When I used to work out in Madras, I did the familiar three days of cardio and three days of mucking around with machines/weights. But one thing I did everyday after 60–90 minutes of mind-blowingly boring workouts was 10–15 minutes of ab work. Coz we want that six-pack, right? And we all know doing crunches and situps are the way to get that. Hmm.
Let’s think about this for a second. If I have a spare tire around my belly, my logic here is to isolate that region by doing crunches, and the fat melts away and leaves me resembling Ryan Reynolds. Except that’s not how fat loss works. Fat is lost in sheets, and it is not possible to isolate fat loss to a specific region. If someone tells you that they can do that, ask them for some magic beans as well.
A six-pack is straightforward, in principle. Lose enough fat and the muscle underneath shows. That’s it!
One more thing — the entire point of this series is to help you get past misconceptions and ‘stupid questions’. If there’s a stupid award, I will be one of those first in line at the awards ceremoney. Evidence? I have used one of those electric shock pulsing belts that promise a six-pack. Yeah! I was an idiot. So — ask questions. Don’t be silent. If you have a question, I can assure that there are at least 10 others with the same question.
So, should I stop doing sit-ups
Well, yep. But that’s coz the situp is an awful exercise. It places a high compressive load on your disc, as it involves a posterior pelvic tilt which leads to inordinate pressure on your disc. Let’s try that again, in English. Your back has a natural S-curve and doing a situp causes you to lose this curve and have a flat back (posterior pelvic tilt!). And this is bad. If you want to learn more, read Stu McGill. Likewise, doing a crunch suffers from similar issues as you flex your spine fully and load the disc.
But working on core stability is still important
Just coz I said “Dont do situps” does not mean you should stop working on your core stability. There are better, safer options to work on core stability. And even though doing this will not lead to a six-pack, having a strong core is very important. And in all likelihood, once you lose the belly fat, your washboard abs will look better coz of this. There are a ton of arguments for and against working on core stability. Here’s my take — having a strong core helps me maintain a neutral spine, maintain good form on my lifts, and not injure my back. Superficially, that’s good enough for me.
So, what can I do to replace the situp?
Start with the Cat-Camel, a great way to warmup the abdominals.
Then some side-bridges, with some progression from bent-knee to a straight-leg.
And then the dying bug (weird name isn’t it?)
Planks are also a good exercise, maybe a bit harder though. Side planks and regular planks, with a 60-second hold and a 90-second hold respectively are a good start.
To summarize — doing crunches will not lead to a six-pack. Losing fat does that — as it reveals muscle underneath. And crunches and situps are not that good for you, these alternatives will work better.