Are crunches best for core strength and a flat tummy? You can’t beat millions of sit ups can you? Everyone remembers their PE teacher sitting on their legs and screaming at them to lift up over and over. These memories stick.
I often get the crunches question. In fact for some it’s an obsession. When I teach Body Combat, if the conditioning routine for that release does not feature crunches, some people will be unhappy. This is because they believe that crunches are best.
But in Body Combat you can work the abs and the rest of your core simply by performing punches and kicks with good technique. psychologically though people still think they need to do crunches.
Lets get away from this.
I’ve done CXWorx, which is Les Mills new core training class, and one of the first things you learn is that your core is not just your abs. As the instructor said to me, “What is your core? Well chop off your head, your arms and your legs and what is left is your core.”
So it includes the shoulders, the glutes, the obliques, and the muscular slings that criss-cross the body creating the X-shape of muscles referred to in the class’s title.
If you want a strong core then you have to do exercises that work all of these muscle groups.
When Les Mills developed the CXWorx programme they did research into the difference between isolated movements and integrated movements. Their researcher, Dr Gottschall said, “Core exercises traditionally focus on isolated areas, like the lower or upper abdominals.” So our beloved crunch is an isolated exercise.
Dr Gottschall compared these with integrated exercises like hovers and planks, which work all the muscles of the core. She found these moves caused as much or more activity in the individual muscles as isolation exercises that targeted each one. The results told Les Mills that integrated exercises would give the core the most effective and efficient workout.
This is why they launched CXWorx and why it is packing classes out in the UK and across the world. This is why in other Les Mills classes like Body Combat and Body Balance we are seeing more integrated core exercises which means more planks, hovers, side planks and yoga based exercises like locust pose.
So crunches have their place but if you really want to beast your core – and by that mean the whole of your core – then give CXWorx a try.
Or if you are still not convinced enough to venture into a class, just try this exercise routine based on hovers and planks. The author, Tina Haupert, says:
“The plank is a great multitasking move because it works your abs, back, and arms all at once. Plus, many people don’t realize the stronger your butt and hamstrings, the less pressure on your core to do all the work.”
So now forget that screaming scary PE teacher sitting on your legs. That was so old school.
Over to you: Have you tried any of the exercises I’ve talked about in this post? Which core exercises are best – crunches or hovers and planks? Do you agree that integrated exercises like planks for better than crunches? Please leave a comment. Share your thoughts. Go on Tweet this article. Tweet