Why You Should Say No To Crunches (And What To Do Instead)
BY LUCY D'AGUILAR, FITANDEATS
Dec 29, 2016
Hey Mamas! I bet you are probably wondering why I am telling you to stop doing crunches, right?
Well, read on and you will discover not only how to flatten your belly, but you'll also learn about which exercises are the best for strengthening your core.
It is common belief that doing crunches will give you a flatter tummy. I’m here to tell you that isn't true. Not if you are a postpartum mama with a ‘normal’ non-fitness-model amount of fat. Also, if you gave birth, you’re postpartum — it doesn't matter how long it has been since you gave birth.
Crunches don’t burn belly fat (insert sad face). What crunches are actually doing is strengthening the rectus abdominis, the top layer of abdominal muscles. This sounds great in theory, however, if you are not strengthening your back equally you are going to cause a major imbalance. It is also going to tighten your hips, put pressure on an already weak pelvic floor and pull your ribcage down towards your pelvis.
Setting all of that aside, when you are pregnant your rectus abdominis need to separate and the linea alba (the connective tissue) thins to accommodate for the growing baby. This is completely normal and the term given to the ‘gap’ is diastasis recti (DR). However if the DR has not spontaneously healed by 8 weeks, it may not return back to its original state by itself (Coldron et al., 2008). Therefore, crunches will do more harm than good. Yikes!
Why is this so important? When it comes to conventional abdominal exercises, they will only make the separation worse and put added stress on an already weak pelvic floor. Not only that but diastasis recti is linked to other issues such as urinary incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse, lower back pain and pelvic girdle pain. Nobody wants that right? So who is with me? Who would like to learn some effective exercises to strengthen their core, reduce the mummy tummy and prevent further pelvic health issues?!?
Replace your current ab routine with this one. Repeat 3 times per day, 4 days a week for optimal results:
Side Plank: 30 seconds per side
Level one: If you are brand new to exercise, I would advise doing an assisted side plank with your bottom knee on the floor and the top leg straight out.
Level two: Place your feet side by side (heel to toe).
Level three: Stack one foot on top of the other.
For all side planks, make sure your ankles, knees, hips and ribs are in alignment. You should be able to draw a straight line down your body. You can also choose to do the plank from your elbow or on your hand.
Dead Bug: 10 per leg
Start off by lying on your back with your arms and legs up in the air.
Level one: Keep your legs bent at a 90 degree angle, begin by lowering opposite arm and opposite leg down toward the floor to tap your heel (keeping the leg bent). Exhale to bring the arm and leg back up to the beginning (repeat on opposite side).
Level two: Keep your legs straight throughout the movement.
Level three: Use both arms at the same time, never both legs.
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Leg Extensions: 10 per leg
Begin on all fours, knees under hips and hands under shoulders. Take a breath in and on the exhale, straighten one leg out behind you, slowly extend it to the side (without shifting your hips), bring the leg back to centre, then return to the beginning position. To add a challenge do the same movement with the opposite arm.
Side Plank Knee Tap: 10 per leg
Set up the side plank like in level one of the side plank, but with your top arm reaching away from your head. Bring the top knee in towards your torso and reach to tap it with your hand. Straighten your leg back to the floor and your arm above your head.
As ever, please consult a medical professional before starting any kind of exercise regimen.