What if I say none?!
Every time I’m at the gym I see someone either doing plank for minutes, or way too many crunches.
I also used to challenge myself doing 1000 crunches or so once upon a time, to the point where I was actually getting tired from counting rather than the soreness of my abs, I even made one machine that counts the crunches as my senior project at school.
Strangely enough the muscles in the upper part of my abdominal wall were getting bigger and bulkier with almost no change in the lower part. It was almost like having 4 packs instead of 6 or 8.
After years of crunching, planking and all sorts of so-called “core” exercises I realized I was doing something wrong. I was attending a CHEK institute lecture in Scientific Core Training, when Dan Hellman gave us some tips to assess our cores. Guess what? “I” who was so sure that I could stay minutes performing plank, crunches, let alone kneel but stand on a Swiss ball, was assessed as 0 coordination and 0 strength in my lower abdominals.
What a shock! I “the trainer” whose main focus for years was usually the core, scored “0”? so I’ve decided to study the material with the CHEK Institute, and I came to understand that core training was not as simple as planks or crunches.
1- When performing regular crunches, our back is flat on the floor, which means we don’t have the full range of motion. While if you really like to do crunches, it’s better to do it with a Swiss ball, by giving your back the chance to go to it’s full range.
2- If you have weak back, or any risk of disc bulge, you’ll probably make it worse while performing crunches prior strengthening the back muscles.
3- Most people move their neck rather than activate their rectus abdominus while doing crunches, mostly by putting their hands behind their head instead of their ears.
4- If you want strong core, you need to focus on the inner muscles more than the superficial ones, such as the pelvic floor, the TVA, the Internal obliques, and of course your lower back muscles. And for you to be able to target those muscles you need more specific exercises, few of the best ones are “Horse Stance”, “Tummy Vacuum”, “Lower Abdominal exercises with Pressure Cuff”.
5- While performing planks you’re mostly working on your muscle endurance rather than the strength and power.
I have whole range of exercises to strengthen my abs than the boring crunches or planks, if you’re interested let me know, and I’ll be more than willing to share them with you.