By Sammy Cusimano
Quicker abdominal workouts with better results, how is it possible?
The answer: Crunches!
For a tighter and more toned abdomen, crunches beat sit-ups. Sit-ups do require more physical exertion and energy but as far as stimulation of the actual abdominal muscles goes, crunches are the best choice.
So why are sit-ups still part of the physical fitness routines of the military, police, firefighters and school physical education programs? Mainly, because they are still a great form of cardiovascular exercise along with being a great challenge.
Sit-ups, pushups, and pull-ups require mental toughness and are all great measuring sticks of a person’s level of physical aptitude, and there is still a place for the exercise in the modern fitness routine.
When you are looking to tone the upper ab muscles in as efficient of a way as possible, crunches are the key to results.
Crunches are basically the direct abdominal muscle contraction portion of a sit-up. Past the crunch portion of a sit-up the abdominals are less involved and the hip flexors and lower back take over the remaining motion of the exercise.
In addition to contracting the abdominal muscles much more effectively, crunches are much safer for the lower back and require a shorter range of motion than sit-ups. Take the “less is more” approach to abdominal training. Less range of abdominal motion leads to more muscle toning. A tighter abdominal routine will produce a tighter core.
A crunch starts by lying on your back with the knees slightly bent and feet flat on the floor. The hands can be placed behind the head with the elbows bent or crossed in front of the chest. Some people even extend their arms straight out to help focus on the upward motion of a crunch.
Let the abs pull the upper body up and forward until both shoulder blades are not touching the floor. This is the full range of motion of the crunch. Once the shoulder blades are off the ground proceed by lowering the upper body down again in a controlled motion.
That’s it! There’s your crunch. Exhale every time you tense up to ensure plenty of airflow and to keep a strong rhythm in your breathing.
Try your best not to pull on the neck during crunches. Lift with the abs and let them do the bulk of the work. If you feel tension in your neck then stick to hands free crunches.
Crunches do require some neck strength, and the neck muscles will gain strength every workout. Eventually, you will not feel any pain in your neck as you proceed through the routine.
If you would like an extra challenge then perform your crunch routine on a decline bench. Try doing a set from the bottom lying position to halfway up, then another set from the top sitting position to halfway down.
Another way to make crunches more effective is to add resistance. Hold a weight plate, dumbbell, or medicine ball gently on your chest or in the air as you crunch. This will help to cut down on the amount of repetitions you will need to get maximum stimulation in the muscles.
When doing crunches it is so important to limit rest time to as little as possible because the abdominal muscles respond best to constant and repetitive stimulation.
Try doing 20 crunches holding a moderate weight and follow immediately with a set of 20 more crunches holding a light weight. Then perform 20 crunches without any weight.
Rest very little, if at all, between sets. This is a basic “drop set.”
Perform this routine every weekday. It will only take a few minutes and the results will be much better than doing a 20-minute abdominal workout one day per week.
Start your crunch workout today!
Sammy Cusimano is the founder of Genesys Training based out of New Orleans, LA and has been a professional trainer since 2001. His experience with training clients ranges from competitive athletes to senior citizens. Cusimano’s goal as a trainer is to help clients safely reach their fitness potential and become the best version of themselves for overall health and wellness.