Why crunches and sit-ups are BAD and what to do instead!
Fitness Quest 10 Intern
More than likely, you’re sitting at a desk right now while you’re on the computer reading this article. Without changing anything, look at your posture. If you’re like the majority of the population, your shoulders and back are rounded. This position seems the easiest to fall into and takes the least amount of work to hold for long periods of time. I like to call this position the “Desk Position”. Now get off of the chair, lay on the ground (on your back), flex your legs, and do a traditional ‘crunch’ or ‘curl-up/sit-up’. Recognize this position? That’s right, you are again in the “Desk Position”. Just because the “Desk Position” is a common one, doesn’t mean it’s a good one to be in. The spine is in a very poor position; to the point where eventually bulging disks and long term back pain could occur.
So my question to you is this: If the “Desk Position” is hard on your lower back and could cause long term aches and pains, then why would you lay on the ground and repeatedly crank your spine over and over again into the “Desk Position”? You wouldn’t! Even though crunches contract your abs and can potentially build up strength in your abs, it does no good for your lower back. It isn’t worth compromising your low back stability for a stronger abdominal region.
So what should you do instead? What seems to be a very popular and effective alternative to the crunch is the “Plank”. Your abs are a part of the larger area of your body called the “core”. The core consists of all of the muscles between your chest and your hips. The purpose of the core is to keep your body stable and in alignment (this includes your spine). A plank helps to increase your body’s ability to keep itself in alignment and can have the same effect on your body as a crunch (without the added low back pain).
To get started with this extremely effective exercise, hold yourself in the push-up position keeping your hands beneath your elbows, and your elbows directly beneath your shoulders. Try to squeeze your belly button with your abs and tighten your buttocks. Hold this position for as long as you can, keeping your body as straight as possible. If this is too hard on your wrists, then go down to your elbows and interlock your hands. There are many other variations to the plank, but this is a good place to get started!