Raise your hand if you’ve ever busted out a set of 50 crunches before (don’t worry—you’re not alone). Now raise your hand if you realize that your typical crunch may actually be doing you more harm than good.
As it turns out, many physical therapists, functional movement practitioners, and other healthcare professionals agree that the inherent risks of performing the standard crunch or sit-up far outweigh the potential benefits. The problem is that even when done correctly, the basic crunch can impose a lot of strain on your back and increase your risk of injury to a spinal muscle, ligament, or disc—and believe it or not, it’s actually pretty easy to do this movement incorrectly anyway!
Plus, as far as effectiveness goes, the basic crunch pales in comparison to other ab exercises out there that can help you work superficial and deep core layers without imposing such a big risk of injury. The standard crunch may even lead to hip tightness, neck pain, and—dare we say it—total boredom with your core routine!
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5 Alternative Exercises to Crunches That You Should Be Doing
We need a strong core to do everything from picking up our kids to moving around at work, so investing in your core strength through consistent exercise is hugely beneficial for health at every stage of life. If you’re not doing these 5 exercises weekly, try adding them to your training schedule:
1) Forearm Plank
Contracting your abs without moving protects your spine and helps you target your deep core muscles. Watch this video for pointers.
2) Supine Bridge March
This challenging movement requires a lot of stability of your front and back core, while also targeting your nearby glutes as well. This video offers a great step-by-step guide.
3) Bird Dogs
Target your lower and upper core with this move that’s popular in both yoga and physical therapy. Check out this video for tips.
4) Knee Raises
By keeping your trunk still and moving your legs, you’re challenging your lower abs in a new way plus targeting your hip flexors, psoas, and iliacus muscles. Watch here for guidance.
5) Back Squat
Yes, the squat will help you build your leg strength, but believe it, or not this foundational movement also demands a strong and sturdy core. Check out this video for a movement guide, or ask a trainer for help getting started (especially if you’re new to the barbell).
Have a favorite non-crunch core exercise of your own? Let us know about it in the comments, and be sure to share this article with your gym buddies!