October 17th, 2018
woman plank

Build Core Strength: Stop Doing Crunches Today

We are so glad the internet was invented. Without the internet, funny youtube videos of cats and binge-sessions on Netflix would not exist. But in all seriousness, the downfall of the internet and computers is that for many people today, work requires sitting at a desk, hunched over a keyboard for 40+ hours a week. My back hurts just thinking about it!
While many of us would love to be professional artists, astronauts, pro athletes and rock stars, the average employee spends the majority of the workday sitting at a desk tippity-tapping away at the keyboard. While the modern age of personal computers, smart phones, tablets and comfortable furniture may benefit us all in some aspects, it certainly has not benefitted our posture or back health. For this reason, we cringe when we see hardworking men and women go from hunching at an office desk to hunching on a Swiss ball doing crunches at the gym.

Falsely Advertised

Crunches are often falsely advertised as the vessel to a great beach body, usually alongside a silly article headlined “The number one bikini-body move you’re not doing!”. While crunches are an efficient exercise in certain circumstances, they are often performed incorrectly. If you’re trying to lose fat around your waist, you’ll have more success reassessing your nutrition rather than grinding out 1000 crunches and sit ups a day. If you’re exercising your core, your goal should be to strengthen your core, not burn fat.

Replace your crunches with these exercises

We want to encourage some abdominal exercise variation that not only target the abdominals, but the entire core (obliques, erector spinae, etc.). Therefore, because we do not want a strong core to be complementing a Quasimodo-like posture, here are just a handful of terrific core exercises that help increase trunk stability and core strength without spinal flexion:

Plank/Side Plank

The plank has become more and more popular amongst personal trainers as the go-to exercise for core strength, which is great. However, too often we see the metric of success being the amount of time you can hold a plank. You should go for quality over quantity. Short bursts of 10-20 second planks with perfect form is much more beneficial than hitting a full minute with bad form.

Variations of the Plank

  • Perform plank in push-up position rather than on forearms
  • Perform with hands and/or feet on different surface
  • Feet up on benchHands on medicine ball
  • Feet or hands on a BOSU or Swiss ball
  • Side planks – dip hip to floor and then return to original position for repetitions
  • Perform plank with one foot or hand up

Cable Chops

Cable chops are an awesome exercise for core strength. The important cue to remember is to keep your entire core tight during the movement and to not twist your back. You can perform the chop from a kneeling position, only moving your arms, or from a standing position, using your whole body. If you’re performing the chop from a standing position, remember to twist your feet on the ground as you chop, so you can keep your spine in an aligned, neutral position.

Variations of the Cable Chop

  • Perform parallel, upward and downward
  • Perform by throwing medicine balls instead of using cables
  • Perform in kneeling position, no twisting, only moving arms

Evan Clark

Evan Clark is a former wildland firefighter turned fitness pro (NSCA CPT). Though he loves his heavy squat and deadlift sessions, he believes that health and fitness extend well beyond the gym and that fitness should be a tool to promote mental health and lifestyle balance.

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