Crunches are one of those go to exercises that almost everyone knows how to do. Even if you’ve never set foot in a gym, you’ve probably done at least 3000 straight crunches at some point in your life in an effort to finally get your six pack on. Unfortunately, other than giving you a good burn in your abs, crunches are at best a waste of time and at worst help promote poor posture and can cause pain or injury.
If you’ve been following along on my instagram or follow the Path of Warhorse, you’ll notice that we have never done a crunch. Ever. This is because the abdominal muscles that crunches “target” are typically much more effectively trained in a fashion where they’re forced to stabilize your trunk against some outside force. This is why we’ll do tons of pallof press variations, chops and lifts, rollouts/bodysaws, etc. The core musculature is meant to stabilize your body, keep it upright and keep it strong.
Crunches, on the other hand, flex the abdominal muscles. Again, makes for a good burn, does shit all for actually helping you become stronger and healthier. On top of that, most people ineveitably use their hip flexors, which are already short and tight, or end up cranking on their head with their hands putting lots of undue stress on the cervical spine. Even if you did perform the crunch perfectly, all you’re really doing is bending the spine, which is perfect if you want to look like this as you get older
it also goes really well with the typical posture you have all day…probably what you look like right now
The exception that we do make is the reverse crunch. The reverse crunch is performed by simply bringing your legs/knees up to your face rather than the other way around
The reason this variation is a good choice is because it
- forces you to use your abs more and your hip flexors/shoulders less
- it helps strengthen your abs and correct your posture
- prevents neck strain since your not cranking on your head
To perform this properly:
- lie down onto your back and hold onto something slightly above your head. Your elbows should be slightly bent.
- Start with your knees bent roughly at 90 degrees with your heels kept in as close to your butt as possible. If you allow your feet to move away from your butt, the exercise becomes less effective since the weight of your legs and momentum will help the crunch happen rather than your abs doing the work.
- Keeping the back flat, pull your knees up to your face using your abs in a slow and controlled fashion.
- Once you get as far as you comfortably can, slowly return to the starting position.
- The heavier the object over your head, the easier the exercise will be since you can pull on it more to help bring your knees up.
- Try not to let your thighs go past the “90 degree” position. This will make it more likely that you’ll use your hip flexors (bad) or you might overextend at your low back (really bad)
Again, just a couple mistakes. Doing these isn’t the end of the world, but it makes the exercise less effective
To help prevent using momentum, try putting a foam roller under your legs. This will force you to maintain a good position as well as “remind” you to go more slowly.
If you are not someone like me and don’t have an extended posture:
Rather than bringing your knees to your elbows, you might want to try bringing your knees up towards the ceiling. Someone with a flat back might actually bring their pelvis into a rotated position, which could place extra stress on the lumbar spine. However, most people are more like the top picture and reverse crunches will do a lot to help bring your posture back to a less extended position.
If you have never done these, prepare to have a sore time.