Sit-ups and Crunches; A Thing of the Past?

Sit-ups and Crunches; A Thing of the Past?

According to estimates from University of Virgina Scientists, Studies show that you would have to do 250,000 crunches to burn 1 pound of body fat! 

Did you know that your core is where all the movement in your body originates. Your core is the foundation of your body.  It is the bridge between your upper and lower body that allows you to have a base to move, the ability to shift your weight, stand upright with correct posture, and partake in every day activities as well as perform at an elite level as an athlete. The problem– Most people equate “core” with abdominals only. However, you can’t just focus on the abs if you want quality core strength. It is true that abs are the key core muscles. But, those in the pelvis(flexors and abductors), low back, and sides(obliques), all play crucial roles as well. A weak core can make you susceptible to poor posture, lower back pain, and muscle injuries.

The spine, core, and trunk muscles are three dimensional and encompass the entire mid section of the body. In the past, the “best way” to a flat stomach, strong core, and sculpted 6-pack, was by doing old fashioned crunches and sit-ups. However, over the last decade, research has shown this actually to be the most inefficient way to a strong and sculpted core. When you do crunches you are only working one plane of your core and neglect the low back and obliques, as well as putting your spine and neck in vulnerable positions. So, first and foremost, your key to a 6-pack and burning belly fat is not through crunches.

Muscle is your body’s most effective fat burner. Things that target the entirety of your muscle groups such as total body resistance training and total body circuit training (versus just running or riding the bike) will be the most effective way to lose body fat and reveal those abs. With that being said, specific exercises to target your core such as sit ups and crunches can be used as a supplement to other more effective core exercises like planking, swiss ball pikes, weighted exercises, and dynamic stabilization (refers to exercises that target your core posture muscles by keeping your trunk steady while you move one or more of your extremities.)

The top 7 core exercises you aren’t doing but should be!
Wood Chops

woodchop1.jpg (11702 bytes) woodchop2.jpg (12701 bytes) 
Anchor a resistance band or use a weighted cable near the floor and stand with left side facing it. Hold handles with both hands and begin in a lunge position or a twisted squat while facing the anchor point, arms straight.  Turn, pivoting on the feet and sweep the arms diagonally up to the other side(from low to high like you are chopping wood). Using your core to force the cable up, not your arms. Return to start and repeat for 12-16 reps before switching sides.

Swiss ball Tucks and Swiss ball pikes

Lie facedown with ball under shins/ankles, body supported on hands (push-up position with feet elevated) Tucks– bend the knees and roll the ball in towards your arms forcing your knees upwards towards you chest-try to keep your back straight and contract the abs. Roll out and repeat.  Pikes-Contract the abs and pull the ball in towards your arms, but keep legs straight, to force your butt up towards the sky in a pike position until toes are on the ball. 15-20 reps

Stability ball roll outs

Step 1:Start in a kneeling position in front of the stability ball. Keep your hips tucked tight and knees bent at a 90 degree angle.Step 2:With your lower back flat and your core engaged, roll the ball outwards on to your forearms.Step 3:Pull your body back to the starting position and repeat the action. You can perform a more advanced option by using smaller ball or ab roller. 8-12 reps

Mountain Climber variation

1.Starting Position: Assume a pushup position on your hands and feet.2. Raise your right arm and left leg out simultaneously and hold for three seconds. Lower both slowly.3. Return to the starting position, and repeat movement with opposite leg and arm. 4 Alternate from side to side, for 12-16 reps.

Spider Man pushup

Assume a standard pushup position, your body aligned  straight like a board from ankles to head. As you lower your body toward the floor, lift your right foot, swing your right leg out sideways, and try to touch your knee to your elbow. Return to the starting position, and repeat with your left leg. Do 5 to 6 reps with each leg.

Hanging straight leg raise with advanced option

Hang from a pull up bar with a shoulder width grip. Keep legs straight if possible,  lift your legs until parallel with the ground, and lower back to original position without swinging. 10-20 reps. For a more advanced option raise your legs while curling your pelvis upwards until they almost touch the bar. Lower legs slowly back to starting position. Do not use momentum to lift your legs. Moving in a slow and controlled manner reduces how much you will sway.Curling your pelvis insures that your abs are involved in this exercise otherwise its mainly your hip flexor that are doing the work. Do this exercise for 7-12 reps.

One leg Side Plank

Start in a normal side plank position with your body level, hips up, forearm stable, and a straight line from your ankle to ear. Once you are stabilized raise your top leg to make a Y shape with your body.  Hold for between 30 and 60 seconds. Repeat for the other side.

My Suggestion

Start your workout with a core routine. If you are like me, sometimes after a tough workout I am too fatigued to do core and have been known to cut it short or skip it altogether. However, because it is the foundation of your body and is vital to a well balanced workout, doing a 8-12 minute core routine to start your workout will ensure it gets done and it is effective because you are fresh at the start of your workouts. Starting with core will also activate those trunk muscles so they fire better when doing other exercises and ensure they are engaged throughout the workout.

Not an everday thingIf you are using weight or some of the exercises listed above there is no need to do core specific exercises everyday. Like any other muscle in your body, your core muscles need rest and time to recover. (You don’t work your chest every day, do you?) I would say between 3 and 4 times a week is plenty if your are truly putting in the time.

 Mix it up- Do a variety of exercises including planking, weighted exercises, stability exercises, and yes, even some occasional crunches as a supplement can be used to activate those essential muscles(Don’t forget specific exercises to target the low back and obliques). Adding an element of balance will naturally engage your core and add a whole new dimension to your training. Always try to include some sort of Dynamic Stabilization- where your goal is to stabilize with movement of the extremities and avoid change in extension of the spine.

I hope this information helps you reach your goal of a strong core and coveted 6-pack. I have been getting some great feedback from people. Please keep the questions and comments coming.

Happy Holidays from Norway,


One response

  1. Spot on, Kevin! As a PT, I constantly find myself telling clients if they only did the exercises that are difficult for them, I wouldn’t have a job. 95% of the time, their problems can be traced to a weak core. Excellent column!

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