T Nation

So Crunches are Bad for Me


So i keep reading that crunches are bad for me. I do my dead lifts and squats and such but what are some other good ab exercises to use instead of crunches.

And how long till this all comes full circle and we want people doing sit-ups again.


Try Dumbell Pull-Ins (aka Renegade Rows). The trick with these is to keep your shoulders horizontal and a stiff back. I also like to use a Tempo where I hold each DB in the raised position for a three count. Doing a set of 10 takes about a minute and I find I'm breathing hard by the end.

Another goody is the Pallof Press.

You can also throw in the Serratus Crunch.

Swinging a hammer onto a tyre is also a good move.


Will the seratus crunch be bad for the back? Looks like a good movement.

I will also try those renegade rows this week... My last core training day was just planks and wood choppers with a medicine ball...


The serratus crunch shouldn't trouble your back at all. I found the best option with this exercise was to do them on bench press using the bar rather than dumbbells. This is also an exercise that benefits from a tempo wher you hold the contraction for a three count.

The DB pull ins are great. If you have a dodgy back then I would suggest starting very light and ease into it. Given you are planking then you should be OK but I would take some care at first.


I think the thing to do is to understand why it is that some people are saying that they are bad for you. You might find that those reasons don't apply to you. Or you might find that you don't think they make a good case for them being bad.

That way you will be able to pursue your own intelligent line of training without being at the whim of the vagaries of exercise fashion.

(do you really want to look like most people??)

My understanding is that (like most things) it depends on how crunches and situps are performed.

E.g., for people who do a lot of sitting they tend to have shortened and overactive hip flexors and lengthened and underactive abdominals. This leads to a host of problems (including underactive glutes and lumbar pain). It is natural / easier for these people to use their hip flexors rather than their abs to do sit-ups. Unfortunately this compounds the problem. Not everyone is in this position, though, and other people might well use sit-ups to good effect.

Use the in site search function. There are several really good articles on the function of the core and different exercises that one can do to train the different functions.


I agree with Alexus!! It depends what you are training your abs for. Obviously if you are wanting to build muscle I believe the abs are like any other muscle and therefore should be trained using similar rep schemes. So if you are looking for muscle growth then obviously exercise where you are only able to perform lower reps with bigger weight. Situps are more of a muscular endurance exercise for most people I come across. There is also the issue of the situp not really recruiting the abdominals as much as it does other muscle groups such as the illiopsoas and other hip flexor muscle groups!!


I have been reading up on this and the basic Consensus is now that that crunches put strain on the back in a position where it is weakest.

I tried those renegade rows and they destroyed me. Did them and some alternating medicine ball workout and my core was pretty sore...

this article got me nervous about crunches:

i don't have the straps to do those movements though :frowning:


Buy an ab wheel-cheap as chips,stresses the abdominal area well and no rounding of the back involved.I also like full contact twists,waiters walks and saxon side bends


I thought I read somewhere that CT likes to do ab work in monthly cycles, one month on, one off. I believe it was because it gave the spine time to heal or something like that?


Hi Huggy,

Good to hear you liked the Renegade Rows. They are humbling aren't they! I'd suggest you keep them up for a few months before swapping to a Serratus Crunch or Pallof Press for a while. Variety being the spice of life.


I also suggest really working the abs as hard as possible when squatting, deadlifting, doing chins etc by contracting them really, really hard.


Very humbling... I could not even use kettlballs for them (balance) - i had to use dumbells.

Are reverse crunches considered bad for the back as well???


I have to try the ab wheel as well, there is one at the gym.... I try to contract my core when i squat and deadlift, i just have a hard time really feeling the muscle, i thing i just need to get my core muscles beefier..


I would say a combination of ab wheel, planking, and hanging leg raises. The ab wheel gets pretty intense and it can put alot of strain on your lower back. Just try it a couple of times and see how it feels for you. Using the wheel gives me a very satisfying burn sensation after I complete my circuit.


why are crunches bad?