Now, what is the number one bodily feature every girl and guy dreams of having?
A six pack!!
If you do not know, I train my clients out of the Wisconsin Athletic Club and do some of my training for myself on certain days at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Strength & Conditioning facility. With this in mind, everyday I encounter the hundreds of people who come into the gym who refer straight to doing crunches or situps in order to try and get the ever eluted phenomena of what is the six pack. I also witness plenty of trainers who will give their clients sets of crunches as a part of their programs. Not only are crunches the most overrated ab exercise out there, but they are actually the most commonly misused and misperformed exercise out there.
Let's take a journey into a little anatomy first. The muscle which produces the six pack is the rectus abdominis. The rectus abdominis attaches at the cartilages of ribs 5-7 and the xiphoid process of the sternum down to the pubic crest and pubic symphisis of the pelvis. It also has deeper attachments as well. Rectus abdominis acts to produce motions of flexion, ipsilateral abduction, and compression. Therefore, when crunches are performed, especially too often or incorrectly, this movement depresses the rib cage, shortening rectus abdominis, and will ultimately round the shoulders into a kyphotic posture. If you ever stopped to think about your posture, you would probably realize that you slouch over with your shoulders forward while compressing the rib cage. Therefore, crunches are actually the last thing people should be doing. On the other hand, situps actually promote lumbar flexion and in some cases thoracic flexion which can cause more back pain than actual good for your goal of a six pack.
With this being said, actions should be taken in order to lengthen rectus abdominis, correct the kyphotic posture, and form a solid, strong core. By strong core, I mean building up the lower abdominals, obliques, back, and hips in order to create a network of musculature which is able to stabilize effectively, prevent pelvic rotation, and carry over to everyday activities.
Exercises which do just this and work ten times more efficiently in giving you the abs you want than crunches are: cable hold variations, side bridge holds, farmer carrys, offset carrys, side bridges, planks, standing abs, cable chop variations, and leg lowering progressions among others. Also, squatting and deadlifting are huge in building a strong core and cosmetic view of abdominals anyone would be proud of. The motor recruitment of your obliques, rectus, back muscles, and the diaphragm during these movements will work wonders.
So, next time in the gym, think twice about doing crunches or situps and try implementing a couple of the exercises above into your regimens.
Leave your questions.