Strengthen your core…without crunches | The Sisterhood of the Shrinking Jeans LLC


It’s almost swim suit season.

I don’t know about you, but my six pack is nowhere to be found and is probably still hibernating (and has been for years). In lieu of warmer weather and springtime clothes, it’s time to start focusing on my core.

Our core is responsible for providing stability to our entire bodies. The core includes our abdominals, lower back, and all the muscles supporting the spine.

We crunch, and we crunch, and we crunch some more. But does that really work?

Experts are saying that simply sit-ups, or crunches, are not functional.

In a March 18 Washington Post article that discussed the functions of the core, personal trainer Stephen Burgett weighed in on the effectiveness of crunching.

“They are overrated,” he said. “And the way many people do them, there is way too much range of motion and they end up complaining about back pain.”

And, he says, the key to functional fitness is to find a way to build muscle that supports daily activity — of which crunching in a fetal position probably is not one.

“When is a crunch position a useful position?” he asks rhetorically. “You wouldn’t be in that position unless you were sick or being beaten up.”

Our core provides balance and power to our entire bodies. Whether you swing a tennis racket or a softball bat, your strength comes from your core.

“Same thing for a runner,” Burgett said in the Washington Post article. “If they don’t have good core strength and can’t stay upright at the end of a race, they will lose a lot of efficiency and force.”

Core strength isn’t something only crunching can provide. There are front, back, lateral and deep muscles that must all receive the same attention in order to achieve great core strength.

Certain exercises, such as lunges or squats with overhead weights, can be enough to work the core.

{SOUND OFF} What are your favorite/most effective core exercises?

Below are some illustrated core exercises from the Post article….none of which involve a crunch.

Bird dog:

Bird dog. (Illustrations by The Washington Post)

On your hands and knees (in table top pose), stay centered with shoulders over hands and hips over the knees. Raise your arm forward until the hand is at the same height as the shoulder. Be careful not to shift hips laterally or extend the back out of a neutral position. “Reach” the opposite leg behind (vs. lifting it). Keep the core engaged and ensure the “reaching” of the leg is coming from the glutes. Hold for a few seconds and then switch sides.

Dead bug:

Dead bug (Illustrations by The Washington Post)

Lie flat on the back with arms along your sides. Lift the right knee toward the chest while lifting the left arm toward the floor behind you. Bring the knee and arm back to starting position. Switch sides. Maintain a neutral posture in the lower back by pulling the navel toward the spine.

Side-lying plank:

Side-lying plank. (Illustrations by The Washington Post)

Lie on your right side with knee and elbow bent, and then push into the right forearm and right knee to lift the hip off the ground. This is the least taxing variation of side-lying plank. Keep the right hip forward and up, maintaining a straight line from the knee up through the hip and shoulder on the right side. Hold for a few seconds and rest. Repeat 10 times and then switch sides.


Bridge. (Illustrations by The Washington Post)

Lying on the back with the knees bent and the feet about hip-width apart, lift the hips gently off the floor. Engage through the glutes when lifting. This pose has you moving opposite to the flexed position you are in while sitting at a desk.

Narrow squat:

Narrow squat. (Illustrations by The Washington Post)

Start by standing with your legs hip-width apart. While maintaining a straight back, sit back as far as you can (as if you were sitting down in a chair) into the squat. Keep the shin relatively upright and avoid poking the knees out in front of the feet, as that can be stressful on the knees.

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