Sit-Ups vs. Crunches

Everyone longs for a slim and trim core. But what’s the most effective way to get there: sit-ups or crunches?

Sit-Ups

The Pros: Work Multiple Muscles

Sit-ups are a multi-muscle exercise. While they don’t specifically target stomach fat (note: neither do crunches!), sit-ups actually work the abdominals as well as other muscles groups, including:

  • chest
  • hip flexors
  • lower back
  • neck

Muscle cells are more metabolically active than fat cells, which means they burn calories even at rest. By helping you build muscle, sit-ups will help you burn more calories in the long-run. Also, strong core muscles can help posture, which can improve appearance without weight loss.

What Kind of Fat?
  • Abdominal fat, or visceral fat, is the fat surrounding the organs and is considered more dangerous than subcutaneous fat, which is the fat stored under the skin.
  • Visceral fat is linked to breast cancer, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular problems.
  • However, it’s easier to get rid of — with regular low-intensity exercise and a healthy diet — than fat located around the hip and thigh area

The Cons: Injuries

The main drawback to sit-ups is the possibility of lower back and neck injuries. You should ask a doctor for advice if you have had any related injuries to prevent strain.

The Form

To perform a proper sit-up:

  1. Lay down on your back.
  2. Bend your legs and place feet firmly on the ground to stabilize your lower body.
  3. Cross your hands to opposite shoulders, or place them behind your ears (without pulling on your neck).
  4. Curl your upper body all the way up towards your knees. Exhale as you lift.
  5. Slowly, lower yourself down, returning to your starting point. Inhale as you lower.

Beginners should aim for 10 reps at a time. By hooking your feet together during a sit-up, you can get a decent lower-leg work out, too!

Crunches

The Pros: Intense Muscle Isolation

Like sit-ups, crunches help you build muscle. But unlike sit-ups, they work only the abdominal muscles. This intense muscle isolation makes them a popular exercise for people trying to get six-pack abs. This also makes them ideal for strengthening your core, which includes your lower back muscles and obliques. Doing so can improve your balance and posture.

The Cons: Exclusive to the Core

While a strong core is certainly an asset to overall fitness, it is not necessarily conducive to everyday movements. Also, like sit-ups, while crunches are good for developing, they don’t burn fat.

Another consideration is your current fitness level. Crunches build up the abdominal muscles over time, but can cause significant back pain for beginners. If you do incorporate crunches into your workout routine, it’s best to start off with a set of 10 to 25 at a time and add another set as you get stronger.

The Form

The setup for a crunch is like a sit-up:

  1. Lay down on your back.
  2. Bend our legs and stabilize your lower body.
  3. Cross your hands to opposite shoulders, or place them behind your ears without pulling on your neck.
  4. Lift your head and shoulder blades from the ground. Exhale as you rise.
  5. Lower, returning to your starting point. Inhale as you lower.

It’s best to start off with a set of 10 to 25 at a time and add another set as you get stronger.

The Takeaway

Both sit-ups and crunches are helpful for strengthening and developing core muscle. Over time, a stronger core can also improve your posture and reduce your risk of back injuries later in life.

However, neither exercise burns fat. The only way to attain a flat, ripped stomach is to combine these exercises with a healthy, low-calorie diet and regular fat-burning aerobic exercise.