The Evolution of Stomach Exercises
Sit Ups vs. Crunches

Evolution of Stomach Exercises

30 years ago, sit ups were the #1 stomach exercise, but in recent years crunches have replaced sit ups as the most popular ab exercise.

The world of fitness is constantly evolving. If you wanted to work your stomach muscles in the 1970 and early 80’s, the first exercise that most people would recommend is sit ups. Sit ups were the gold standard for abdominal exercise and strengthening. And if you were in the military sit ups were as common as the sun rising.

But, towards the late 80’s early 90’s the fitness industry evolved and the advice changed. Therapists and personal trainers started condemning full sit ups as a useless exercise that works the hip flexors (not the abs) and puts undue stress on the lower back.

So in the past 10-20 years crunches have replaced sit ups and have become the gold standard of ab exercises. If you ask a personal trainer which exercise you should do to work your abdominal muscles, most of them will respond with Crunches, and if you visit any abs class, you can be pretty confident that the instructor will feature crunches or some variation of crunches.

Crunches are a great abdominal exercise, but they are flawed (so too are sit ups but for different reasons). During traditional crunches your abs don’t work as efficiently as possible, and sometimes, excess strain is placed on the neck. On the other hand, full sit ups can work the abdominals harder than crunches, but sometimes excess strain is placed on the lower back.

A solution to both of these flaws is crunches on an exercise ball. When you use the exercise ball you get more range of motion than on the floor, so your stomach muscles work harder. But, since you're just doing crunches on the ball you won't have the strain on your lower back that sit ups can cause.

Ab exercises on a stability ball are becoming just as popular and regular sit ups and crunches on the floor. So give it a shot.

Evolution of Stomach Exercises:
Focus on the Deep Core

In the past 5-10 years, crunches have gotten even more competition as the most popular stomach exercise. Researchers in Australia found that the transversus abdominus was the first abdominal muscle to fire when movement is initiated.

The transversus abdominus is a deep abdominal muscle that is really close to the spine, and it's primary role is to stabilize the lower back. Since most adults suffer from back pain at some point in their lives, fitness programs have placed a greater focus on stabilizing the core and protecting the lower back.

The plank is a popular yoga pose that emphasizes the deep core muscles that stabilize the spine, and the plank has emerged in many ab workout routines.

I teach the plank and many variations to my clients. It's one of my favorite core exercises.

Stomach exercises are important for supporting good posture, protecting your lower back, and improving sports performance.

The fitness industry will keep evolving, but one thing will never change...

You will always have to exercise to be fit and healthy.

Use this site for tips, instructions, motivation, and to learn new things.

Have fun Working Out,
Dr. Charles

Read my article on finding the best abdominal exercise

Or Return to Six Pack Abs from Evolution of Stomach Exercises

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