by Jessica Smith, REDBOOK
Good news! You never have to do another crunch again. The best move for flat, pulled-in abs is the plank. (To do a plank, get in push-up position and lower your arms so your elbows rest on the ground. Brace your abs in tight towards your back and engage your whole body by pressing your shoulders down your back and squeezing your legs together. Hold for 45 seconds and be careful not to arch your back).
Here are three reasons a plank is more beneficial than a crunch:
1. The plank does more for your abdominal muscles.
"A plank is superior because it causes a natural bracing/engagement of all four of your abdominal muscles (the transverse abdominis, rectus abdominis, internal and external obliques), whereas the crunch largely engages just one (rectus abdominis)," says Michele Olson, Ph.D., professor of exercise science at University of Auburn, Montgomery, who tested the effectiveness of the two exercises in the lab. In addition, the abdominals receive both strengthening as well as aspects of flexibility through the plank, says Alex Figueroa, fitness expert and founder and lead trainer for Priority1Wellness.com. The crunch is an isolated exercise, and it does its function well", says Figueroa, it strengthens the rectus abdominus. But it's "far from functional, and for most people, far from what is needed for a healthy balanced body".
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2. The plank is a multi-tasking move.Who does just one thing at time in life anymore? Why should your abs exercise be any different? A crunch only works your abdominal wall, while a plank is a total body exercise that also engages your core (abs & lower back), helps better your posture and works shoulder stabilization. Plus, "You never know when you are going to need to support your own weight and lift yourself off the floor," says Jackson Williams, assistant fitness manager for the Sports Club/LA in Boston.
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3. The plank better for your back and core.
"A plank helps protect the back from problems that stem from sitting at a desk all day. It strengthens the abs and core, while crunches exacerbate lower back issues," says Rick Richey, Performance Enhancement Specialist and owner of R2Fitness. "Planks are ideal because they strengthen and stretch the body at the same time, says Stephanie Vitorino, fitness manager for Equinox in Woodland Hills, California and star of the "Body Target 60" DVD. "With a lengthened back, arms and engaged glutes and legs, you are able to gain integrate your core stabilizers which are critical for a healthy back and core," explains Vitorino.
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Jessica Smith is a certified fitness lifestyle expert and creator of the 10 Pounds Down DVD series.
photo credit: TRBfoto
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