Why Crunches Aren't The Best Way To Get Great Abs + What To Do Instead

We've all done our fair share of crunches over the years. They've been part of our core-strengthening and tummy-toning fitness routine at one point or another. And while the standard crunch will always be a classic, newer and more innovative core exercises performed standing up are taking over for their ability to tone and strengthen in new and exciting ways.

Need some convincing? Here are a few reasons crunch-free abs are taking over, and a few ways to try 'em out.

1. They activate every ab muscle at once.

Your core is made up of the external abs (rectus abdominis) that create the six-pack look most associated with a strong abs, the internal abs (transverse abdominis) that pull in your stomach creating a flat appearance and the lateral muscles (obliques and transverse obliques) that suck in your sides and create svelte shadows for a trim waistlines.

While regular crunches are effective at defining the very outer layer of your core (the rectus abdominis) that's their only focus. If you don't work all the other muscles, your stomach will never reach that six-pack ideal because the other muscles won't be strong enough to pull everything in and give your stomach the toned shape you're after.

Crunch-free exercises activate all core muscles in one motion, simultaneously working your abs, obliques and internal abs.

2. They prevent back injury while they tone.

If you suffer from back pain, then crunch-free abs are a safer alternative to standard crunches.

Your spine's natural shape resembles the letter S. This shape keeps spinal disks in perfect alignment and reduces your risk of disk herniation, disk bulges and low back pain. When you you perform a classic crunch, you round your lower back to allow a bend forward from the waist (spinal flexion). But that's the exact movement that causes herniated discs in your lower back.

By standing and working on your abs without crunches, you retain the natural curve in your spine. These exercises also strengthen the small muscles holding your spine in place to help reduce back pain and prevent injury.

3. They save you time.

For those who are pressed for time, full-body core moves also increase your heart rate. This gives you an all-in-one workout focusing on both tummy toning and cardio (no need to do your cardio separately). The best part? It only takes three moves. Try it:

Twisted knee tucks: Stand up tall with hands behind your head and elbows pulled back. Lift your right leg up, bend your knee and cross it over to your left elbow. Simultaneously twist your torso to the right, bringing your left elbow toward your right knee. Return to start position and repeat on other side. Do movement for one minute.

Inch worm: Stand with your feet hip width apart. Keep your legs straight as you bend forward from the hips and pull in your stomach. Place your hands on the floor. Walk your hands forward until you're in the plank position, then slowly walk your feet towards your hands until you're back in forward fold. Repeat the whole movement 15 times.

Mountain climbers: Start in push-up position, with hands under shoulders, toes curled under and knees off of the floor. Bend your right knee as you lift your right foot off of the ground, keeping your weight in ball of your left foot. Quickly switch legs. As your left knee bends and comes up, straighten your right leg back. Repeat movement for 1 minute.

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