Whenever most women think of “Core” or “Ab” training the most common exercises are usually sit ups and crunches.
While at times sit ups and crunches can be ok, for the most part they are not a great exercise choice for hitting the core area.
As well not only are they not a great core exercise, constant repetitions of sit ups and crunches could possible lead to lower back pain or injury.
Here is what Dr. Stu McGill Professor of Spinal Bio-mechanics has to say on sit ups and crunches.
“What Dr. McGill found is that crunches and traditional sit-ups place 3,300 newtons (the equivalent of 340 kg!) of compressive force on the spine when bent in flexion. These forces can squeeze a bent disc’s nucleus to the point that it bulges – pressing on nerves and causing back pain, and potentially leading to a herniated disc.”*
Instead of doing countless sit ups and crunches you are better off by doing the McGill Crunch otherwise known as the “Curl Up”.
Check out this video where Coach Rob demonstrates the Curl Up.
The McGill Crunch / Curl Up
Lie your back with one knee bent and one knee straight, this puts your pelvis in a neutral position and the muscles of your core in an optimal alignment of pull to avoid strain on the low back. Place your hands under the arch of your low back and ensure that this arch is maintained throughout the curl-up. Start by bracing your abdomen; this is different from flexing your abs, bear down through your belly. Now make sure you can take a breath in and a breath out while maintaining this brace. If you cannot, stop there and practice doing just that until you’ve got it mastered!
Now, pretend that your spine in your neck and your upper back are cemented together and do not move independently. Pick a spot on the ceiling and focus your gaze there, lift your shoulder blades about 30° off the floor and slowly return to the start position. Take note of your neck, and ensure that your chin isn’t poking forward when you do a curl up. If you’re struggling with that, focus on making a double chin.
Perform 3 sets of 10-12.
Along with getting a stronger core/abs it’s important to keep your lower back strong and safe.
Along with single arm carries, planks, side planks and paloff variations the McGill crunch is a great addition to safe and effective core training.
Give it a try and let me know how you find it.
If you are looking for a fun and challenging way to target your core and abs check out our
30 Day “Hard Core” Challenge. You can get more info by clicking HERE.
Rob King is a Competitive PowerLifter, Coach and Writer.