Are Sit Ups and Crunches A Waste of Time?
I’m sure you have come across many articles that discuss sit ups (or other spinal flexion exercises) and label them as being a waste of time. In fact, I have even written an article discussing the truth about abs and getting a six pack. I mentioned the fact that doing a ton of crunches and sit ups will never get you the results you probably desire.
But are sit ups and crunches a total waste of time?
Let’s delve a bit deeper into this popular fitness and exercise topic.
Here are a few of the reasons “experts” (using that term VERY loosely) classify sit ups as a waste of time…
- Bad for your back
- Burn little to no calories
- Pointless if you deadlift and squat
Let’s take a look at each of these points a bit more closely.
Bad for your Back
If someone has tight hip flexors, back pain can surely be an issue because in a normal sit up position the hip flexors are stretched. This stretched position is no problem for most people but if your hip flexors are tight, the path of least resistance takes over. This is the idea that the body moves through the path that is the easiest. So instead of stretching the hip flexor muscles, the body compensates by arching the lower back. This arched position lessens the stretch on the hip flexors but causes back pain.
There are three simple fixes for this.
1. Stretch your hip flexors
2. Bring your legs up: Bringing your legs up will shorten the hip flexors and stop the stretching.
3. Crunch to only 25-30 degrees: Crunching above that causes the hip flexors to take over. This isn’t a bad thing, but if you have back pain this will help alleviate it.
So are crunches really bad for your back? No
Can they cause back pain? Yes, but it can be alleviated quite easily with a few simple adjustments.
This depends on your idea of effective.
If you think doing 100 crunches a day will get you a six pack, then sure you can label crunches as ineffective… along with every other exercise in the world. The truth is that you will never see muscle unless you lose fat.
Crunches are effective for their intended purpose, which is working the movement of spinal flexion and working the rectus abdominis muscles. Think of crunches as the bicep curl of the torso. You wouldn’t dare skip bicep curls, would you? I didn’t think so…
Burn Little to No Calories
This is true. Any exercise that has you laying on your back is relatively ineffective as far as a caloric burner, but that doesn’t mean it is ineffective for working a particular muscle. If you are doing crunches to burn calories, you are doing the exercise for the wrong reasons. The exercise isn’t flawed, your logic and expectations are a skew.
Pointless if you Deadlift or Squat
Squatting and deadlifting will surely help you build a big, thick, strong core. Stabilization of the trunk is key in both of these movements and the whole abdominal region is taxed.
This is not a reason to slack on your abdominal training. Most people limit the amount of weight they can deadlift and squat because their core is the weak link. So this anit-crunch point, is actually a pro-crunch point. Say that three times fast!
This illustrates the importance of doing direct core work, including crunches. You can only lift as much as you can support. If your core is not strong enough to support an increase in weight, it doesn’t matter how much your lower body can actually lift because the attempt will fail. Your core needs to be in relative strength to your extremities or progress halts.
If you are doing sit ups and crunches with the intent of burning fat and getting a six pack, then you might label spinal flexion exercises ineffective. But, the real issue is that you don’t understand the rationale and purpose of the exercise.
You have to look at the big picture.
The stronger your core, the more weight you can squat, deadlift, and overhead press. The more weight you can use on these exercises, the more muscle you will build and the more calories you will ultimately burn.
So can crunches, sit ups and other abdominal work help you lose fat and get a six pack?
Indirectly yes, but you probably never thought about it that way.
Please share this and educate others to stop the exercise misconceptions and myths.
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