In the dreams of a glamour body and a washboard tummy, many of us are doing nothing less than 100 crunches a day. If you are one of them, Harvard scientists have news for you: Crunches are not the best way to go about for a six-pack. And they decode what is.
The best way to get a washboard tummy is through planks, not crunches. This was established by a health report titled ‘Core Exercises’ by Harvard Medical School.
It says that the reason planks may be the more effective way to get a tighter core is because this exercise, unlike crunches which only target abdominal muscles, targets several groups of muscles. These include muscles in your sides, front and back. Only targeting your abdominal muscles will not give the desired strong core.
“Sit-ups or crunches strengthen just a few muscle groups. Through dynamic patterns of movement, a good core workout helps strengthen the entire set of core muscles you use every day,” wrote the authors of the Harvard Healthbeat newsletter, in the summary of the report’s takeaways.
Crunches took a beating not only because of their fewer benefits but also because they can be harsh on your certain body parts. This includes your back as when during a crunch you push against the floor, your back gets under pressure. Also, when you do a sit-up, a group of muscles called the hip flexors, which run from the lumbar vertebrae in your back to your thighs, work. If it gets over-stressed or too tight, it may yank your spine, leading to pain and discomfort in the lower back.
Your guide to do planks
The best part about planks is that they do not need any additional equipment, which may be needed in case of crunches. Start by lying down on your face, legs extended backwards, elbows bent directly under your shoulders. Keep your feet hip-width apart and keep your elbows shoulder-width apart. Now, try to keep your core tight and tuck your toes and keep your forearms touched to the ground. Maintain your body to remain in a straight line starting from your head till your heels. Start by holding it for 30 seconds. As you get stronger, you can increase the duration of your plank.