Are you like most of us who have, or are still, seeking washboard abs? The elusive six-pack? The hourglass figure, or at least some definition around their midsection? Ok at least you want to be slimmer, trimmer, and stronger around the middle? This is where I am now and usually, this leads to a lot of crunches, sit-ups, bicycle crunches, and leg raises.
Am I right?
But here’s the deal; you may be doing the exercises wrong. Although they do focus on the abs and core, there are a lot of people messing up the form which may be limiting the effectiveness of the exercise. We are constantly working on your form in our classes and personal training so you get the most from your efforts and more importantly, you do the exercise safely.
Here are what we normally see when someone is doing a crunch or a sit-up: clenched hands behind your head. Pulling through the neck and shoulders and your head and neck move back and forth. By doing your crunches and sit-ups this way you’re adding stress to your neck and shoulders, which don’t do too much for your abs. The best way to do a sit-up or crunches is to cross your arms over your chest (or support behind your head), let your chin tip upwards toward the ceiling, and relax your neck and shoulders. Check out our video for the correct and incorrect way to handle crunches. This takes the strain off your shoulders and neck and puts more of the focus on your abs.
But here’s something else to consider. Although you may associate endless crunches with the six-pack ab look, it’s not the only exercise you should be doing. There are plenty of other exercises you can do to target your core, that won’t put as much stress on your neck and shoulders. One of those exercises happens to be a favorite of ours—the plank.
Not only does the plank target the entire core (abs, hips, and your lower back), it targets almost every muscle in your body. To do the plank properly, be sure your head is in neutral (not sagging or flexed back), and your back side (butt) is even with or slightly higher than your shoulders (be an ‘A’ frame not a hammock). Check out the same video but a bit later for Plank Perfection.
From your shoulders and upper back to your quads and hamstrings, this is one of the best exercises for developing strength all over—and especially in your core.
So, if you’re looking for the elusive six-pack, and you’ve been doing crunches with no results, it may be due to poor form creating more stress in your neck and shoulders, and less stress to your core. If you change the way you do the exercise, you may find it easier and more effective for targeting your abs.
OR: You can skip the crunches and sit-ups, and focus on some other, more advanced, movements that target your core—and give your abs the workout it really needs.
Here is a full core and abs workout for you with ALL levels of intensity.