Longevity is not necessarily the best measure of greatness. Just because a lot of people keep doing something, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you should either. Do one of the most common exercises in the powerlifting room, for example: the crunch.
This comprehensive core training element has been moved from the commercial gym to the gym, where countless exercisers have pumped out millions of reps in hopes of sculpting six-pack specific. But it is likely that all this effort will come to an end. Crunches are not just a good exercise.
Now that we know better, no matter how many reps you think you can crush, the path to a six-set pack isn’t with this overrated exercise, according to men’s health fitness manager Ebenezer Samuel, CSCSAnd the Matthew Forzaglia, NFPT, CPT, Founder of Forzag Fitness.
“An abdominal crunch is simply not worth it,” Samuel says. “The truth is, fitness got away from the abs crunch a long time ago because it’s not a great way to hit the abs at all.”
Why shouldn’t you do crunches?
Here are three reasons why you should stop wasting time and reps on abdominal exercises.
Crunches can strain your neck
No matter how much discipline you think you’re doing, most people lead the movement with the neck. This causes more stress in the neck muscles than it actually does, and forcing your neck to take most of the load is not ideal at all, especially when the goal is to engage your strength.
Crunches are ineffective for spinal flexion
A strong core is based on excellent spinal flexion across the entire length of the spine – from the chest to the lumbar region. Getting the abs to push into the spine in full flexion is essential to building abdominal strength. However, again, all the work your neck does during a grinding session removes any true flexion of the spine. So again, what is the point of doing these things religiously (or at all)?
Crunches are very easy
You won’t really challenge yourself in crunches until you start pumping a lot of reps, and that’s ineffective. The ideal target range should be in the 10 to 15 repetition range, which should push your abs just enough to start building the strength you’ve been working towards.
“If you can lie down and do 1,000 reps, and you’ll tell me you’ve done 1,000 reps, I’ll tell you you probably don’t have six packs,” Samuel says.
3 alternatives to crunch to train your six packs
Instead of crunches, try these 3 proven alternatives to an abdominal workout.
3 sets of 8 to 10 reps
Keep your focus on bringing your glutes forward during the contraction phase of this hanging movement, and it will always bring you a solid abdominal press after the repetition, no matter which leg raise option you prefer. Positioning this movement allows you to support your core which can really allow you to work on that full six pack.
3 sets of 30 seconds endurance
Hollow grip shifts focus to isometric contractions, forcing you to maintain the desired spinal flexion without any attachment to the neck. Instead, this mode enhances the tight core control. “Imagine that you are doing the hardest part of a properly done crunch and holding that moment for 30 seconds or 45 seconds,” Samuel says. “It’s what you do on hold and that’s why it’s such a great option.”
If you really want to challenge your core in a way that crunches can’t, you’ll want to try V-up. Think of a hollow stabilizer with more spinal flexion and you’ll get a V-up. This exercise is about reaching up and creating a great deal of spinal flexion as we lead our hands and feet at the top of the movement, then return to that hollow starting position. “What I love about V-up is, like the hanging leg raise, is that we take a side of that lower-abdominal work and then [with] Forzaglia says:
Jeff Tomko is a freelance fitness writer who has written for Muscle & Fitness magazine, Men’s Fitness, and Men’s Health.