Situps vs. Crunches: The Pros & Cons, From A Personal Trainer

mindbodygreen Editorial Assistant By Sarah Regan
mindbodygreen Editorial Assistant

Sarah Regan is a writer, registered yoga instructor, and Editorial Assistant at mindbodygreen. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from SUNY Oswego, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Situps vs. Crunches: A Fitness Trainer Settles The Core Debate

To sit up, or to crunch? That is the question. Probably two of the first moves you think of when abs day rolls around, situps and crunches are often go-to exercises in a core routine. But which is better?

Here, personal trainer Jason Williams, NASM-CPT, gives us the lowdown on the benefits and downsides of both so you can figure out which one is best for you.

Situps

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How to do them:

  1. Begin lying on your back with knees bent and feet on the ground, hip-width apart.
  2. Take your hands behind your ears (you can also cross your arms over your chest), and keep the neck neutral. Inhale.
  3. On your exhale, engage your core to sit all the way up, with your entire back off the ground.
  4. Slowly lower back to the starting position as you inhale.

Pros of situps.

According to Williams, situps provide a larger range of motion than crunches. They're great for targeting more than just your abs, including your low back, hips, chest, and neck. He adds that situps might be better if you're already an athletic person because they require some existing core strength to complete correctly.

Cons of situps.

If you have back or neck problems, situps unfortunately may exacerbate these issues. They present more risk for straining muscles in the low back and neck "because it can be harder to keep proper form," Williams notes. Additionally, some people may experience feeling dizzy if they forget to breathe or are moving too quickly, he adds.

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Crunches

How to do crunches:

  1. Begin by lying on your back with knees bent and feet on the ground hips-width apart.
  2. Take your hands behind your ears (you can also cross your arms over your chest), and keep the neck neutral. Inhale.
  3. On your exhale, engage your core and lift just the head and shoulders off the ground.
  4. Inhale as you come back down.

Pros of crunches.

As Williams explains, crunches are a more focused on the rectus abdominus, or upper abs. They'll work your obliques a bit as well. The shorter movement isolates those muscles, making it very effective. He adds that you can perform crunches slower, and many people find it easier to manage the form compared to with situps. For this reason, crunches are a bit more accessible.

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Cons of crunches.

While crunches do isolate your lower-abs muscles, you don't work additional muscle groups the way you do with situps. And, there's still the chance of neck injury here, so Williams adds, "The main thing to remember is not to pull on the neck."

So, which one is better?

The answer depends on what you're looking for. Do you want to kick up abs day and challenge yourself with the muscle-isolating work of crunches? Or would you prefer situps, which can also work your hips, back, and chest?

On top of that, it's important to note your level of fitness and any injuries you might have. Crunches are probably "easier" form-wise, so that's something to consider if your back or neck is an issue.

Williams himself notes he likes to switch it up. At the end of the day, you can certainly try both to get a feel for which is better to you. Whichever you choose to incorporate into your next core workout, crunches and situps are both welcome additions with plenty of benefits.

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