For many years the traditional sit-up or crunch has been high on people's lists as the go-to exercises for defined abs, particularly in media. Trainers however have also long-since been trying to change this popular opinion  as not only are these exercises not necessarily as helpful as you'd believe they may also be harmful.

Surely personal trainers are wrong on this? After all crunches and sit ups have been popular since the forties? Keep reading and make up your own mind.

Crunches Don't Work Deeper Core Muscle

Crunches work on surface muscles only and don't affect the core muscles. While some might think this is ok because at least they are don't something the truth is that this imbalance, namely with the most important core muscles becoming the weaker of the two does nothing to strengthen and protect the integrity of the core / spinal column. In addition to this there is an increase risk of back injury.

Not convinced yet?

Watch Out for Nerve Damage

Too many crunches puts you at risk of nerve damage. The reason for this is that the crunch puts too much strain (in the wrong way) on your back at a crucial and often weak point. This section contains a significant number of nerves and therefore those continuing down this unhealthy path may be setting themselves up for chronic pain and limited mobility (long term pain too, not simply an injury that will heal, we are talking ongoing and incurable damage).

Crunches May Damage Your Neck and Spine

Think about what a crunch does to your body for a minute. The movement itself constantly flexes and then extends the spine. The discs that make up the spine are like any piece of machinery and if subjected to constant work will start to show wear. Unlike a machine however where a little oil and some replaced parts  does the job this doesn't work when the machinein question is your spine. 

The discs in your spine have a shelf-life in that they have so many flexes and extensions in them and you'll work through these pretty quickly when constantly working out using crunches and sit ups. The result of this may be nerve damage, a disc hernia (not pleasant) and more, all reducing mobility and resulting in pain.

Clearly the risks outweigh any benefits (none of which are proven over time) and so if you are looking for those defined abs you really need to be looking elsewhere. Have a read of my previous post on achieving this goal using a different set of exercises and banishing stomach / belly fat with a prescribed diet. 

Don't fall back on the popular because the popular exercise in this case (as the experts have been saying for years) will cause you a lot more pain and damage than it will any training benefits.