Why Crunches Don’t Work

Shannon Farrell
woman doing crunches

Photo: Getty Images

With bikini season here, it’s only natural to get a little crazy with the crunches. But no matter how many crunches you do, and we’ve done a lot in our spare time, you’re not going to get the six-pack you’ve always dreamed of. If your goal is a smaller waistline, crunches just don’t work. Here’s why.

Crunches Only Target One Section
Crunches only work the front part of the abdominals (the rectus abdominus muscle) so your midsection looks great from the front, but less so from the side. To get a lean look all around, you need to do exercises that work all of the abdominal muscles.

Crunches Don’t Get Rid Of Fat
You can have strong, amazing abs and never see them if there’s a layer of fat over the muscles. To get those perfectly sculpted abs we see on celebrities, you need to reduce body fat by keeping up with a low-fat diet with lots of protein. No crunches or ab workout is going to give you those results on their own.

Crunches Make Your Midsection Bigger
Want a bigger midsection? Probably not. “Crunches work if your goal is to add muscle mass to your midsection, and if you’re willing to work with enough weight, at a high enough intensity,” say Lou Schuler and Alwyn Cosgrove in their book, The New Rules of Lifting For Abs.

Crunches Put Strain On Your Back  
For the same reason you bend at the knees when you pick up something heavy, you shouldn’t be bending your spinal discs every time you do a crunch. Each time you crunch, you put strain on the part of your lower back that has the most nerves.

Crunches Don’t Work Your Abdominals In Their Natural Motion
During a crunch, your core muscles are not moving in the way they are expected to work in real life. They are referred to as “the core” because they keep the spine straight and are the power source for moving your legs, back, etc. At the center of the body, your core keeps everything else aligned and in check. A crunch does the exact opposite — it puts your spine out of whack and works only one part of the “machine.”

A Better Option
Instead of endless crunches, focus on pushups, which work the entire body. The pushup keeps the back straight and forces your abdominals to stabilize your bum, legs, arms and back. Another good alternative is the basic plank or side plank. The great thing about abs is you work those core muscles in almost every exercise you do. Whether you’re doing yoga, running or even walking down the street, your core is being engaged to keep the rest of the body aligned — so go ahead and skip those crunches.

Read more: 10 Beauty Essentials Every Woman Needs In Her Gym Bag

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