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Meal Timing: Does it Matter When You Eat?

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When it comes to healthy eating, you’ve likely heard far more about what and how much to eat versus when to eat.

It makes sense: Most experts say you first need to know whether you’re eating too much or not enough, then nail down the right macronutrient balance for your goals. Most people fine-tune nutrient timing later.

But if you’re eating the right foods in the right amounts, but still not seeing the results you think you should be, could it be when you’re eating that’s holding you back?

How much does meal timing matter, really? Is meal timing a myth? Let’s dive into that question and others about when you should eat.

What is Nutrient Timing?

Eating macronutrients at certain times — before, during, or after workouts — is called nutrient timing.

The concept of nutrient timing includes the new rules of protein timing, or the “anabolic window” after workouts when muscles are most receptive to protein. It comes into play when determining how to eat leading up to your big endurance event.

Is Meal Timing a Myth?

We’ve been conditioned to eat by the clock, though it’s a habit that contradicts the concept of mindful eating, or purposefully noticing hunger and satiety cues.

So is meal timing a myth? Yes and no, says Paige Benté, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D., and nutrition manager at Beachbody. It matters, just not as much as you might think.

“With athletes, it’s much more important to time your meals appropriately,” says Benté, adding that this is less important for the weekend warrior than the Olympic athlete. (But those in between may see a benefit.)

In general, for most people, missing one meal occasionally or eating lunch an hour early or late isn’t what’s going to make or break your diet.

But you do need to eat regularly. In a statement published in the journal Circulation, the American Heart Association makes the case for eating intentionally and paying attention to the timing and frequency of your meals.

According to the AHA, a consistent, regular eating schedule could yield a healthier lifestyle and could benefit your cardiovascular health, too.

And when it comes to weight loss and maintenance, the timing of your meals is an important factor in maintaining appetite and healthy blood sugar levels throughout the day, says Jim White, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Regularly timed meals can also help you maintain a healthy metabolism and energy levels, he adds.

Additionally, going to bed with a full stomach or not eating the right ratio and amount of carbs and protein on either side of a workout can mean that you’re not getting the most from all that work, something we’ll delve into in just a moment.

If you’re interested in trying meal timing, check out Beachbody’s A Little Obsessed, which goes live on December 20, 2017. This five-day program is a “sampler” of Autumn Calabrese’s new 80 Day Obsession program, which launches in January 2018.

This new fitness and nutrition program features a meal plan that is laid out for you with very specific meal times.

Do You Need to Eat Breakfast?

Breakfast is the first food-related decision you make daily, and White says it’s a no-brainer. “Breakfast literally means breaking your body out of its nightly fast,” he says.

While some people may be able to skip breakfast and still balance the rest of their day in terms of calories and nutrients, it’s not easy or generally recommended.

“If you skip breakfast and then you are ravenously hungry by noon and eat double what you would normally eat for lunch, then you haven’t done yourself any favors,” Benté says.

White is definitely on Team Breakfast: “It spurs metabolism, gives you an energy boost, and it also provides your brain with the fuel that it needs to function at work or school, helping you to concentrate and focus.”

Amy Shapiro, M.S., R.D., C.D.N., embraces the adage “eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper.” She says she loves “the idea of a bigger meal at breakfast, as you are guaranteed to use that energy throughout the day.”

Furthermore, some studies have shown that men who eat breakfast are less likely to gain weight compared with those who do not.

Does Eating Lunch Matter?

Does eating lunch matter? Gordon Gekko, the antagonist of Oliver Stone’s Wall Street, famously crowed that “lunch is for wimps.”

But Gekko is definitely not a role model for healthy living — and eating lunch does matter. Shapiro thinks lunch is your best bet for getting a midday energy boost and avoiding the afternoon slump.

“We need lunch to keep our energy up throughout the day and to prevent us from overeating later in the day,” says Shapiro, a New York-based nutritionist. “If you skip it and let yourself get too hungry, dinner will be too big — and this can ruin your workout goals and weight-loss efforts.”

What if you just don’t have time for lunch? Are your health goals doomed? Benté says no. “If you can go with breakfast and dinner in a day, and eat the appropriate amount of calories then, sure,” you can overlook lunch, she says.

What’s the Right Time to Eat Dinner?

Sleep is a vital component of health, and your nutrition should work in sync with your other healthy habits — not against them.

Hitting the sack with a full belly is unlikely to help you sleep. What’s the right time to eat dinner? It’s best not to eat too close to bedtime (though that’s better than skipping dinner).

“A light dinner about three hours before bed is the best way to make sure your meal is not getting in the way of adequate sleep,” says White, adding that keeping it light will ensure that you are able to burn off some of that energy before bed.

That three-hour window should leave enough time between eating and lying down to let your body get a head start on digestion, so as to not interfere with your ability to get to sleep — and stay asleep.

Eating less than two hours before bedtime isn’t recommended, says Benté. “That’s really to allow digestion to take place before sleep and prevent things like acid reflux.”

How Long Do You Need to Go Without Eating at Night?

If you need to give yourself at least three hours to digest dinner before bed, how long do you need to go without eating at night?

Benté says you should go at least another eight hours — the recommended amount of sleep per night. To determine the timing for your last meal, look at what time you need to get up, and work backward.

If you have to get up at 6 a.m., you will want to be in bed by 10 p.m., so you’ll ideally have dinner by 7 p.m. That gives you 11 hours between meals, and if you eat dinner earlier or tend to eat breakfast later, you’ll naturally have more hours between meals.

While intermittent fasting is a popular diet technique that involves not eating for prescribed periods of time, commonly a 12- to 16-hour period overnight, don’t get too hung up on the exact number of hours.

“If you’re hungry when you wake up, eat — and if you’re not hungry immediately upon waking, wait to eat,” says Benté.

What Is the Best Thing to Eat Before Bed?

If you want to make your bedtime snack part of your recovery routine, what is the best thing to eat before bed?

To support your muscles after your workout, you’ll want to consume a protein that is absorbed slowly, like casein. This gives your body the tools it needs to repair and grow muscles overnight, while you sleep.

While whey protein, which the body absorbs quickly, is a good idea after a workout, “consuming casein, a slow-absorbed protein, before bed can improve muscle gain and fat loss,” says White. “It can also increase metabolism during sleep and improve satiety, helping you to eat less during the day.”

Beachbody Performance Recharge contains casein, and it is specially formulated with key ingredients to help accelerate overnight recovery, combat exercise-induced muscle soreness, and promote muscle protein synthesis.* “That provides a slow release of amino acids throughout the night that’s easy to digest,” says Benté.

“In general, we recommend not consuming foods that are high in processed carbohydrates immediately before bed,” she adds, since carbs provide energy (aka, the last thing you need before bed).

If you’re following a program like 21 Day Fix or Portion Fix, you know how much of each macronutrient you should be eating daily. To figure out your meal timing, take your daily allotment of containers, and outline when you’ll be eating each one throughout the day.

Let’s look at a few other commonly asked questions surrounding meal timing to get your eating plan on point.

How Long Should You Wait to Exercise After Eating Carbs?

One common question related to nutrient timing is: How long should you wait to exercise after eating carbs?

Carbs should be part of your pre-workout snack, which would ideally be a 4:1 ratio of carbs to protein about an hour before your sweat session begins. This will give you adequate energy to avoid bonking during your workout.

How Long Before a Workout Should You Eat?

If you go too long without eating, you may not have enough energy to exercise, but eating too close to your sweat session can wreck your workout.

So how long before a workout should you eat? It depends on your personal diet and your goals, but a general recommendation is to eat within three hours of a workout.

How Many Times a Day Should You Eat to Lose Weight? When you’re trying to lose weight, meal timing can be tricky. You don’t want to get too hungry and risk overeating, but you need to keep your daily calorie goal in mind.

How many times a day should you eat to lose weight? “We recommend you eat every two to three hours,” says Benté.

This ensures your body is getting all of the appropriate nutrients and avoids the dreaded “hanger.” “You’re avoiding ever becoming absolutely starving,” says Benté, which can prevent you from blowing your hard work by snacking too much or overeating.

The Bottom Line

While you don’t need to eat by the clock or time your meals down to the minute, frequent and regular meals and snacks are going to help prevent hunger and keep your energy levels steady.

In addition, paying attention to your macro intake before and after workouts can help ensure you have energy from warm-up to cooldown — and your muscles will be primed and ready for next time.

Exercise Programs

How to start running again (after a hiatus)

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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.

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