crunches? The short and quick answer is planks- not only does planking strengthen your core but it does so without any of the side effects of crunches. For any questions, or to learn more about properly planking techniques call our Mount Pleasant office at 843-416-8012.