Question of the month, do you know the difference between crunches and sit ups? If you do that’s great, but I recently found out by asking this question to a few of my clients, and they did not. So I took this opportunity to write to you about their differences and their health pros and cons.
Sit ups start in a supine position (on your back) with the knees bent and the soles of the feet firmly placed on the floor. The hands usually are intertwined behind the head, but not always. The sit up is just as it suggests: you pull the body up from the floor toward the knees until you are in a sitting position.
Cons of the Sit up:
Lately, there has been a lot of controversy about the effectiveness and safety regarding the traditional sit up. The issue with the sit up is the engagement of the hip flexors, which are connected from the femur to the spine. According to the Harvard Health Publication doing sit ups create stronger hip flexors hence more force to the lumbar region of the back, causing stress to the disks of the spine. This could lead to bulging or herniated disks.
Other issues can occur when people are not strong enough to perform a proper sit up and use a jerking motion through the upper body to launch upward toward the knees. This particular action jams the back into the floor, and the hands pull on the neck in an attempt to get to the sit up position.
So not only is this move problematic to those who do it correctly but it’s a serious problem for those who do sit ups incorrectly. For now, we will let the sit up fall into obscurity and review the crunch.
Crunches (also called half sit-ups) are done from a supine position (on the back) with the knees bent. Hands can be behind the head, crossed on the chest or to the side of the torso. You methodically chin nod, roll through the thorax and imprint the lumbar. The crunch is easier to execute and is a great activator of the rectus abdominis, the transverse abdominis, and external-internal obliques. Studies have found that the crunch is as effective as any fitness equipment that you see on infomercials, claiming that their ab machine can create better results than the old fashioned do it yourself crunch.
Cons of Crunches:
Again pressing the lumber (imprint) may also cause disk issues. They also do not engage the lower abdomens. Outside of this, I think doing crunches as a part of your core development is safe. A good way to think about performing the crunch is that you melt the spine into the floor when rolling up and down. Controlling the motion is better for the spine and the muscles you are trying to recruit.
The plank is a deceptively simple exercise and the new darling movement of the exercise industry. Planks are performed from a push-up position. You can begin the plank on the forearms or in a push-up position. You press the body up until you reach a long line from head to toe. Try to keep the pelvis in a neutral, straight line, and all muscle groups engaged in isometric contraction. Hold this position for as long as you can without sagging or lifting the hip out of neutral. This move engages all core muscles and stamina strength through the chest muscles deltoids and triceps. A lot of bang for your buck.
Most trainers and classes are incorporating planks in place of crunches and sit ups. Studies say that the plank (side or straight) are more effective for engaging the core than the sit-up or crunch. So, when considering the core and those six pack abs consider crunches and a plank series in your training. Oh and just in case you didn’t know: spot reduction does not work. So remember to add cardiovascular and strength training to your training to get the best results.