Doing Crunches: Good or Bad?

Crunches are one of the most common exercises and they're always a part of any routine. But, that doesn't mean they don't have a controversial side and as with everything, they're not good if done excessively or incorrectly. 
Doing Crunches: Good or Bad?

Last update: 13 October, 2018

The problem is not about the crunches themselves, it’s about whether you’re doing them with good form or not. The consequences of bad form can include poor posture and pain. In this article we’ll look at the advantages and disadvantages of doing crunches.

Is doing crunches good or bad?

Crunches are the most popular exercise to tone the abs. They consist of lying down on your back with your knees bent, and your hands behind your neck. Then, you lift your head and back up from the floor.

Although you may think that crunches are the only exercise that will get you a six-pack, many trainers and athletes don’t even include them in their workout routines!

Why? Because classic crunches can be performed wrong, which can potentially cause neck and lower back injuries, as well as dorsal kyphosis. But, be careful, because even when done correctly, you could injure yourself.

exercise to tone the abs

This exercise is included in the group of hypopressive exercises, meaning that they increase the pressure on the side opposite to the one you’re working on, and in the muscles around it. In this particular case, crunches can exert pressure in the spine, they weaken the pelvic floor and increase abdominal diastasis recti.

Another consequence of doing crunches is neck strain; this happens when you push yourself up with your neck and curve the vertebrae. Moreover, this exercise encourages a slouching posture, winged scapula and the exertion of pressure in the lower back vertebrae.

As the exercise is perfomed, the iliopsoas muscle works parallel to the rectus abdominis. The latter inserts in the lower back vertebrae and therefore, the excess pressure brings intervertebral disc issues, including herniated discs.

When should you do crunches?

After all this, you might think that crunches are the worst exercise ever! However, it all depends on the type of crunch and how many repetitions that you do.

We must also keep in mind that our spine has a certain range of movement. This doesn’t mean that it’s not able to ‘bend’ or ‘stretch’ accordingly during a particular exercise. This range will depend on our abilities and physical shape. Therefore, doing crunches isn’t the problem; it’s doing them when we shouldn’t or aren’t able to.

So basically, just remember: crunches will not injure your back,  as long as you do them correctly. Bad form or bad techniques, as well as not warming up and not stretching, are the cause of contractures, pain and injury.

Instead of doing crunches, you can choose to do other crunch alternatives that will work your abs just as well, without putting your back at risk of injury. A good example are planks in all their variations. Place your hands on the floor and hold the weight of your body with your forearms and your toes. Your body should be parallel to the ground.

plank abs

You may also do ‘scissors’, which consist of lying down and alternating your legs up and down; you may also lift them at the same time in order to do a ‘double leg lift’. In both cases your back should be touching your mat.

In order to make crunches more bearable and avoid lower back, upper back or neck pain, we recommend that you also work your back. That’s right! A strong spine (with strong muscles around it) reduces the risk of getting an injury.

For this, you can do “superman exercises”- lying down with extended legs and arms. Our advice is that you practice this exercise before, or after a set of crunches, in order to strengthen that area.

So, in conclusion, we can’t say that crunches are good or bad, because it all depends on how you do them, your routine and the strength of your muscles.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.