Why Andy thinks crunches are not the best exercise for your abs

Who’s Andy? He’s a strength coach at AW Strength & Conditioning in Westbrook, Maine. And he’s also the guy who got me out of my discomfort zone and helped me become stronger and more fit. So … when someone has a fitness question, I usually ask Andy.

The question I brought to him this week was how to do a proper crunch. His answer surprised me. He told me he didn’t think anybody should be doing crunches. Here’s why and what he thinks people should do instead.

I have never been a fan of the traditional crunch for an ab or a core exercise. It usually becomes an exercise where people pull aggressively on their neck causing a lot of unwanted strain. Also, the repetitive lumbar flexion is never a good thing, especially in a society in which roughly two out of three people will experience low back pain.

Andy Wight doing a plank

I am a big fan of anti-extension exercises, like a plank and its many variations. The “core” is the connection between your upper and lower body, therefore stabilization becomes very important.

I’m doing a front plank in the picture above. This exercise allows a person to activate and engage the midsection. Holding a plank for a short period of time is good for starters. Slowly increase the time as it becomes easier.

If you can hold a plank for 30 seconds and perform three rounds, then you have graduated from performing just a plank. Now it’s time to add movement to the plank to increase the level of difficulty (We’re going to do a whole separate blog post on adding movement to planks.)

Andy doing a stability rollout instead of a crunch

The next exercise I like is a stability ball rollout. Again, this is an anti-extension exercise, but now we incorporate the upper body. The arms move overhead as the body falls forward and then you roll the ball back to the starting position. Start with about six reps for a couple of rounds.

Every Friday we talk about fitness on the Catching Health blog. If you’ve got a fitness question, send it my way. We’re also interested in how people are being active. Get in touch by email or through the comment box below.

Diane Atwood

About Diane Atwood

For more than 20 years, Diane was the health reporter on WCSH 6. Before that, a radiation therapist at Maine Medical Center and after, Manager of Marketing/PR at Mercy Hospital. She now hosts and produces the Catching Health podcast and writes the award-winning blog Catching Health with Diane Atwood.