May 22, 2009, Newsletter Issue #378: Abdominal Crunch

Tip of the Week

The Abdominal Crunch has been an exercise for the ages; people believe that it not only gives you a 6-pack, but also gets rid of the fat surrounding the abdomen.  That is true, not true and totally untrue...Let me explain.  Yes, crunches will help you build muscle in your abdomen.  No, they will not give you a 6-pack, for No they do not get rid of excessfat around your waist.  Make sense?  I will explain more in a little bit, but for the moment let's look at how to do a proper Crunch:
Lay down with your back on the floor and legs bent with feet hip-width apart, resting your head upon the floor.  Bend the arms back so that elbows are touching the ground and place only the fingers behind the ears while lightly contracting the glutes, not allowing the feet to lift off the ground.  With the head facing directly up to the ceiling, contract the abdomen and lift the torso and head off the ground, aiming to bring the head straight up to the ceiling (not forward to your knees).  Try to keep your shoulders and head back, with your chest leading, and make sure you do not put your hands behind your head, for it is a compromising position for your spine to be in and does not allow your abdomen to do as much work.  Once upper back is off the ground a few inches, hold.  Slowly bring the torso and head back down until resting completely again on the floor. Pause, ensure you are in proper posture and repeat.
Now think about what happens when you do a bicep curl (bend at the elbow)...does your arm get bigger or smaller?  Bigger right?  Yes.  How about when you workout your chest, will it get bigger or smaller?  BIgger right?  Well why woud your abdomen be any different?  It wouldn't.  This doesn't mean that when you exercise you won't burn calories, but the excess fat/weight will not come off just where you exercise - it will come off based upon where your body loses first.  It could be your face first, then your calves, then your abdomen; every 'body' is different, so I can't tell you where you'll lose first - but you will lose weight somewhere :)
Oh, and a 6-pack shows up when your body-fat% is very low, like under 10% body fat.  No need to really do abs to see your 6-pack, because if you have a really low body-fat% you will see those abs.
Lastly, avoid doing a Crunch and having your elbows touch your toes.  When you perform a crunch like that, your abdomen is only working for the first 30degrees of the movement, and after that it is your hip flexors pulling you up to your knees.  Not only that, it fully rounds your back, which you never want to be the case.  That can cause back pain and bulged discs, so make sure you avoid rounding your back like the plague - yes, like the plague.  Your spine will thank you and keep you standing upright for years to come.

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