Are Crunches Better Than Sit-Ups?

Everyone likes a flat belly. Crunches and sit-ups are well-known exercises for having a trim core. But which one is better? Crunches or sit-ups?  

Both crunches and sit-ups are beneficial in their own way. Sit-ups involve the chest, neck, hips, and lower back other than the abdominal muscles, so there’s a great chance of injury. On the other hand, crunches only target abdominal muscles, making the move a popular exercise for building six-packs.

Read on as we explore the difference between sit-ups and crunches and teach you to perform them correctly. We’ll also discuss their benefits and possible cons.  

What You Need to Know About Sit-Ups

Sit-ups are traditional ab exercises that strengthen your abdominal muscles by leveraging your body weight. They have an extensive range of motion and involve your hip flexor, neck, and chest muscles

The move also works your lower back and gives you a better shape by toning up your glute muscles.

How to Do a Sit-Up

Lie down slowly with your knees 90 degrees on the floor. Put your hands on opposite shoulders. Then lift your torso very controlled and crunch your core as you exhale. In the meantime, make sure to bring the elbows forward. It tenses up your midsection as well as chest and abdominals.  

While lifting, try to put your weight on your heels by keeping the knees 90 degrees and your feet flat on the ground. Look diagonally ahead, not straightforward. It will keep your chin up and help you do more sit-ups. 

When you sit up completely, put your elbows on your knees and keep your back and chest straight. Then slowly lower down as you inhale and go to the starting position. Repeat the move ten times. 

Benefits of Sit-Ups 

Sit-ups are both simple and effective. That’s why they are often included in workout schedules. Here are a few reasons to incorporate sit-ups in your exercise routine:

Abdominal Strength

Sit-ups are well-rounded ab workouts that trim and tone up your core. The movement works all your abdominal muscles but mainly targets the rectus abdominis—the long segmented muscle that makes six-packs. It also strengthens your internal and external side abs. 

Better Stability 

If you’re looking to improve your stability, sit-ups are a great option. When lifting your torso, you engage your balance-focused muscles like abs, neck, hip, back, and legs. A stable core helps you perform both daily and athletic activities much effortlessly. 

Better Posture

A poor posture may cause muscle pain and tension. A solid core keeps your hips, spine, and shoulder aligned with each other, which leads to a better posture. 

Better Flexibility

By moving your spine during sit-ups, you decrease the stiffness in your spine and hips. The move increases your back and hip flexibility and mobility. Better flexibility relieves tension and improves circulation, which enhances your energy level. 

Cons

As we mentioned earlier, sit-ups have a range of motion and engage several muscles. If performed improperly, they can hurt many muscles and lead to back and neck injuries. Watch this video to avoid the common mistakes:

 

Sit-up Variations

Here are three sit-up variations that you can add to your workout routine. Make sure to perform them slowly, smoothly, and controlled. Perform two to three sets of 10 to 15 reps for each. 

You can put a towel under your tailbone or use a soft yoga mat, available on Amazon for extra support. 

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V-sits

If you want a challenge, try v-sits. This move enhances balance and coordination and develops strength.

Lay flat on the ground with your arms and legs extended. Raise your feet and arms toward the sky simultaneously. Hold on there for a few seconds, then lower down slowly to the starting position.

Watch this video to learn the proper way of doing that and its modified version:

 

Elbow-to-Knee Sit-ups

This move works your external and internal side-abs.

Get to the sit-up position, but this time, place your hands behind your head. Twist your torso to bring the right elbow to the left knee. You can keep the opposite leg on the ground or raise it while bringing elbows and knees together. Hold to the position for a few seconds, then lay back and repeat with the opposite side.  

Stability Ball Sit-ups

A stability ball supports your spine and reduces the risk of back pain when performing sit-ups.

The Everlast Pro Grip ball available on Amazon helps you with all low-impact exercises, including sit-ups. And the textured surface increases your control. 

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Sit on the stability ball with your feet touching the ground. Curl your fingers and put your hand behind your head. Slowly lay back and place your shoulders, back, and tailbone on the ball. 

Then squeeze your abs and gently raise your torso. Sit on the ball with your back straight and your chin up. Lay down again and repeat the movement. 

 

What You Need to Know About Crunches

Crunches are a “half sit-up” that exclusively target abdominal muscles. Unlike sit-ups, when performing a crunch, the lower half of your body remains on the ground. 

How to Do a Crunch

Lie on the floor with your knees bent and your hands behind your ears. Keep your face up and look at the ceiling. Keep your elbow wide open and your back flat on the ground. Raise your shoulder blade off the ground and punch your core. Then lower down to the starting point. Repeat the movement 15 to 25 times.

When you lift, make sure not to push up using your head. Instead, focus on your core muscles and lift yourself using them. Remember to exhale on the way up and inhale on the way down.

Watch this video to do crunches properly and prevent injuries:

 

Benefits of Crunches 

Like sit-ups, crunches don’t need special equipment, and you can do them everywhere. Here are some benefits of doing crunches. 

Abdominal Strength

If you’re looking to isolate your core, crunches are a great choice. They work your abdominal muscles or six-packs muscles that are located in the midsection of your body. They also strengthen your external and internal oblique muscles. 

Better Balance and Posture

This move strengthens your midsection, which gives better stability. It also enhances your posture since you need to have strong core muscles to stand up straight. 

Increased Muscular Endurance

Muscular endurance is the muscle’s ability to withstand repeated contractions and resistance for an extended period. The more endurance you have, the more exercise reps you can perform. Crunches develop this endurance in the abdominal muscles. 

Cons

Crunches are well-known core exercises, but they place a lot of tension on the back and neck. So they aren’t safe for everyone.

Another disadvantage of crunches is that they only target the core muscles. So they aren’t a great exercise for those who want to engage different muscle groups simultaneously.

Crunch Variations

Here are two crunch variations that you can incorporate in your exercises to have more of a challenge in your abs work routine. Remember to perform each of them nicely and controlled. 

Do two or three sets of 10 to 15 reps for each.

Reverse Crunch

This move targets your lower abs and is safer for your spin as your neck and most of your back are kept on the ground.

Lay back with your hands flat on the floor. Keep your head on the ground. Bend your knees and bring them up toward your chest as you lift your pelvis. Then slowly lower them down and repeat the movement. 

Standing Bicycle Crunch

This variation is an excellent option for warming up and activating your core muscles. It also gets your heart rate up.

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and the core tight. Twist and bring your right elbow to the left knee. Then switch to the other side. 

This video shows you how to perform the move:

 

Crunches vs. Sit-Ups: The Verdict

Now that you know how each move works, it’s easy to see the difference. Crunches and sit-ups are mainly distinct in their range of motion:

When doing a sit-up, you need to move all the way up, whereas a crunch requires you to move slightly off the ground.

Both exercises can tone your core muscles, but sit-ups activate more muscles and burn more energy.

However, neither move is great for losing weight and burning fat. They both also put pressure on your back and spine—sit-ups more than crunches. So, if you’re experiencing pain in those areas, definitely avoid both moves and look for alternative exercises to strengthen your abs.

That said, if you insist on it, start with crunches and work your way up.

 

Last update on 2021-09-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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James Wright

James (36) has been working out since he was 15 years old. He has a home gym where he pumps iron, does bodyweight workouts and boxing. He likes sharing his experiences with others who want to build a better physique.

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