Planks and Crunches: Everything You Need to Know
We all just love a great set of abs, donít
we? Well, it may or may not be your destiny to be the proud owner of your very
own chiselled washboard, but if youíre interested in getting a gym pass and becoming fit again, what
surely is written in your near future is plenty of crunches. Or planks. Or
If youíre not used to them, donít expect to
like them at first. But once youíre underway, ab-focused exercises can be very
rewarding. You can get a good all-round workout that is beneficial to not just
the target muscle group, but also your back strength and general condition Ė
and you get to do some serious calorie burning along the way.
The question remains, however, should you
be developing that six-pack with crunches or planks? Whatís the difference
between them? And how best to put them into practice?
Itís been shown that stomach and lower back
muscles get a better workout when your routine incorporates other areas of the
body, namely the deltoids (around the shoulder) and glutes (the bum).
Now, because forearm planks require effort
from all those regions in the body, as well as all the various abdominal
muscles, planks can activate the abs twice as much as your typical crunch, and
develop your core at a faster rate, too. How about that?
Activation of targeted muscle groups does
not equate to definition. While planks are fantastic at developing your core
and fortifying the abdominals, theyíre strength is not in the toning and
defining of muscle. Also, planks require exactly the right posture, or they
will be ineffective, potentially even causing joint and spine strain.
If you want to turn your body into a toning
machine, crunches are what you need. The concentric contraction motions
demanded by all that crunching are simply the very best way to get abdominal
definition. Now all you need to do is get rid of the fat thatís in the way,
obscuring all your hard work.
Back problems are commonly aggravated with
crunches, which put an awful lot of strain on your lumbar muscles, without
offering them any of the benefits of planks. Crunches are great at targeting
and defining your abs, but donít expect to profit from them elsewhere around
Walk the plank
Enough of all that talking, itís time to
walk the walk. Get yourself locked into the classic press-up position and....
thatís it. Yep, thereís really nothing more to a plank than holding that
press-up pose Ė but if youíve never done it before, itís much harder than you
imagine. Hold your press-up position for a minute, being highly conscious of
retaining exactly that position
throughout. Rest. Do it again. Then start adding some time until you can do it
for 2-3 minutes. Youíll tremble, sweat and curse Ė and your core will love you
If youíre not good at counting in your
head, you soon will be. Get yourself onto a yoga mat, or pretty much any
soft-yet-supportive surface will do. Get into the classic, knees-up sit-up
position, only with your back flat down. With your hands at your side, use your
stomach to lift yourself up, crunching
your knees into your torso as you do so, and go back down again. For variation,
stretch out your legs and lift your feet off the ground. Now perform the
exercise with reps of 15, building up to 30. Do these in sets of 4. Now just
see how fast you develop those stomach muscles.
If your back hurts, stop the exercise
immediately and find an alternative Ė like, I dunno, planks!
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