I can't remember the last time I did a crunch but I squat, I deadlift, I lift heavy weights, I swing kettlebells and my abs are as strong as ever. I like to compare crunches to the time spent waiting at the doctors office, in terms of productivity. As our knowledge of the body grows, the farther the scientific field separates itself from traditional abdominal exercises. However, if you google six pack abs you get hundreds of pictures of people with six pack abs doing crunches. (it never mentions the strict diet or the endless sets of deadlifts they peformed)
In a recent review in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research free weights were found to be the most efficient in activating deep abdominal muscles. Alwyn Cosgrove, popular author, fitness enthusiast and owner of Results Fitness has eliminated crunches and sit-ups from his programs and his books in past years. Stuart McGill, author and professor of spine biomechanics at the University of Waterloo can be heard crying every time a set of crunches are performed (along with that individuals spine). If science, authors, and the leaders in the fitness field are proscribing "traditional abdominal exercises" then why are they still so prevalent in gyms across the world?
Traditional ab exercises are a crowd pleaser. Recently, at the Ryman in Nashville, the Counting Crows performed. The crowd chanted "Mr. Jones" and Adam Duritz walked to the microphone and said "We will not play Mr. Jones until it's fun again." They stood up for their musical creativity and stuck to their beliefs. As a trainer sometimes I feel like we do not live up to our beliefs. Clients want to do traditional ab exercises and we let them as crowd pleasers. Heck, sometimes trainers ourselves do crunches.
It's time to make a stand. No more crunches until you prove to me they are effective again. Lets stand up for science, for our clients well being and for overall results. Who's in?