The short answer is a resounding, “No!”  New research shows that crunches, and other variation of this abdominal exercise, offer no benefits.

Researchers from Youngstown State University in Ohio determined that, “Performing abdominal exercises 3 or 6 times per week did not improve either concentric or eccentric strength.  These results suggest that the exercises used during this study were not enough of a stimulus to significantly improve concentric or eccentric strength in either group. In addition, there were no significant decreases in waist circumference, body mass index or body fat during the 11 week study.”

In plain English this means that crunches are a waste of time. In more detailed, plain English this means that crunches do not increase abdominal strength, decrease the waist line, body mass index or body fat.  Crunches, and their many, popular variations won’t give you a six-pack.  In general, this study allows you to say many bad things about crunches.

The six exercises featured in this study should be familiar to just about everybody; bent-leg crunches, straight-leg crunches, the bicycle maneuver, elevated leg crunches, vertical leg curl ups (legs straight up with hips at 90 degree angle), long-arm crunches (with arms straight along side of body moving forward with crunch motion), and crunches with legs straight and six-inches of the floor.  The 71 subjects were split into 2 groups that performed the exercises either 3 days or 6 days per week.

The subjects followed a routine based on NSCA guidelines performing 3 sets of 20 repetitions of each exercise with 30 seconds of rest between each set.  Because researchers are incredibly serious and meticulous types, they had the subjects maintain a 25-beat-per-minute pace as set by a metronome. 

The was study published in the October 2009 edition of the National Strength and Conditioning Association’s Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. Top-level personal trainers and strength coaches have known for years that crunches and their relatives are ineffective, but now there is no excuse for fitness professionals and consumers alike, not to be aware of this fact. So stop wasting your time and effort performing exercises that do nothing for you.


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