Any personal trainer will tell you that crunches are an old school approach to getting six-pack abs, but that didn’t stop New York City-based freelance writer Jenn Sinrich from partaking in a challenge to do 50 crunches a day for a month, according to an article she wrote in Women’s Health.
Recently married, Sinrich said she wanted to get back into shape after returning to her old habits of unhealthy eating and drinking alcohol post-wedding.
“I spent the 365 days prior to my wedding date on a strict diet and fitness plan (of sorts),” she wrote. “I made sure to carefully watch everything I ate and tried my best not to skip any workout classes. But by the time I walked down the aisle in October, I was more than ready to add back all of the cheese, carbs, booze, and more cheese back into my daily diet.”
As it turns out, it takes a lot more than 50 crunches a day to get chiselled abs. Her before and after photos show minimal changes, but Sinrich wasn’t overly impressed with the results and said sticking to the challenge itself was difficult.
“While I definitely felt definition in my upper abdomen, I saw little improvement in my physicality,” she wrote.
But that’s no matter, Ben Boudro, owner of Xceleration Fitness in Auburn Hills, Mich., told her. The point of these challenges is to force yourself into incorporating physical activity in your daily routine.
“I don’t care if you just jumped over a stick, did push-ups, squatted or only did planks — the bottom line is you exercised in a certain way for 30 days straight, which is a great accomplishment,” he told her.
Getting that flat belly or six-pack is one of the biggest obstacles for men and women, says personal trainer Maranda Mellish of 360 Fit in Halifax.
“For the crunch to be effective, you need to work on your core,” she says.
Often, people do crunches too quickly (you should aim for a two- to three-second tempo, Mellish says), and end up straining their back or neck. And because their core isn’t strong to begin with, they end up overworking other parts of their bodies.
But Bryan O’Conner, personal trainer of Bryan Bootcamp based in Candiac, Que., says unless you are competing as fitness model, the sit-up is a useless exercise. He says taking something like a 50-crunch-per-day challenge would never work.
“The majority of people are not aware that if you want a six-pack, you must exercise regularly and eat healthy,” he says to Global News. “So much time is wasted on crunches.”
A report from Harvard University found that planks were a better way to work your core, because crunches were hard on your back.
“[Crunches] push your curved spine against the floor and work your hip flexors, the muscles that run from the thighs to the lumbar vertebrae in the lower back,” Harvard Medical School reports.”When the hip flexors are too strong or too tight, they tug on the lower spine, which can create lower back discomfort.”
“There are no ab exercises for a flatter belly,” he says. “One of the best exercises for a stronger core is the traditional plank; it requires no equipment and is easy to learn.”
Mellish says body weight squats, bicycle crunches and side touches also help build a strong core. And when you’re working on perfecting that crunch, keep your chest open and chin to the ceiling.
“You don’t want to curl or move your hip up and down on the carpet. Use your core,” she says.
O’Conner adds you shouldn’t rely solely on traditional physical exercises for a stronger core — there are easy things you can do throughout the day. For instance, when you’re sitting in front of your computer, in the car or even walking, flex your abs as often as possible.
“A healthy strong core equals a strong healthy back. Do not rely solely on your workout to strengthen your core,” he says.
Like any attempt to get fit, diet is key. Avoid processed foods, saturated fats and food loaded with sugar. And be sure to get enough sleep and water, and reduce stress — all of which help towards a stronger core.
“With the proper exercise routine and good eating habits, flattening your belly is definitely possible within a month, but results will vary from person to person,” O’Conner says.
In other words, this isn’t an overnight fix.
“I strongly believe that if you set short-term and long-term goals, maintain healthy habits, exercise regularly and eat well, you will be extremely proud to show off your healthy body on the beach.”Follow @ArtiPatel