Deconstructing the Abdominal Crunch

Perhaps the most misunderstood and overrated exercise of all time, the abdominal crunch, is essential. But not in the way most people would imagine. The muscles that attach to the spine or pelvis (or “core” as it is now known) are where movement and stability begin. Keeping these muscles strong and flexible is a big part of overall health. Since a discussion of broader core training is too vast for a single column, let’s focus solely on crunches this time.

To begin: Lie on your back, bend your knees and place your feet
flat on the floor.

Note: Do not place your hands clasped behind your head. Doing so not only puts your neck at risk of injury, it also does not allow your neck to strengthen. If your neck aches while doing crunches, it is most likely because it’s weak. Start slowly. The more crunches you work up to, the stronger your neck will become. Keep your hands on your abs to better experience the movement.

The crunch itself: Visualize your ribs moving toward your hips. Now, crunch your ribs toward your hips while exhaling. Return to the starting position while inhaling. Repeat.
Note: There is no need to lift your torso up. No need for twisting or turning. The simple—almost minute—movement is to crunch your ribs toward your hips. Anything else involves others muscles (e.g. hip flexors) and also puts your low back at risk.

Variation: The only adaptation I feel comfortable recommending is to do your crunches while lying on a therapy ball. Sit on the ball, roll forward until the curve-of-your-back meets the curve of the ball, and then execute the simple ribs-toward-hips movement.
Note: I called crunches “overrated” because, contrary to popular belief, they will not decrease the size of your gut. Here’s why:

1. You cannot spot reduce.

2. To lose body fat requires dietary changes and cardiovascular training.

Final note: The exercise advice presented above is not meant for anyone with contraindicated health problems. Please consult a medical or fitness professional.

Yes, Mickey Z. does have six-pack abs and he can be found at