How to Strengthen Your Core

Swole Fitness Tips

Arnold did not use crunches

Back in the day you might have been told to avoid situps because they can strain your lower back and neck. That could be true if you have bad form, but it is generally a myth to avoid doing situps in favor of crunches.

It is a myth perpetuated in the 1990s and early 2000s by foo foo personal trainers trying to convince middle-aged overweight Americans that they don’t have to do situps to get good abs, and in fact doing situps is ‘bad’.

Bollocks I say! We can file that one up there with high carb / low fat diets and curling in the squat rack.

To protect your neck, read the post on How to Reduce Neck Strain.

To protect your back, the answer is simple: keep your back as straight as possible throughout the movement, lay on a towel or mat to protect your tailbone, and avoid anchoring your feet as that can sometimes cause lower back strain.


Why Choose Situps Over Crunches

Situps use a far greater range of motion (ROM) than crunches, which makes your abdominal work longer, harder, and more completely.

If you can’t do situps or just plain refuse to, then try doing crunches with a rolled-up towel under your back or on a swiss ball. Doing crunches this way will also increase your abdominal ROM, but not as much as doing complete situps.

Include twisting movements like the Russian Twist with a medicine ball or plate in order to more completely train your core. Use the bicycle maneuver to train your abs completely and effectively. Add a lower abdominal movement with posterior hip rotation to finish off your workout.

Want more exercises to strengthen your core? Read about the Top 10 Best Abdominal Exercises.

Also check out these tips for How to Build Better Abs.

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14 Responses to “How to Strengthen Your Core”

  1. WTH!? What muscles are you trying to build with sit-ups? The abs only comprise of a small portion of the range after which the hip flexors take over. I believe it has been said there no safe way to exercise the hip flexors because of the grinding of the lower vertebrae. Even Arnie reckons that in retrospect he and fellow bodybuilders merely got lucky that they didn’t injure themselves doing sit-ups when they should’ve been doing crunches.

    • The hip flexors are activated far less when your feet are not anchored. Bending the knees or keeping the legs straight, does not affect hip flexor activation. To further decrease hip flexor activation and protect the spine, the back should be kept straight at all times, and you should not sit all the way up – your upper body should stop before it is perpendicular to the floor. Doing this also keeps more tension on the rectus abdominus.

      Taking all these things into concern, if you are going to do situps you should be sure to use proper form to protect your back and neck. If you can do that, you can use situps to more thoroughly train the abdominals.

  2. I think you’re right. I still do sit ups myself. I do crunches too, because they target the abs directly. However, sit ups allow me to warm up all the abdominal muscles, which is actually more complex than it seems.

    • Crunches aren’t bad at all. I really wouldn’t ever tell someone to stop doing crunches altogether and only do situps. I just think there are different variations you can use with situps that make it a more effective exercise than crunches alone.

  3. I love that ab-wheel and planks. Definitely switch up though every few months. I want to get to the full extension of the ab wheel from the knees, but not there yet. That thing makes you hurt!

  4. I would have to agree with steve , sometimes I like to complete the crunch all the way up like a situp an squeeze at the end.This way I can work out the upper and lower abs at the same time with a greater range of motion.

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