This is Your Quick Training Tip, a chance to learn how to work smarter in just a few moments so you can get right to your workout.
Regardless of whether you have a six-pack or aspire to sculpt one, chances are you do crunches. Or situps. Or both. And you likely do them obsessively, because, well, few moves target the abs more effectively than these two exercises. But contrary to what you might have heard around the weight rack, they are not “practically the same exercise.” They each have their own subtleties—and you’ll have slightly different outcomes depending on which you choose to do.
That’s not to say that the two moves aren’t similar. Both require you to start in a supine (face-up) position with your knees bent, feet flat, and fingertips touching lightly behind your ears. But the crunch is an isolation exercise. When you perform it, you raise only your head and shoulders off of the floor, engaging your rectus abdominis (i.e., abs) almost exclusively. When you do the situp, you lift your entire torso, engaging your abs plus other core muscles, as well as your hip flexors and rectus femoris (one of the heads your quadriceps muscles).
That might make the situp seem to be the superior exercise—but there’s a catch. The movement is extremely challenging to perform without rounding your lower back, and that increases the stress on your lumbar spine. As a result, trainers tend to favor the crunch over the situp in their training programs to save you the pain.
Your move: Skip the situp if you can, but don’t focus exclusively on the crunch for sculpting a six-pack.
Your rectus abdominis is like every other muscle in your body. To reach its full growth and definition potentials, it needs to be worked with a variety of exercises from multiple angles. Need some inspiration? Check out 22 of the best moves to chisel your middle.
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