If you answered yes to the question above, you better be a boxer, mixed martial artist, or an athlete in a full contact sport such as rugby or American football. If you are not one of those people, there are better, more efficient, and more functional ways to train your core musculature, which I will discuss in more detail in future posts.
Let’s face it; most people do crunches in the gym with one thing in mind, which is to get that most desirable six-pack. But it has been scientifically proven time and time again that spot reduction is not possible and having a ripped midsection is not a matter of doing a high number, usually in the hundreds, of crunches per day. Getting washboard abs will only happen if you get your TOTAL body fat percentage down to around 8%. That means if you weigh around 160 lbs, you can only be carrying around 13 lbs of fat on you.
So now that we got that argument out of the way, there are a number of reasons why I dislike doing and making my clients do crunches. First of all, to fatigue your abdominal muscles doing crunches, you have to do quite a number of them, usually around 20-50 per set, multiplied by 3 sets and 3 exercises (normal crunches, bicycle crunches, and leg raises) that totals to 180-450 reps! Doing that high a number will take up precious training time I have with a client or athlete.
Second, I believe crunches reinforce a forward, hunched over posture which is bad for almost any sport (except the ones mentioned earlier), and bad manners at the dinner table. Imagine your mom telling you to sit-up straight because you are hunched over our plate, or your golf pro instructing you to keep your lower back flat because you are bent-over the ball. That is the posture a crunch will most likely strengthen.
And third, there have been a few studies that have shown that doing repetitive spinal flexion (which is what crunches are), may damage the intervertebral discs in your spine. Although a lot of so-called fitness experts will argue this point, why risk it? I believe doing too much of a certain exercise will eventually lead to some sort of overuse injury.
So there you go, unless you fight or model shirtless for a living, I would advice you stay away from crunches and train your core in more functional ways. These exercises such as planks and their progressions, chops and lifts, and anti-rotation exercises, I will go over in my next posts.