Is It Just Me Or Are Crunches Useless?…
During my time as a trainer in a large health club I used to see pretty much every gym member incorporate crunches into their routine. Some of the these members were in great shape I have to say But I think its fair to say the vast majority were not.
Crunches have become synonymous with a good workout, for many people a workout is not complete if they haven’t spent the last 10 minutes of a workout ‘Cruching’ their abs to ‘Feel the burn’. Some people even use the ‘Ab Cradle’ style devices that actually help rock you forwards and backwards, in and out of a sit up. Not content with lifting their heads off of the floor towards their knees, some people wanted help doing it. On a side note i think its important to add that a study conducted on these machines noted that at best the Ab Cradle will activate the rectus abdominus as much as a standard sit up and at worst it wont even come close.
I remember one incident when myself and the other trainers in the club decided that we would rid the gym of these dreaded devices to save the members from themselves. We took them away and hid them in the cupboard. Within an hour all hell had broken loose, with one member even threatening to hand in his membership notice. The cradles came back out.
However my war with ‘Crunches’ and ‘The AB cradle’ is not over and in this article I aim to show you the short comings of the crunch and why you should leave it out of your workout.
- -The internal and external obliques (The muscles on the sides of the abdomen) facilitate rotation of the spine
- -The rectus abdominus (The 6 pack muscle) brings the spine in to flexion as well as ‘holding up’ the pelvis.
- -The transverse abdominus is responsible for intra abdominal pressure (Core Stability) To attain a truly strong mid section each of the above muscles must be trained correctly, in this article I’m going to tackle the rectus abdmonius and the dreaded crunch exercise.
Why does the Crunch exercise not work?
As mentioned many people beaver away doing hundreds sometimes thousands of crunches in an attempt to get a washboard stomach, this is for a number of reasons for example their trainer may have told them to do it. Whats more likely is that they saw it in a fitness or celebrity style magazine and/or its the only abdominal exercise they know. The Crunch doesn’t work for these reasons:
- -The crunch does not take the muscle through full range of motion. Look at any conditioning exercise, the muscle is first stretched and then contacted, not so with the crunch, the crunch is more of a ‘Pulse’
- -The crunch promotes forward head posture. Due to people putting their hands behind the heads and pushing their heads forward into a crunch, stretching the supporting neck muscles and promoting bad posture.
- -The rectus abdmonius is a phasic or ‘Fast Twitch’ muscle fiber. That goes to say if it was an athlete it would be a sprinter, not a marathon runner. Therefore the muscles work better using lower repetitions and higher weight. Doing hundreds of crunches that lack full range of motion, promote forward head posture and do not apply the correct stimulus to a muscle will not improve the look of the midsection and may even lead to muscular atrophy (muscle being lost)
To have a personalized and specific abdominal workout written for you contact us your, Bristol Personal Trainer and book in for a session. And as for Ab Cradle style devices, pack them away in the basement along with platform shoes, lava lamps and other useless inventions from the 1970’s.