Connect with us

Exercise Programs

A Guide to Eating a Dairy-Free Diet

Published

on

Drink milk? Paleos pass on it. So do vegans, of course, as do some vegetarians. And those who abide by “clean eating” guidelines are dairy-free as well.

But why would someone ever want to consider a dairy-free diet? (What? No ice cream??) Are there benefits to going dairy-free?

Before we get there, it’s important to note that not everyone needs to go dairy free. For many people, dairy is perfectly fine as part of a healthy diet. Dairy can provide a lean source of protein, such as reduced-fat, unsweetened plain Greek yogurt (2%).

Dairy is also a good source of calcium and vitamin D, which many people lack in adequate amounts in their diet. Fermented dairy products are also a good source of probiotics, which are beneficial for gut health.

But if you are considering saying bye-bye to Brie, let’s look at the benefits and pitfalls of removing dairy from your diet — and talk to experts about what you need to know before you go on a no-dairy diet.

What Is a Dairy-Free Diet?

A dairy-free diet is one that omits milk and all related products — from butter and ghee to milk, yogurt, and cheese. It would also exclude casein and whey proteins.

The motivation to adopt a dairy-free diet could be related to health, ethics, the environment, culture, or a particular way of eating, like the Paleo diet.

Here are some other foods to avoid on a dairy-free diet (and what not to eat when you’re lactose intolerant):

cream half-and-half ice cream kefir milk chocolate sour cream goat and sheep milk dairy products (sometimes, depending on the individual)

If you’re avoiding dairy, you will want to inquire about the ingredients in baked goods and read the labels of processed and packaged foods like dips, sauces, and soups.

At restaurants, dishes may contain butter or cream, so be sure to let your server know if you’re not eating dairy.

Is a Dairy-Free Diet Right for You?

There are plenty of reasons you might want to find out whether a dairy-free diet is right for you. It may be that you don’t like it or you grew up in a culture where milk isn’t commonly consumed. Or perhaps you’re a vegan who avoids all animal products for ethical or environmental reasons.

You could be among those affected by lactose intolerance, the inability to process the natural sugar in milk and other dairy products, or you could have an allergy to milk or milk protein. And, there’s also the processing and production of milk and dairy — some dairy-free dieters are trying to avoid the growth hormones often found in conventional dairy products.

“There’s been growing discussion around the hormones in and pasteurization of dairy products and how they alter our milk and milk products,” says Lauren Minchen, R.D.N. (Did you know that organic milk contains 50 percent more omega-3s than conventional milk?)

Whatever our reasons for going dairy-free, there are more people skipping their morning milk, according to the US Department of Agriculture. We collectively drank 6 percent less milk in 2016 than we did in 2015, and in 2010, the USDA released a report that found the number of individuals drinking milk had “decreased significantly” since the late 1970s.

Meanwhile, dairy-free milk alternatives continued to gain traction, with almond milk leading the way, according to Nielsen’s 2015 Global Health and Wellness survey.

What Are the Benefits of a Dairy-Free Diet?

The benefits of a dairy-free diet will depend on your reasons for going dairy-free. If your reasons are environmental, the benefits may be intangible, for example. Minchen shares that she recommends a dairy-free diet to clients working with skin and digestive health. Weight loss is another common reason to follow a dairy-free diet plan.

Dairy and Acne

When it comes to the connection between dairy and noncystic acne, most of the research is on teens. A 2005 article in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology used data from the Nurses Health II study of over 47,000 women to retrospectively examine the connection. They did find “a positive association” between acne and dairy consumption.

But according to a 2010 literature review in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, “[d]airy ingestion appears to be weakly associated with acne.” Those researchers instead stressed the connection to diet, suggesting further study was needed on omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, zinc, vitamin A, and fiber.

So why would dairy be connected to noncystic acne? It could be the presence of bioactive molecules (including hormones) in dairy products, says Krista Haynes, R.D., C.S.S.D., and nutrition manager at Beachbody.

“While the exact mechanism is still unknown, there are hypotheses, mainly around hormones found in milk,” she says. “There’s really no such thing as ‘hormone-free’ milk. Dairy has several hormones in it, including insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) and androgens, which can contribute to sebaceous gland activity and hence acne. In addition, some speculate there’s a link between lactose and insulin spikes and acne.”

Dairy and Weight Loss

The big question most people have is “will giving up dairy help me lose weight?” There’s no doubt that triple-cream Camembert, ice cream, and whipped cream are treat foods. Other dairy foods like 2 percent cottage cheese and light ricotta are considered protein sources, even in Portion Fix. So is there a connection between dairy and weight loss?

Yes, but the answer is not clear-cut. While many experts and studies say we should save high-fat dairy products for special occasions or swap them for lower-fat versions, some research suggests you can have your higher-protein, moderate-fat dairy and lose weight, too.

One 2009 study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that subjects who ate a cheesy snack before lunch ate less at their midday meal and throughout the rest of the day. However, this was a small study of just 27 normal-weight women.

Before you reach for the string cheese, consider a 2012 meta-analysis in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. In examining 29 randomized controlled trials, researchers found that consuming dairy was linked to weight loss when subjects also cut calories or when they followed a diet for a year or less. When they had free rein over their food choices or followed a diet for over a year, the opposite effect was observed.

Dairy and Digestion

If a food doesn’t sit well with you, you’ll likely avoid it, and the same goes for dairy. Some people report occasional digestive complaints after eating dairy, including occasional bloating and gas, sometimes related to lactose intolerance.

As with any health issue, you should discuss your concerns with your doctor or a trained health-care professional.

Lactose intolerance means that an enzyme (lactase) needed to break down lactose (milk sugar) is missing. This is quite common. “In most human populations, lactase activity decreases during mid-childhood (about five years of age), resulting in low levels from that age onwards,” says Haynes. “Lactose intolerance is most common in East Asian adults — less than 10 percent of this group can break down lactose.”

What Can You Eat Instead of Dairy?

If you’ve given up milk or are considering it, you’ll need to know what you can eat instead of dairy. In some cases, such as cheese on top of a salad or a dollop of sour cream on tacos, you can skip it. But what about milk and butter in recipes or Greek yogurt as a protein source?

“There are so many options these days, including coconut, almond, hemp, soy, rice, and quinoa alternatives,” says Minchen. There’s also vegan Shakeology for your daily shakes, nutritional yeast to add a rich cheesiness, and even vegan cashew queso sauce. You can also make your own homemade almond milk.

Just keep in mind that the nutrition content of non-dairy alternatives may not be the same as the dairy version. For example, almond milk yogurt doesn’t have much protein, so it’s not a good swap for Greek yogurt as a protein source.

And rice milk may not have the calcium of skim milk, so you may want to find a fortified version instead.

“For cheese and sour cream, I love guacamole or hummus as a substitute (which are creamy and rich without the milk),” says Minchen. “For milk, I love unsweetened almond milk, coconut milk, hemp milk, rice milk, or organic soy milk. And for yogurt, almond and coconut yogurts have improved in flavor — just watch the sugar!”

You may also consider cutting back on dairy. “Something else we will work toward is determining how much dairy they can tolerate,” says Minchen. Some of her clients can comfortably enjoy dairy a couple of times per week, so she occasionally includes dairy in their meals “to make the plan more sustainable and enjoyable.”

What About Calcium on a Dairy-Free Diet?

When you think of the benefits of milk, bone health likely comes to mind. What about calcium on a dairy-free diet? If you’re not drinking milk or eating dairy, how can you ensure you’re getting enough calcium? After all, calcium is an important nutrient for our hearts as well as our musculoskeletal system and our nervous system.

“This abundant mineral is highly regulated in the body, which means that if you don’t consume enough through your diet, calcium is leached from your bones to maintain constant concentrations so that these bodily functions can happen,” says Haynes. “Therefore, it’s imperative to get enough to meet your daily needs.”

While up to two-thirds of the calcium in Western diets comes from dairy products, there are plenty of other sources. Dairy-free calcium sources include beans and dark leafy greens as well as calcium-fortified foods like almond milk (check the label to see if it’s fortified) or calcium-set tofu.

“Dairy is rich in calcium, potassium, and magnesium,” says Minchen, so replacing dairy with lots of dark leafy greens, broccoli, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, and organic soybeans (all foods that are rich in the same nutrients) “can be helpful in ensuring that you aren’t missing out on vital nutrients,” she says.

The Bottom Line

You may opt to go dairy-free for a number of reasons. The benefits of a dairy-free diet may be personal or could include skin and digestive health or weight loss.

If you are dairy-free, read labels and seek out healthy alternatives. (If you want to include dairy in your “everything in moderation” diet, that’s OK, too.)

Exercise Programs

How to start running again (after a hiatus)

Published

on

Sharing my tips for getting back into a running routine after an injury or break. 

Hi friends! Happy Monday! I hope you had an amazing weekend. We met up with our friends Betsy and Jeremy to celebrate Betsy’s birthday and had a lovely Valentine’s Day with our little valentines. Exciting news: Organifi is free shipping sitewide today!!! They also have some new exclusive products which aren’t listed on the main site: the chocolate bars (!), the 14ct Go packs of the green juice, and the 14ct Go packs of gold powder. (I use the green juice every day in my water bottle and loooove the gold powder with warm almond milk at night to wind down.) Use the code FITNESSISTA for 15% off in addition to free shipping.

For today’s post, I wanted to share some tips on how to get back into running after a hiatus or injury. These are also great tips for beginners if you’re considering adding running into your routine! I’ve been a fair-weather runner for many years now, and tend to go in phases where it’s a huge part of my life and a small piece of my fitness pie. I haven’t sprinted in about a year – my last Orangetheory class was about one year ago exactly – and I realized how much I missed the challenge and free feeling of running. It’s always been a form of moving meditation for me and thought I’d bring it back once a week into my routine. I’ve gone on a few walk-runs and they’ve felt surprisingly cathartic and energizing.

Here are some ideas if you’re looking to get back into the running game.

How to start running again (after a hiatus)
1. Get new shoes. (I always love a reason to get new shoes)
If you haven’t ran in a while like yours truly, chances are that you need new sneakers specifically for running. It’s a good idea to have a pair of sneaks that are solely for running purposes, because other activities will wear out the soles differently. Also, if you haven’t ran in a while, there’s a chance that your sneakers are old and need to be refreshed.

Many running stores will offer complimentary fittings to ensure that you have the proper support and fit.

I’ve used a handful of different running sneakers over time but my last pair was the Brooks Levitate 2. I’m trying out the Brooks Adrenaline and will definitely report back!

2.) Make sure you can walk for a solid duration (30-45 minutes at a steady pace) before you start to add runs.
Walking is a great precursor to running because it includes similar movements and muscle groups. It’s a solid way to build up your endurance and strengthen the muscles in your quads, hamstrings, glutes and calves before you add the additional impact of running. Walking is an excellent starting point for so many individual fitness routines if you’re a beginner and want to build up your cardio endurance (and positivity impact your heart health and mood!).

3.) Start with run-walk intervals and in time, days, and intensity from here. 
DON’T go straight into full runs when you aren’t conditioned. This is something I see allllllll the dang time: when people get excited about fitness and literally hit the ground running after being sedentary for months. I love the enthusiasm, but unfortunately, this is a recipe for injury and burnout. Walk-run intervals are a smart way to get the hang of running and prepare the body in smaller doses. I recommend starting out with a double walk to run ratio and decrease the amount of walking time from there. For example, walk for 1 minute and run for 30 seconds, repeat for 20 minutes total. From here, increase your run time to 1 minute and walk for 2 minutes. Once this feels good, take the walk time down to 1:30, then 1 minute, and then 30 seconds. Or gradually ADD onto your run time while keeping the walk time the same. Eventually, you’ll feel the need to take walk breaks less and less, and then you can run for a solid block of time.

I’m personally only starting with one day per week because I like to do ALL THE THINGS, but if you want to run more consistently, I wouldn’t do more than 2 or 3 days max (with breaks in between) if you’re just getting back into it or just getting started.

4.) Make strength training a regular part of your routine. 
This is so important for any type of cardio endurance activity, like running, cycling, walking, hiking, dancing, kickboxing, etc. A balanced strength training program will not only strengthen your muscles, support joints, and help prevent injury, but it will also make you stronger for your main activity. Strength training can help to increase lean muscle, strength, endurance, power, speed, and lead to measurable performance gains. If you’re looking for ideas on how to combine strength with running, check out this post!

5.) Don’t compare your previous times and records to your current status. 
This is SUCH a tricky one. When you get back into the swing of running, it’s so tempting to compare your current times to your previous PRs. Set new PRs! Like this is my “postpartum PR,” “my post knee-surgery PR,” or “my first Rona PR!” <— me

Be proud of yourself for setting NEW goals for yourself and cheer for any progress along the way!

6.) Seek out extra resources and communities for help. 
There is a whole internet world of resources and fitness communities out there! Thank you for stopping by this one today and I’m always here for you. <3 For some of my favorite run-specific blogs, check out Amanda’s site, Teri’s, and Janae’s.

7.) Consider signing up for a race for extra accountability and motivation. 
I’m not quite sure what the race climate is like with everything going on right now (I know there are virtual races out there?) but something to put in your pocket for later! I’m nowhere near taking out my race face right now, but maybe I’ll consider trying something in the fall. If anything, I just can’t wait to make it back to Orangetheory and crush a 30-minute treadmill block again. 😉

So tell me friends: do you run as part of your weekly fitness routine? If not, what’s your #1 favorite fitness activity?

With alllllll the things I enjoy, barre, spin, strength, and yoga are tied in the #1 spot.

Runner friends: tell me about any awesome new gear you’ve found lately! I was looking for a new flip belt and found this one. It has a water bottle that fits flesh to your back and you don’t hear a whoosh whoosh as it bounces around – it stays put! Pretty handy.

Happy Monday, friends!

xo

Gina

More:

How to train for a half marathon while strength training 

Tips for running faster

Back in running action

Running tips for Amanda from Run to the Finish

Track and strength workout

The post How to start running again (after a hiatus) appeared first on The Fitnessista.

today's tip,running

Continue Reading

Exercise Programs

The 12 Best Compound Exercises for Beginners (How to Train Efficiently)

Published

on

It’s time to discover the best compound exercises for beginners!

Compound exercises are the most “bang for your buck” when it comes to working out, so I’m super excited you want to learn more about them!

In our 1-on-1 Online Coach Program, we prioritize compound exercises when building workout routines for our clients. We’ll explain why today.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

What are compound exercises? (How to train efficiently)
The 5 best compound exercises (bodyweight)
The 7 best compound exercises (barbell)
Start training with compound exercises (Next steps)

Also, if you’re in a hurry, we’ve compiled all our strength and weight training content into one handy guide called (appropriately): Strength Training 101: Everything You Need to Know. 

Grab it for free when you join the Rebellion (that’s us!) below:

Download our comprehensive guide STRENGTH TRAINING 101!
Everything you need to know about getting strong.
Workout routines for bodyweight AND weight training.
How to find the right gym and train properly in one.

Alright, cue the music. Let’s do this thang.

What are Compound Exercises?

Let’s compare “compound exercises” to “isolation exercises”:

Compound exercises require more than one muscle group working together to complete the movement. This replicates the way your body naturally moves.
Isolation exercises more or less train one specific muscle group. For example, the leg extension machine focuses on your quads, so it “isolates” training that muscle.

Front squats would be an example of a compound exercise, because it engages your entire  lower body and core, and quite a bit of your upper body too, as you perform the movement:

As opposed to biceps curls, which more or less just trains your biceps:

As we explain in our Guide to Functional Fitness, whenever possible you want to focus on compound exercises.

Why?

Because in everyday life, you don’t use your muscles in isolation!

When you’re placing luggage in the overhead bin, hoisting a bag of dog food from the floor, or hauling your kid to bed, you’re using your muscle groups together. 

Just like you would with a compound exercise.

Plus, since you’re using multiple muscle groups at once, you’re taxing your body more when training. This can provide more efficient use of your time in the gym. 

In other words, why do three different exercises when you can just do one?

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s get to working out.

The 5 Best Compound Exercises (Bodyweight)

1) The Push-up: The best exercise you could ever do for yourself when it comes to using your bodyweight for “push muscles.”

Muscles trained with the push-up:

Pectoral 
Triceps
Deltoids
Abs

Here’s our video on how to do a proper push-up:

Easier Variation: Knee Push-up

Tougher Variation: Decline Push-up

2) The Bodyweight Squat: This exercise serves a dual purpose – it is the foundation for building strength AND helps build proper mobility. If you are going to ever do barbell squats, you need to work on hitting proper depth with a bodyweight squat first! 

Muscles trained with the squat:

Quads
Glutes
Hamstrings
Core muscles

Easier Variation: Assisted Bodyweight Squat

Tougher Variation: Goblet Squat

3) The Inverted Bodyweight Row: Until you can get your first pull-up or chin-up, these exercises are GREAT to start building your pull-muscle strength.

Muscles trained with the inverted row:

All of your back muscles (Latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, trapezius)
Biceps
Forearm muscles (dorsal, ventral)
Your grip

Easier Variation: Incline Inverted Row

Tougher Variation: Elevated Feet Inverted Row

4) The Pull-up and Chin-up: Once you can support your body’s weight above the bar, the world becomes your playground. No strength training routine should be without pull-up or chin-up work! (Can’t do a pull-up yet? We got you.)

Muscles trained with the pull-up:

All of your back muscles (Latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, trapezius)
Biceps
Latissimus dorsi (Lats)
Trapezius (Traps)
Abs
Your grip

Here’s how to perform a proper pull-up:

Easier Variation: Negative Pull-ups

Tougher Variation: Weighted Pull-ups

5) The Bodyweight Dip: As you start to get stronger with push-ups and need to find a way to increase the challenge, consider doing dips.

Warning: these are very advanced, but are incredible strength-building exercises. 

Muscles trained with the dips:

Pectoral 
Triceps
Deltoids
Rhomboid (Back muscles)
Abs

Easier Variation: Assisted Dips

Tougher Variation: Weighted Dips

These 5 compound exercises will propel you into the world of bodyweight training. 

For more ideas on how to train without a gym, check out The 42 Best Bodyweight Exercises (Work Out Anywhere).

Now, it’s barbell time![1]

The 7 Best Compound Exercises (Barbell)

After getting comfortable moving your own bodyweight around, it’s time to start training with barbells!

To up the difficulty with these compound exercises, simply add more weight. 

The fun thing about barbells: you can almost always add more weight (disclaimer: provided you do it safely). 

Here are The Best Barbell Compound Exercises: 

6) The Barbell Squat: Probably the best compound exercise when it comes to building strength and muscle throughout your whole body. 

Show me somebody who squats heavy and I’ll show you a great physique. This is a MUST.

Here’s how to perform the barbell back squat:

Muscles trained with the barbell squat:

Quads
Glutes
Hamstrings
Core muscles

7) The Barbell Deadlift: Maybe the best exercise of all time. 

It’s certainly the most primal: “pick the weight up off the ground. Done.” 

Here’s how to perform the deadlift:

Muscles trained with the barbell deadlift:

Glutes
Erectors (Spinal muscle)
Hamstrings
Pretty much every muscle in your body

8) The Barbell Romanian Deadlift: Think of this as the top half of a conventional deadlift (imagine you’re a “drinking bird” bending over at the waist):

Here are step-by-step instructions on how to perform the Romanian deadlift:

Muscles trained with the Romanian deadlift:

Hamstrings
Glutes
Erectors (Spinal muscle)
Rhomboid (Back muscles)

9) The Barbell Overhead Press: Press a barbell above your head. 

Muscles trained with the overhead press:

Pectoral 
Triceps
Deltoids
Rhomboid (Back muscles)
Abs

All the muscles in your chest, shoulders, and arms are engaged in order for you to lift the weight over your head. As a bonus, you need to really flex and brace your core, which gets those muscles working too.

Here are step-by-step instructions on how to perform the overhead press:

10) The Barbell Bench Press: Lie on a bench, and lower a barbell until it almost touches your chest. Pause, and then press it back up towards the sky. 

Repeat! And get strong. 

Here are step-by-step instructions on how to perform the bench press:

Muscles trained with the benchpress:

Pectoral 
Triceps
Deltoids
Rhomboid (Back muscles)
Abs
Pretty much every muscle in your upper-body

11) The Barbell Bent-Over Row: Bend your torso over and hoist a barbell up.

Muscles trained with the bent-over row:

All of your back muscles (Latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, trapezius)
Biceps
Forearm muscles (dorsal, ventral)
Your grip

Here are step-by-step instructions on how to perform the bent-over row:

12) The Barbell Lunge: Have the bar across your upper back and step out with your right leg. Lower your hips until your back leg’s knee almost touches the ground. Explode up and back by pushing off with your front leg. Repeat on your other side.

Muscles trained with the barbell lunge:

Quads
Glutes
Hamstrings
Your core (as you stabilize yourself and the weight)

Note: The above might be tough if gyms are closed around you. If that’s so, here’s how to build a gym at home (using household equipment).

Start Performing the Best Compound Exercises (Next Steps)

Your mission, should you choose to accept it: commit to trying ONE of these compound movements in the next week. Use 20 seconds of courage, recruit a friend who has lifted or trained before, and try your best. 

We all start somewhere! 

Speaking of starting out…

Have you yet to do ANY of these compound exercises?

Always start out with bodyweight moves and make sure your form is correct!

If it’s a barbell movement, use a broomstick (or PVC Pipe). 

When it comes to movements like squats, deadlifts, pull-ups, bench press, etc. – your form is crucial.  Develop good habits with lighter weight and you will save yourself months of frustration later and will protect you from injury.

If you’re struggling with certain elements of a movement, don’t get frustrated! Just understand that you’ll have areas in which you can improve.

When I started, I really liked practicing all of the movements at home because I could watch a video online at the same time as I was watching myself do it in a mirror.

Film yourself and compare it to our videos, or post it to the form check section of the Nerd Fitness Forums.

Still uncomfortable with the movements after that? Look around at some local strength and conditioning gyms and see if you could hire a coach (here’s how to find a good trainer) for one or two sessions just to go over the basic movements (or consider working with an online coach).

No matter what path you take, the most important thing you can do: START NOW!

Don’t overthink it. Just pick a compound exercise and learn how to do it. We can add more exercises to your routine down the road.

Want a little help getting going? The perfect next step to start your strength training journey!

You got it. 

Option #1) If you want a coach in your pocket, who can do video form checks, provide feedback, and adjust your workouts based on your progress, check out our 1-on-1 Online Coaching Program! 

I’ve had an online coach since 2015 and it’s changed my life. You can learn more by clicking on the box below: 

Option #2) If you want a daily prompt for doing compound exercises at home, check out NF Journey. Our fun habit-building app helps you exercise more frequently, eat healthier, and level up your life (literally).

Plus, you get to build an awesome superhero in the process!

Try your free trial right here:

Option #3) Join the Rebellion! We need good people like you in our community, the Nerd Fitness Rebellion.

Sign-up below and receive our free guide Strength Training 101: Everything You Need to Know. It includes step-by-step instructions for the Best Compound Exercises covered in today’s guide. 

Download our comprehensive guide STRENGTH TRAINING 101!
Everything you need to know about getting strong.
Workout routines for bodyweight AND weight training.
How to find the right gym and train properly in one.

Alright, enough from me. Your turn:

Do you agree with my list of best compound exercises?

Am I missing any?

Any tips or tricks for a newbie just getting started?

Let me know in the comments!

-Steve

PS: Make sure you check out the rest of our Strength Training 101 series:

5 Best Strength Training Workout Routines For Beginners
How Much Weight Should I Be Lifting?
Finding the Right Gym

###

GIF Source: Weighted Dips, Biceps Curl, Will Ferrell,

Photo Source: lightfieldstudios © 123RF.com, Workout, LEGO bench press,  Lance Cpl. Tayler P. Schwamb, 101, 102, 103

Footnotes    ( returns to text)

My favorite time.

The post Blog first appeared on Nerd Fitness.

General

Continue Reading

Exercise Programs

Sit Ups vs. Crunches Which One is Better and what is the difference?

Published

on

Flat stomach and good abs are probably the pinnacle of fitness achievement for anyone who has started with a diet and workout regimen. Although it goes beyond saying that a trim and slim core is far more appealing than those unflattering stomach rolls, a strong core will also improve your posture and make your exercises more efficient while remaining injury-free. Having said that, it is fair to say that the abs are probably the most stubborn and most difficult muscles to tone (especially for women!) and that a six-pack comes at a serious price of watching your diet and training to your limits. So how do you square the debate between sit ups vs. crunches?

Sit Ups And Crunches

Presuming that youve
cut down on all the food that makes your tummy chubby and you are now looking
for a way to see those attractive ab-delineating lines, it still goes without
saying that you need to be prepared for some serious sweating. The reason
behind the sweat? Lots of and lots of sit ups and crunches!

Although all
forms of exercise tend to make your core stronger, you wont see that six-pack
of yours without ab-targeted workouts. Youve all probably heard of sit ups and
crunches, but youll be surprised how many people either confuse them and think
of them as the same exercise or are not quite sure what makes them different. If
you are one of them, stick around while we take a closer look and compare these
two ab-splitting exercises. Its time for the sit ups vs. crunches duel.

What is the difference between crunches and sit ups?

When it comes to crunches vs. sit ups, the main difference is the muscles they target. Although they are both ab-working muscles, sit ups, unlike crunches, target multiple muscles at once. Unfortunately, neither of them targets belly fat directly (you need to stay out of the kitchen and go though the hell of cardio for that!).

The good thing about your core is that you will target some of the muscles with virtually every other bodyweight workout. Take for example squats or lunges both contribute towards a stronger core, beyond their primary purpose.

What muscles do
sit ups work?

Sit ups work the abs and a range of other muscle groups like the chest,
lower back, hip flexors and neck. However, you shouldnt dread building
additional muscles, as muscle cells, due to their higher metabolic activity
compared to fat cells, will make you burn more calories (and consequently fat)
even when you are resting, which will bring you a step closer to a shredded
abdomen.

What muscles do
crunches work?

Crunches work by the principle of intense muscle isolation. They only work
the abdominal muscles, therefore making them the most popular exercise for
those trying to get a six-pack. They are also a perfect exercise for developing
a strong core, which includes the lower back muscles and obliques. And a strong
core translates into better posture and improved balance.

The sit up
vs. crunches discussion inevitably breaks over the benefits of each of these exercises,
which (and this cannot be stressed enough) will be significantly reduced if
proper form is not maintained. So let me get back to the opening question:

Sit ups vs. crunches
which one is better?
Well, lets have a
closer look at how these exercises work and then compare them one against the
other.

What are the benefits of crunches and how to do a proper
crunch?

Sit Ups Vs. Crunches 1

The crunch works by strengthening the rectus abdominis by flexing it. Although in performing crunches you dont go as high as with the full sit up, this primary abdominal muscle activates during the first 30-45 degrees of movement, or just at the point when you lift the shoulders off the ground.

The crunch has a smaller range of motion compared to the sit up, but that is not necessarily a bad thing as it works your core without putting stress on your back.

One study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found out that the Ab-slide exercise shows higher electromyographic activity across the external oblique, upper rectus abdominis and lower rectus abdominis, and is therefore slightly more effective than the crunch. However, the study also concluded that the crunches show significant activity as well, and should therefore not be excluded.

Of course, you
wont see any of the benefits of crunches if you fail to do them correctly. So
in order to maintain proper form, follow the steps below.

Crunches also
build endurance in abdominal muscles. By being an isolated exercise, they help
achieve abdominal endurance faster and more effectively when compared against
other ab exercises. As the purpose of your abs is to stabilize your
mid-section, help you have a good posture, and support you when lifting heavy
objects, one of the best benefits of crunches is that they help you achieve exactly
that which makes them quite the functional exercise.

How to do a
proper crunch?

  1. Lie down on your back and bend
    your knees
  2. Put your hands behind your head
    or cross them so that palms are touching opposite shoulders
  3. Draw in your belly button towards
    your spine and lift your head, neck and shoulders off the floor (no higher),
    exhaling while going up.
  4. Pause, inhale, and return to the
    staring position. Make sure that your feet, low back and tailbone never lose
    contact with the ground as you roll up and down.

What are the benefits of sit ups and how to do a proper
sit up?

Crunches Vs. Sit Ups

As I already mentioned, sit ups work more muscles in your body as opposed to abs only. They are a bodyweight exercise, just like crunches, but the fact that they engage multiple muscle groups means that they are more beneficial for toning your body and developing functional strength compared to crunches. Another of the great benefits of doing sit ups is that they do a great job at stabilizing your muscles and strengthening your core while protecting your spine.

Doing sit ups
will help you increase your range of motion and flexibility, which will in turn
help you maintain a good posture and reduce the risk of back injury or strain.

Here is how to perform
a full sit up:

  1. Bend your knees and place your
    feet flat on the floor
  2. Put your hands behind your head
    or cross them to opposite shoulders
  3. Draw in your belly button
    towards your spine
  4. Lift your upper body pulling up
    from the floor until your elbows reach the knees. Exhale while lifting up.
  5. Pause for a second, and then
    slowly bring your upper body back to the floor. Inhale while lowering.

How about different varieties of each?

When considering each exercise, it is important to note that the crunch offers a far more versatile training program if you know how to vary the basic movement. We published an entire article, with a free video from our workout program, where you can gather some ideas on doing a variety of crunches or a palate of other ab exercises, so make sure to take a look.

Ab exercises

The sit up, on the other hand, is not an easy movement to modify. You can hold one dumbbell in your hand in order to increase the resistance on your abs and lower back, or perhaps extend your arm as you reach the highest point going upwards. Another option would be to make a slight twist with your core and therefore target your obliques too.

If you need a comprehensive program that includes some of the most advanced abdominal workouts incorporated across a number of bodyweight training sessions, make sure to check our platform Fitness Updated, where you can find complete nutritional breakdown, recipes, and smart bodyweight training videos.

Sit ups vs. crunches the verdict

While sit ups engage more muscles, they undoubtedly put more strain and stress on your spine, including the neck. However, if not done with proper form, crunches can also lead to back pain, especially in beginners.

As for their
input in achieving the desired flat belly, they are both excellent for
developing and strengthening core muscles. But, if you are still looking for a
definite answer to the question Sit ups or crunches for flat stomach, the
answer goes beyond the crunches vs. sit ups debate. No ab exercise burns fat,
and getting a flat tummy requires combination of these exercises with a
healthy, low-calorie diet as well as regular cardio exercises.

As part of a comprehensive exercise routine, both the crunch and the sit up can help you lose body fat by contributing to an increase of your metabolic rate, as well as a slight but significant increase in muscle tissue around your abdomen. They alone wont shrink your tummy, but will speed the weight loss process dramatically and as you lose belly fat, your newly strengthened abs will start showing.

Fitness Updated Banner

Have you tried this NEW workout plan that everyone is talking about?

Try Bikini Body Workouts

Did you miss our previous article…
https://onlineexerciseprograms.com/dumbbell-dangers-how-to-prevent-an-injury-when-working-out-with-dumbbells-2/

Continue Reading

Trending