Crunches are often incorporated into a workout regimen as a means of getting a toned and muscular-looking stomach. However, the benefits of crunches go beyond aesthetic changes. The crunch builds strength in one of the major muscles in your core, which in turn will help you keep your spine and hips in proper alignment.
Strengthen the Stomach
According to ExRx.net, the crunch primarily targets the rectus abdominis muscle, which is the major muscle in your stomach. It runs down the front of your torso and is responsible for flexing your spine against resistance. When your rectus abdominis is weak, you are at an increased risk of lower-back injury because your abdominals are unable to combat the pull of your lower-back muscles and you can hyperextend your spine. Consistently incorporate crunches into your workout to effectively improve your core strength.
Improve Stability and Posture
Along with your back, obliques and hips, your rectus abdominis works to keep your spine in proper alignment. Because of the increased strength in your rectus abdominis that comes from crunches, your abs will be able to work more efficiently with these other core muscles to protect your spine. ExRx.net adds that the rectus abdominis is responsible for controlling the tilt of your pelvis and the curvature of your lower spine. Keeping your spine in proper position will ensure that loads are properly dispensed when you’re standing or sitting and you’ll have a decreased risk of back injury.
Tone the Stomach
When developed, the rectus abdominis offers the six-pack stomach appearance. Your crunch workouts must be done two to three days per week, with the crunch being performed for multiple sets in order the overload the muscle and stimulate tone. While the crunch will tone your stomach muscle, it will not make an impact on any excess fat you have in the area. However, if you do crunches while simultaneously incorporating calorie-burning cardio exercise into your regimen and eating healthy, once your body fat percentage decreases the muscular tone will be visible.
Proper Crunch Technique
To perform the crunch with correct technique, lie on your back on an exercise mat. You can perform the exercise with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. However, to better isolate your rectus abdominis, set your lower legs atop a bench. Interlock your fingers and place your hands behind your head with your elbows flaring out to the sides. Bend your waist to pick your shoulders and upper back up off the mat. Crunch your torso up as high as you can and then lower your shoulders back to the mat. Go right into the next repetition. Increase intensity by holding a medicine ball at your chest.
- Photo Credit Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images