Why you shouldn’t bother doing sit ups and crunches, according to science

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The way to get a flat, ripped stomach and the seemingly ever elusive 6 pack abs are to do lots and lots of crunches and situps, right?

Wrong.

Or at least that’s according to a leading exercise scientist.

As it turns out, some of the exercises most commonly associated with 6 pack abs such as crunches and situps are actually not the best way to train your core and could even be doing your harm.

Heather Milton, a senior exercise physiologist at NYU Langone Health, told Tech Insider that sit ups and crunches are not recommended exercises for strengthening the core because they put your back in unnecessary stress.

“Exercises like crunches is putting your body in spinal flexion, rather than maintaining a neutral spine, Heather said.

Doing lots of crunches can put stress on your vertebrae and the discs that are between each vertebrae, Heather explained.

Instead, Heather recommends exercises like planks or hanging knee raises to strengthen the core.

“We give exercises like planks to maintain a neutral position and really activate the muscles to support that neutral position and improve it.

“There are many different muscles that contribute to your core, and the plank exercise actually does activate a lot of different core muscles.

“Not only just the six-pack abs — which is your rectus abdominis — but your transverse abdominis and your obliques.

“So this exercise is great for functional strength, not necessarily to build a six-pack through your rectus abdominis muscle, but to really be able to stabilize your spine and maintain a good, strong core.

“I recommend doing hanging leg raises rather than doing the crunches, because you are putting less stress on your vertebrae when you’re doing the leg raises versus the crunch,” Heather said.

Photo credit: The U.S. Army via Visualhunt.com / CC BY

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