Core No More?

January 5, 2012

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Photo: Clip Art

Crunches, sit ups, planks; just some of the many abdominal exercises we do daily in an effort to achieve the coveted “six pack”. According to an article in the New York Times, researchers at Indiana State University are questioning if the crunches are really worth it. It was previously thought that a stronger core will improve your overall physical performance, but after conducting a fitness test, results showed no correlation “between robust core muscles and athleticism”. This finding was counteracted by another study conducted by the Dept. of Sports and Exercise Sciences at Barry University. Novice adult runners with weak core strength showed a decrease in their 5K running times after completing six weeks of core drills versus those who did not focus on their abdominal strength.

So what’s the verdict? Researchers aren’t saying to completely nix your ab workout, but potentially tone it down. Repeated bending of the spine during sit ups and crunches can lead to serious spinal issues and contributes to damage of the spinal discs. Brad Schoenfeld, a professor of exercise science at Lehman College in the Bronx, states that six to eight crunches a few times a week is enough, but what is most important is that you are performing them correctly. Schoenfeld recommends placing your hands, palm down beneath your lower back to lessen spinal pressure, and whatever you do, don’t flatten your back. Proceed by lifting your shoulders only slightly off the ground. So what is the trick to getting those super star six pack abs without crunches? Low-body fat, but that will take a little more than a few sit-ups to achieve. 

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