The Misunderstood Crunch
There have long been common misunderstandings with regards to training the abdominal region. The abdominal region consists of various muscles including the transverse abdominal, internal obliques, external obliques, and the rectus abdominis. Many think adopting the various forms of crunches is the only way to develop those “ripped” abs people rave about. This is a huge misconception! The basic crunch is accomplished by lying supine while hyper-flexing the spine to contract the muscles of this region.
While there is a significant muscular contraction that results from this movement, there is a red flag that must be discussed. The hyper-flexion of the crunch motion results in flexion of the lumbar spine which composes the lower back region. The structure of the lumbar vertebra is designed to enable sufficient stability in the lumbar spine and therefore, not designed to flex the amount seen in abdominal crunches. This hyper-flexion of the lumbar spine places significant stress on the vertebral discs and can result in significant injuries.
“Well if I can’t do crunches, then what the heck am I supposed to do?!”
There are in fact many ways to develop and strengthen the abdominal region in a safe and healthy way. The following are sample abdominal exercises worth giving a try:
Front Plank w/ Reach
Position feet shoulder-width apart and the forearms on the floor. While keeping the core tight and preventing rotation of the hip, reach a single arm straight out and hold for 2-3 seconds. Place the arm back down and repeat with the other arm.
Lie on your side with your forearm on the ground directly below your shoulder. Stack the feet so they are directly on top of each other and then by activating your core, lift the hips off the ground to straighten the body. Be sure to keep all muscles of the core and gluteus region tight to keep good stability.
Stability Ball Roll Outs
Start tall kneeling with both knees on the ground and keep the body straight. Extended out arms onto the ball and then slowly roll down the ball keeping the core muscles tight and also making sure you stay straight the entire time. As you reach your maximum distance onto the ball, exhale and roll back to your starting position.
Start by lying supine on your back with knees bent and heels planted into the ground. Push through your heels while tightening your glutes to elevate your hips. Then bring a knee toward your chest. Reverse the move and then repeat using the other leg. Be sure to keep kips elevated the entire time keeping glutes tight.