If you are smitten by the 50-crunches-a-day social media challenge like a lot of others, then there are a few things that you should know right off the bat.
Crunches are the absolute bee’s knees for your midsection.
They are a terrific isolation exercise which allows you to take everything else out of the equation and put the burn where it matters the most, in your abs.
They will increase strength and will tone the ab muscles and there are many variations of the move which you can use to isolate different muscle heads of the abdominal section.
However, there are some caveats that come with it and most of them have to do with exaggerated expectations.
If you go into your crunch challenge hoping to come out with a chiseled six or ten pack abs at the end of 30-days, there is a chance that you might end up disappointed.
Instead, you should be focusing on how you can maximize your chances of getting that six pack by figuring out how many crunches you should be doing a day and if you should be doing crunches every day or not.
That is precisely what we will be focussing on, in this article.
What Are Crunches?
The crunch is a gentler, easier version of the sit-up that is used to isolate the muscles in your abdomen.
Just like the sit-up, it can be used as part of an overall upper body training program and it not only helps increase strength and stability, but it can also help with muscle growth in the midsection.
However, we have noticed that a lot of athletes use these two terms (crunch and sit-ups) interchangeably.
How to do Crunches Correctly
It is important to do the crunch with the right form for it to be effective.
- Lie down on your back without flexing the spine.
- Bend your legs at the knees and keep your feet flat on the floor (of course, unless you’re doing water crunches). Your body should be stable and balanced before you begin.
- You can either keep your hands behind your ears to support the neck or you can cross them and keep them on opposite shoulders to prevent jerking your upper body excessively. Both variations work fine.
- Lift your head and the shoulder blades up using your core to lift, in a relaxed motion. It should not be a sudden jerky movement.
- As you rise, exhale to feel the burn in your core.
- Lower the shoulder blade back to the ground, inhaling as you go down.
The Muscles Targeted During Crunches
You may think that crunches target the same muscles that sit ups do but that is not the case. Crunches target the abs muscles more directly than sit ups do. Crunches are also responsible for working more of the upper section of the abs than sit ups are.
Let’s take a look at the muscles that crunches target.
The Crunch mainly targets the muscles on the front and the sides of the abdomen.
These are the rectus abdominis and the internal and external oblique.
The rectus abdominis is the band of muscle that runs from the lower ribs to the hip bone. It is what is commonly called the ‘Six pack’.
Apart from the aesthetic appeal, the muscle is also responsible for spinal flexion, or curling of your trunk towards your hip. This is one of the most important functions in real life when you bend down to tie your shoelaces or to pick something up.
The oblique muscles run next to the rectus abdominis on the sides. These help your body twist to the sides and help prevent lower back injuries as well as pain in the shoulders.
Not to forget that well-developed oblique muscles look great and complement an overall developed abdominal section.
How Many Crunches Should I Do a Day to Get a Flat Stomach?
Will crunches alone get you a flat stomach? Well, more than likely no, but it most certainly will get you closer.
You have to understand that to get a flat stomach its not all about how many crunches or how many sit ups a day you do, it’s about how much you are eating and just what you are eating.
But crunches will definitely help you on your way to that six pack by developing strong abdominal muscles. Combine this with a good diet and cardio and you’re on your way to a sculpted set of abs….
Sticking to a good diet
With all the junk that’s available these days, making the right diet decision is becoming harder by the day.
Luckily, there are lots of healthy foods that you can stick to if you’re keen enough on what you eat. Meal replacement shakes also make for great additions to your diet. Personally, I am fond of Kachava, it’s clean, healthy, and tasty, and there are just so many Kachava recipes I can hardly ever run out of options.
And while at it, do not forget to keep your water bottle within reach to stay hydrated, it’s very important to keep your muscles firing on all cylinders.
With the diet taken care of, you can turn your attention to getting in a great deal of cardio. If you are like me and already have a simple budget home gym setup, then you probably already have a small treadmill, a space saver exercise bike, or a budget rowing machine.
If not, then worry not, these don’t cost an arm and a leg, you just need to find a good one at an affordable price.
Why these three?
Well, from my observation, combining rowing and cycling or running, is almost unrivaled when it comes to getting in a serious cardio workout… but it’s pretty much down to what works for you really. Throw in a few other ab workouts, like pull-ups, and you’ll be on the fast lane to a toned belly…
However, it is highly recommended that you start slow, with 1-2 sets of 10-15 reps for at least two to three weeks. Don’t hesitate to throw in some variation like cable crunches, double crunches, and standing weight plate crunches
This will help build strength and stability in your supportive muscles.
Also, you might notice that in the early stages, you may tend to jerk your neck as you lift the body. The low reps will help you avoid this.
How Many Crunches Should I Do a Day if I Want to Build a 6 Pack?
No most certainly not.
Provided that you are doing cardio and are consuming fewer calories to drop body fat, you should be able to build a six-pack if you do 3-4 sets of 25-30 repetitions, at least thrice a week.
Along with a standard crunch that works the rectus abdominis, you can also do some variations to target the individual muscle heads.
What Variations of Crunches Can I do Each Day to Switch it up?
Here are five variations of crunches you can do a day to keep things new and to get a total abdominal workout.
You can do any of these crunch variations a day to help build your abdominal muscles.
These are very similar to the conventional crunch move. Only, you twist your body slightly to the sides as you move up. Another variation of this is the standing oblique crunches which, as the name suggests, is done while standing up.
Bicycle crunches are a dynamic move for your lower abs and your thighs. To make them more effective, ensure that your thighs are elevated off the floor.
Great exercise for the entire core, but mainly for the rectus abdominis. These are a great exercise because they are a switch up from normal crunches and target the same muscles in a different way.
Vary the leg position
You can alter the targeted muscle simply by changing the position of your legs. At 90-degrees in the air, bending them at the waist and keeping them straight up, at 45-degrees and so on.
There are two variations of the weighted crunch that add the extra burn to a conventional crunch. You can either hold a plate to your chest or you can hold it straight above your face with your arm extended straight as you move up.
Is it okay to do crunches every day?
Just like any other type of resistance workout, you should not be doing crunches every day. It will only lead to overtraining and burn out.
It’s better to train the core 2-3x every week with at least 48 hours of rest, working out 6 days per week and targeting your core each session isn’t recommended especially if you are a beginner.
You will still be using the core during all your major compound lifts anyway.
The Pros and Cons of doing Crunches Everyday
How does the crunch fare if you compare it with other exercises for developing the abdominal section?
Let’s find out.
- It is a terrific isolation exercise. If you get back problems or neck strain with the sit ups, crunches are a great way to target the abs.
- Builds your core strength which can in turn help you with other lifts such as squats and deadlifts.
- It is easier to perform as compared to the sit-ups.
- Many variations can be done to target each of the four muscle heads of the abs.
- Not as harsh on the spine as the sit-up.
It is not the best exercise to build the core. Muscles can largely be divided into 3-categories on the basis of their function.
The first category of muscle is designed for stabilization. The second category of muscle is designed for braking, while the third one is designed for concentric movement, which results in muscle shortening.
The oblique is designed purely for stabilization. So when you do a concentric move like a crunch to work them out, it isn’t ideal. Will it build stronger oblique muscles? Maybe. But there are better ways to train that muscle. A one-arm deadlift or a sandbag carry for example.
Also, there has been a widespread debate over the safety of the crunch. Detractors of the move cite lab studies that link the crunch with progressive, degenerative disc disease.
However, results are inconclusive and the crunch isn’t going anywhere any time soon.
Should I Do Crunches Each Day Before Bed or When I Wake Up?
The best time to do crunches is whenever you can.
The next best time seems to be an hour after you wake up. It has two beneficial effects.
- Any type of exercise when performed early in the morning will rev up your metabolism allowing your body to continue burning fat even when you are resting or walking or cooking.
- There are some clinical studies that indicate that your intervertebral discs are filled with water when you wake up. This makes them more prone to injury if you do repetitive flexion moves, like the crunch, immediately after waking up. Waiting for an hour or two allows the discs to settle down.
However, if for some reason, you are unable to work out in the morning, do it at night, just before bedtime by all means.
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Hi there! I'm Ben, main author and chief editor at Fitlifefanatics.com. I have been obsessed with Strength Training and Fitness for 16 years now.
My passion for living a happy fit lifestyle is what made me realize that fitness is what I wanted for my future.
I went on to earn my Masters in Sports Training & Biomechanics.
My passion for Strength training & fitness and my love of helping others is what made me start Fitlifefanatics.
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