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?
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!
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
What muscles do
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
What are the benefits of crunches and how to do a proper
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.
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
- Lie down on your back and bend
- Put your hands behind your head
or cross them so that palms are touching opposite shoulders
- Draw in your belly button towards
your spine and lift your head, neck and shoulders off the floor (no higher),
exhaling while going up.
- 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
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:
- Bend your knees and place your
feet flat on the floor
- Put your hands behind your head
or cross them to opposite shoulders
- Draw in your belly button
towards your spine
- Lift your upper body pulling up
from the floor until your elbows reach the knees. Exhale while lifting up.
- 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.
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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Making the Most of Apple Fitness+
An email from Life Time hit my inbox a few days ago with a subject line that immediately caught my attention: “Action Required! Renew your Apple Fitness+ promo code to continue your complimentary subscription.”
For the past four months, Apple Fitness+ has been an integral part of my health and wellness routine. It’s been an unexpected yet awesome addition to the many offerings in the Life Time Digital app experience. As a Life Time team member, I’ve had a front-row seat to all the available features in Life Times digital app — training programs, educational content, and live-streaming classes, in addition to Apple Fitness+ — and letting the latter lapse wasn’t an option for me.
You see, I’ve been a hybrid workout routine since earlier this year, following Coach Anika’s “Leaner and Stronger” program in the app, and then supplementing the strength sessions — and often replacing the low-impact/recovery days altogether — with offerings from Apple Fitness+.
I’ve grown accustomed to taking walks with the likes of Anderson Cooper, Misty Copeland, and Jane Fonda, thanks to the “Time to Walk” feature. I like the convenience of quick-hit HIIT finishers with Bakari and treadmill workouts with Scott and Sam — or going to my yoga mat and finding my breath (and moments of peace) with Jonelle and Jessica.
These workouts, whether 10 minutes or 45, have helped keep me accountable, while also inspiring me to try new things and add a little more variety to my routine. These are a few of the reasons I’m not ready to let it lapse:
1. The wide range of options. With more than 10 categories of workout types — and new classes being offered every week in each one — there’s a ton of high-quality content to choose from. I’ve done 30-minute treadmill workouts that have left me breathless, 20-minute HIIT sessions that have made me burn, and 10-minute Mindful Cooldowns that are ideal for stretching after a long day of sitting or unwinding before bed. I’m not sure workout boredom is a possibility.
2. The array of top-notch instructors. I have yet to encounter an Apple Fitness+ trainer who hasn’t brought it all to their class. While not all of them are great fits for me, they are all knowledgeable, engaging, and energetic. They are diverse in their identities and abilities, and they are phenomenal at taking your mind off the work at hand — without compromising form or quality. The mindful strategies they use to encourage and motivate have helped me believe in myself and push through when I otherwise might have slowed down or stopped.
3. The music. Apple’s license to music of all sorts is unmatched. I’ve discovered some of the latest Latin hits, run to the top get-on-the-dance floor songs, and more. Plus, I can save the playlists in Apple Music, so I can listen again (and again) later on.
4. The integration with my Apple Watch. This might be my favorite feature: The connection between my iPhone, iPad, or Apple TV and Apple Watch so I can monitor my workout intensity is seamless. I love seeing my Activity rings close — and using the burn bar in the cardio workouts to gauge how my activity efforts stack up compared with others who’ve completed the workout.
5. The convenience factor. My iPhone is with me most of the time — and I wear my Apple Watch every day. So, the fact that I can do these workouts (along with others from Life Time in the app) anywhere helps me stay on track with my health and fitness, no matter where I am. On a recent weekend getaway with a couple of my girlfriends, for instance, we snuck in 20-minute bodyweight strength sessions each morning — a good sweat before a day of lounging poolside was just what we needed.
Apple Fitness+ also offers targeted workouts programs for beginners, older adults, and during pregnancy — I’ll be watching for future offerings that match my goals. So far, I’ve gotten a lot out of this feature and am excited to dip my toes into others as they become available.
For more about the Apple Fitness+ partnership with Life Time and how it’s included in membership, visit Lifetime.life/join/digital-membership.html.
Current Life Time members: To activate or renew your Apple Fitness+ access, download the Life Time Digital app and simply click on the Apple Fitness+ tile and follow the instructions.
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Exercising After a C-Section
After giving birth, many women wonder when they can get back to their exercise routine, but it can be particularly confusing for women who delivered via cesarean, or C-section.
“[A C-section] is a major abdominal surgery, and just like any other surgery, it takes time to heal,” says Blair Green, DPT, pelvic-health specialist and coauthor of Go Ahead, Stop and Pee: Running During Pregnancy and Postpartum. Typically, experts recommend waiting six weeks after surgery before restarting your exercise routine, but women who are recovering from a C-section may need to wait longer.
Not only does the incision itself need to heal before you can start exercising, but the core muscles — which are active in every movement we make — have to be retrained.
“If we cut through [our core muscles], they’re essentially ‘injured,’ and even though the injury was a surgery, they still need time to heal and retrain themselves,” Green says.
Here are some tips on when — and how — to exercise after a C-section.
IMMEDIATELY AFTER SURGERY
- Protect your incision
“Initially, you want to protect your incision,” says Jennifer Joslyn, DPT, a physical therapist at Motion Minnesota who specializes in pelvic health. This means avoiding movements that could irritate the incision, like excessive twisting, bending, and lifting heavy objects. Ideally, you’ll avoid these types of movements for the first few weeks following surgery.
“Most women don’t feel well enough to even do much more than just household walking distances and taking care of the baby until about three weeks out,” says Elizabeth Chumanov, DPT, PhD, co-coordinator of the Active Moms Clinic at the University of Wisconsin–Madison Sports Rehabilitation Clinic.
- Practice diaphragmatic breathing
While you may not be able — or necessarily want — to exercise while you recover, there are small things you can do during those six weeks to help you begin restoring core strength and function. “One thing I always recommend is deep diaphragmatic breathing,” Green says.
Your diaphragm is a dome-shaped sheet of muscle that separates your chest and abdominal cavities, and acts as the primary muscle of respiration. It actually works with your abdominal and pelvic-floor muscles — a group of muscles on the bottom of your pelvis that support your pelvic organs and help with posture. This means that simply activating the diaphragm can help restore the function of your entire core.
But also that deep breathing helps you heal, because it transports blood and oxygen to your tissues,” Green says.
To do it, lie on your back, place both hands on your rib cage, and take 10 to 20 deep breaths. As you inhale, you should feel air coming into your ribs and abdomen. “And then, when you breathe out, you should feel your ribs funneling down and in, and your abdomen should drop,” Green says.
In an ideal world, you would practice deep breathing three or four times a day. That said, many new moms are simply trying to adjust to their new routine, and may struggle with adding anything else to their plate. So, Green recommends focusing on deep breathing for five minutes at the start and/or end of your day.
- Don’t overdo it
Light walking is OK, too, as long as there’s no pain, Green says. But if you were on bedrest for any length of your pregnancy, you’ll want to take greater care with starting any kind of activity — light walking included. “I know a couple of women who were on bedrest for six months of their pregnancy, and in those situations, I would not recommend waking up two weeks after you had a baby and going for a walk,” Green says.
AFTER YOUR SIX-WEEK CHECKUP
- Start with basic strength exercises
Once your OB/GYN has cleared you for exercise, typically six weeks after giving birth, you can start incorporating basic strength exercises like squats, lunges, bird-dogs, and planks. In the early stages of rebuilding your fitness, avoid high-intensity and high-impact activities like heavy strength training, running, bootcamp-style and metabolic-conditioning circuits, and plyometrics. You want to make sure your core and pelvic floor are healed and strong enough to handle those types of dynamic movements.
- Ease into running, plyometrics, and heavy weightlifting
If you’re a runner, Green recommends giving yourself eight to 12 weeks to recover and retrain your abdominal muscles, and starting with a run-walk program. You can also do low-impact cardio exercise like biking, rowing, or the elliptical to rebuild your fitness before you jump into running again. And if you do plyometrics or heavy weightlifting, wait three to six months, Green says.
- Pay attention to how you feel
When you do exercise, listen to what your body is telling you. If you experience pain, heaviness, or pressure in the pelvic floor, doming or coning in your abdomen, urine or stool leakage, or any pain or irritation in your C-section scar, this could be a sign that the exercise should be modified, Joslyn says.
If your abdomen pushes out during an exercise (referred to as “coning” or “doming”), for example, chances are your abdominal muscles aren’t strong enough yet to handle that exercise. Or, it may mean that you need to breathe or activate your core in a different way.
- Reactivate your core muscles
“When you’re pregnant, your body has to make room for your baby, and your tissues and muscles are stretching and expanding,” Joslyn says, “and so once you have your baby, initially it may be hard to find those core muscles again and activate them.”
To help women relearn how to activate their core, Joslyn recommends an exercise that targets your deep core muscle — the transverse abdominis. Here’s how to do the move:
- Lie on your back with your knees bent 90 degrees and feet flat on the ground.
- With your fingers, find your hips on both sides of the front of your pelvis. Then, move your fingers in 1 inch.
- Inhale, keeping your pelvic floor and abdominal muscles relaxed.
- Imagine there is a string in-between your hip bones. As you exhale, imagine that string pulling your hip bones together to engage your transverse abdominis.
Once you know how to reactivate your core muscles, you can better activate them during any other exercise.
- Try to be patient
Remember: Just because your doctor has cleared you for exercise doesn’t mean you’re mentally or physically ready, or that you can pick up where you left off before your pregnancy, experts say.
It’s important to adjust your exercises and timeline according to how you feel and steer clear of self-judgments that tell you that you “should” be healing or progressing differently. Some women feel great at their six-week OB/GYN appointment, whereas others feel weak and fatigued and may even be in pain.
“Everybody’s just a little bit different in terms of that [exercise] timeline,” Joslyn says.
Try not to rush into exercise, or chase the unrealistic goal of reaching your pre-baby shape as quickly as possible. Remember that your body went through a lot of changes during your pregnancy — and continues changing even after the baby is born. Rather than get hung up on ideas of reclaiming your pre-baby body or achieving an unrealistic post-baby body for you, practice the mindset of meeting your body exactly as it is each and every day.
“We need to respect the recovery time,” Green says, “and that often gets lost in the shuffle.”
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Stay Healthy And Active With These Fitness Tips
Overall fitness isn't just about cardio. Although cardio is a major component of weight loss and heart health, it is important to incorporate strength training into your fitness regimen. Strength training builds muscle mass and helps you burn more calories post-workout. Follow these strength-training tips to amp up your workout and get a complete workout.
Alternative sports can offer people good fitness options for people, alongside the more regular forms of exercise. Free-running is a sport that emphasizes full body fitness. Climbing, running, and general agility are main requirements to free-run as you run, climb, and jump across many obstacles. Not only are they fun, but they unleash your inner child's desire to run and jump over railings, off the beaten path of adulthood.
If you want to reach your goals in terms of fitness, then you need to work backwards. You should pick a date of completion for your fitness goals and work backwards, listing off all the short-term goals in between. This way you look at your fitness goals as deadlines.
The best way to get children interested in fitness is to be a good example and by being involved with them as much as possible. Try taking an exercise class, playing tennis or hitting a baseball together. Not only will you both benefit from the increased activity, but it's a great way to maintain a close relationship.
To help you include exercise into a tight schedule, you should walk whenever possible. That could mean taking the stairs instead of the elevator at the office or parking at the back of a large lot to give you a brisk brief walk to the store. When it comes to working out, every little bit counts.
Add resistance training to your exercise plan. Resistance training helps build muscle. The more muscle you have in your body, the more quickly and efficiently you can burn calories. Resistance bands or light weights are good options for working out at home. You can also use your own body weight to provide resistance. Exercises, such as push-ups and squats, make your muscles bear the weight of your body and that builds strength.
After every workout, one thing you may want to do is take protein. This can be either in the form of a protein shake, a protein bar, or basically any meat product. This allows for your muscles to recover faster from your workout and overall make your muscles grow larger.
Decide to walk for 45 minutes a day instead of 30. Walking for 45 minutes has been scientifically proven by Duke University to result in fat and weight loss. This can equal up to 30 pounds of weight loss per year for just an added 15 minutes a day. For maximum weight loss, try walking up a hill instead of down.
Obviously, there are many options when it comes to working strength moves into your fitness routine. Keep doing your cardio, but additionally, choose any number of the tips mentioned to keep your muscles strong and prevent injury. Not only will you increase your calorie burn, but you'll have awesome muscle definition to boot.