The Most Useless Exercise Ever

 

Einstein is quoted as having said that the definition of insanity “is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”.

This quote leads me to beg the question then, why do people still continue to do abdominal crunches and expect a 6-pak and a functional midsection in return?

If crunches were the answer to a toned tummy all of us would have them.

But alas we don’t, do we? Canada is currently sitting at a 54% overweight and obesity rate (Stats Can 2014) – with a lot of that fat around our bellies.

Something is clearly not working with all these crunches that we have been doing.

woman-with-belly-fat

Crunches – why they don’t work

First off, let’s review why abdominal crunches don’t work and are the most useless exercise ever.

Number one: you can’t spot train.

This simply means that you cannot take a certain section of your body, like your abs, and perform repetitions isolating that muscle group in hopes of decreasing the size of that body part.

You can try all you want.

Heck you can even stare at your belly while you are doing your crunches and yell at it – but it still won’t work.

Why?

Well, basic physiology tells us that fat is utilized as a fuel source, and when we need that fuel we start burning it from various locations throughout the body. Not from one certain location.

You cannot burn fat from one particular area.

Instead, you gotta keep working at training your whole body and slowly the fat in the area you want reduced will start to go away (that is, of course, if you are eating properly too).

They say abs are made in the kitchen. But so are cookies. #Justsaying Click To Tweet

Number two: flexing forward is kind of a dumb move.

One of the functions of the abdominals is to flex the spine forward. That flexing activity (which is essentially what we do when we perform a crunch or a curl-up) is not functional at all though.

Think about it. How often do you actually roll the spine while on your back, on a day-to-day basis?

I can think of one time and one time only – to get out of bed in the morning.

And, while the thought of perfecting that movement is great, it’s not really what I think a lot of us have in mind when we go to the gym.

My favourite exercise is a cross between a lunge and a crunch. I call it lunch. Click To Tweet

The abdominals are actually used (during our waking hours) as stabilizers to the spine.

Now, please I understand that I am being very general here.

What the heck do our abs do?

The abs are also used throughout the day for twisting, bending, assistance on breathing as well as flexing.

But, if you were to break it down percentage wise what the abdominal muscles did during most of their waking hours the clear winner would be stabilizing and assisting our spine and our posture.

Taking that into consideration you can now see why an abdominal crunch will not help us out in daily living and provide even less help in sport.

More preferable exercises are ones that lengthen the body and then use the abdominals to hold that position, such as:

Planks

Push-ups

Boat pose

Mountain climbers

We also need exercises that ask the abdominals to assist in stabilizing the spine such as:

Squats

Deadlifts

Lunges

Pull-ups

Power cleans

And finally, we need exercises in our routine that also engage the rotational and twisting ability of our midsection. These include:

Reverse woodchops

Anti-rotational movements with tubing or the Rip Trainer

Russian twists with the medicine ball – careful with form though!

Med ball throw downs

Side plank tempo drills

wall-climber-2

If want to perform a crunch

If you want to perform the odd crunches in your routine then I recommend the following.

The following ab exercises were tested and rated by the American Council on Exercise (ACE).

They sponsored a study to see which ab exercise fired up the rectus abdominus (the long, flat muscle muscle extending the front of the body), and the obliques (our waist muscles) the best.

For strengthening the rectus abdominus, the 13 exercises were ranked most to least effective:

1. Bicycle maneuver
2. Captain’s chair
3. Crunches on exercise ball
4. Vertical leg crunch
5. Torso Track
6. Long arm crunch
7. Reverse crunch
8. Crunch with heel push
9. Ab Roller
10. Hover
11. Traditional crunch
12. Exercise tubing pull
13. Ab Rocker

For strengthening the obliques, the 13 exercises were ranked most to least effective:

1. Captain’s chair
2. Bicycle maneuver
3. Reverse crunch
4. Hover
5. Vertical leg crunch
6. Crunch on exercise ball
7. Torso Track
8. Crunch with heel push
9. Long arm crunch
10. Ab Roller
11. Traditional crunch
12. Exercise tubing pull
13. Ab Rocker

More Reasons Ab Crunches Aren't Great

  • Because you curl your upper body forward they reinforce the slumped sitting posture
  • They compress the (lower) lumbar segments
  • Crunches can actually weaken the pelvic floor
  • Because of the forward flexion movement they restrict the excursion of the diaphragm and hamper breathing
  • Can cause shearing strains across the high lumbar segments
  • Crunches, especially legs supported full sit-ups, over use the hip flexor muscles
  • Ab crunches tend to also over use the rectus abdominis muscle at the expense of the obliques and TA (your deep abdominal muscle)

Final thoughts

And last, but not least, if getting rid of that fat is what you really want, then you need to take a long hard look at what you are eating.

Great abs are actually cooked in the kitchen first and then trained hard in the gym second.

Try these awesome workouts to strengthen the abs:

25-Minute Bodyweight Strength & Abs

Best Ab Workout

TRX Booty Lift & Abs

15-Minute Ab Workout

Arms & Abs for Women

Lower Body Workout & Abs

24-Minute Ab HIIT