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Stop with the Crunches and back away from the Sandwich

CrunchesThis may end up sounding like a bit of rant.

That’s because – maybe on some subconscious level – it is.

But there’s something I see. Something I continue to see over and over again.

And it’s something that continues to bother me and frustrate others.

Here’s the scenario…

I walk into the gym.

And what do I see?

A row of desperately over weight, completely misinformed individuals struggling through another set of spine-shattering, completely ineffective crunches while their partners giggle away frantically shouting out words of so-called encouragement.

The sight of this makes me want to slap a few people.

In all honesty, I feel bad for them. The effort is there, but they’re disgustingly misinformed.

If I just knew where they were being fed this bullshit, I’d burn down the servers.

I’d do whatever I could to put those people responsible behind digital bars.

For the row of overweight gym-goers with the right intentions and zero understanding of what it takes to build a better body, listen up.

I’m going to make this really simple for you.

Stop with the crunches.

They won’t help you build a better.

They won’t get you what you so desperately want.

The most you can hope for is a messed up back.

I got an alternative solution for you.

Put away the sandwich.

The gym is not the solution to your weight problem. The kitchen is.

With the so-called freedom of choice, you and only you are responsible for what you put inside your body.

So it might be time to make some changes.

Let’s start with the pantry.

Clear it out. Throw out the garbage that’s mistakenly labeled as food. Throw out the processed garbage. The junk food. The stuff that you know if you left untouched for months would still remain nice and shiny. Dispose it neatly into a garbage bin.

Let’s move to the fridge.

Get rid of all sugary drinks. Sugary snacks. Microwaveable meals. Anything that takes zero work to prepare needs to go where it belongs – into the garbage can.

All gone.

Now we’re getting somewhere.

Think about what you’re consuming on a daily basis. If you can’t think of what your typical day looks like, then take this test and see how the food journal can reveal your true eating habits.

If it’s anything that resembles your typical food pyramid, you got some changes to make.

If your daily meals revolve primarily around carbohydrates (think pastas, breads, rice, potatoes, fruits) and/or if you find that you are constantly sipping on sugary drinks and nibbling on sweet, sugary snacks, you have just pinpointed the reason behind your fat accumulation.

And absolutely no amount of crunches will ever beat out a poor diet.

Not even a million of them.

If your goal is to lose the weight, start in the kitchen, not in the gym. Make it easy for yourself to make the right choices when it comes to foods you are consuming by completely getting rid of anything that can hinder your progress.

Stock up on the good stuff. Fresh vegetables. Meats. Nuts. Berries.

Minimize your consumption of carbohydrates.

And for God’s sake please stop with the crunches.

They can only do more harm than good.

Once your eating habits are on track, then you can move on to effective core strengthening exercises like planks, hanging leg raises, or renegade rows – core exercises that don’t put your spine at risk.

Don’t let yourself be misinformed.

Empower yourself with the right knowledge.

And build yourself a better body.

Michael- Somebody Lied - August 16, 2012

I agree with you that over weight people need to sort out there diet to see there abs, but to whole heartedly dismiss the crunch because it is popular to right now isn’t right.

Bret Contreras actually done a study on this and found a crunch with proper form isn’t harmful to your spine. Lots of exercises are bad for you in some way but we still perform them.

The crunch has been used by many a power lifter to gain strength in the abs, eventually using weights.

It isn’t the best exercise for your abs, but it is still a useful exercise to have in your arsenal.

Here is an article Bret wrote about the crunch- http://www.t-nation.com/free_online_article/most_recent/to_crunch_or_not_to_crunch you can try and find the journal from the link within

    Srdjan Popovic - August 20, 2012

    Thanks for that article Michael, it was definitely an interesting read. They bring up some really good points.

    Whenever there’s a debate like this, it’s like that a person will steer to one side or the other. Based on the research done on the spine (which was done at my University by one of the most profound professors and back experts in the country – Dr. Stuart McGill), I’m still a believer that crunches can do more harm than good. So I avoid them. I avoid them because I am more interested in building a stronger core than a nice looking six pack (T-Nation article claims “if you want to optimize your “six-pack” appearance, spinal flexion exercises will certainly help to achieve this goal”). I avoid them because I have found that there are safer, more effective core strengthening exercises like planks, kettlebells exercises, and sprinting. For myself (as I have a herniated disc in my back), I don’t want to perform exercises that put my back at any more risk. Why take that risk when there are safer and just-as-effective alternatives? That’s just my view on things.

    But it’s understandable that any studies or claims of this nature will have its doubters and naysayers (as it should for the sake of furthering our knowledge and understanding).

richard - August 16, 2012

I agree with the above

crunches have there place in a training, but only a training for those who are fit and lean. If those people want to address the muscles involved in crunches it is a very good exercise.

but if you do crunches to get lean, to lose fat, to become fit and all that. you are indeed putting a lot of effort in something very inefficient and possibly harmful. Srdjan is right, please people if you want to lose fat go see a professional, start in the kitchen, do the right (hard) exercises (resistance and burst training). don’t go with the majority, the majority is overweight and clueless how the get a better, fitter and leaner body.

    Srdjan Popovic - August 20, 2012

    Richard, read my response above.

    It’s important to mention that the purpose of this article was not to explore the negative effects of crunches, but to indeed make people understand that their crunching efforts are completely ineffective and inefficient in their pursuit of weight loss. The journey to a better body ALWAYS starts in the kitchen.

      richard - August 20, 2012

      hoi Srdjan

      to be honest, I think the journey to a better body starts in the mind, kitchen is the runner up, directly followed by the right exercises and then consistency. again don’t do what the media tells you, they just want to make money

Dimitris - August 16, 2012

My friend you are not 100% right,you are 1000% right. As it is said: the shape of your body is according what you eat

Bob - August 16, 2012

Well said! As Jack Lalanne said, “one minute on your lips, a lifetime on your hips.” People must realize that weight loss and weight control is 80 percent diet, 20 percent exercise. And you are right, crunches and situps don’t cut it for the core, whereas planks and mountain climbers do.

Cindy - August 16, 2012

I agree. abs are created in the kitchen. I see this sort of stuff at the gym everyday. It is 95% eating clean not diet. I don’t use that word. I believe in eating clean and only clean!!!
Great article. thanks Srdjan.

    Srdjan Popovic - August 20, 2012

    Eating clean is a good way of putting it. I like to use ‘eating strategy’ or ‘positive eating habits’ as well.

Tania Russell - August 17, 2012

Hi Srdjan, your “RANT” is real and to the point. The amount of people I see in Gyms doing this non-exercise for their ABS. Nothing changes the way they look every week. Their ABS are not even starting to look good. Another thing they use in the Gym, which horrifies me is the STUPID AB ROLLER machine contraption. The only thing that happens with that, is the floor is a little smoother from all that ROLLING.
Keep up the great advice. I read and take notice of all your emails.

    Srdjan Popovic - August 20, 2012

    The body only changes when eating habits change. No amount of crunches or ab rolls will change that.

LG - August 17, 2012

Ok so no fruit. I love oranges and pineapples and apples. Why no fruit?

    Srdjan Popovic - August 19, 2012

    Same as I mentioned in my other response – high GI fruit converts to fat more efficiently than almost all other carbohydrates, which triggers fat accumulation. Stick with the low GI fruits.

Austin - August 20, 2012

I really enjoyed this post/rant. It really angers me that so many people are motivated to work hard, but they don’t see results because of misinformation.

I agree, it’s a true crime!

Alykhan - Fitness Breakout - August 20, 2012

Srdjan,

I agree you shouldn’t waste your time with crunches. Eating right will get you most of the way to a better physique if you are overweight. Then, worry about doing the right exercises.

Alykhan

Troy @ Formulated Fitness - August 23, 2012

Standard crunches are one of the worst abdominal exercises you can perform. Who would of thought after all those years in school when its all they had us do in physical education class! My 2 favorite exercises are hanging leg raises and bicycle crunches- as both work out your entire core and are challenging oblique exercises.

Paul Smith - September 21, 2012

I really agree with what this article is addressing: weight-loss needs to be addressed first by diet.

On a second note: I consider myself fairly fit (not overweight in any way), after completing P90X I’ve continued to perform the Ab Ripper X routine 3 times a week. I always stretch before and after to avoid injury. These comments have me concerned this routine (predominantly situps) could be doing more damage than good… is that correct?

I’ve downloaded the kettlebell training guide, so will be reading through that shortly 🙂

    Srdjan Popovic - September 21, 2012

    Paul, I remember Ab Ripper X from P90X (as I did it years ago) and never had any issues with it. But, it’s the long-term effects of constantly flexing your spine in the form of sit-ups that can be detrimental. For me, now, it’s more about playing it safe. I prefer to stick to the exercises that don’t harm the spine yet are still effective for developing a strong core.

elizabeth hoberg - September 21, 2012

yep. I “ran” two marathons back to back and was so fat at the end of the second one that it was no until I threw away the ridiculous carbs that my weight moved, and moved permanently. I traded the treadmill for weights, jump rope and metro stairs and cook from stratch. I lost 100 lbs.

    Srdjan Popovic - September 21, 2012

    Thanks for your awesome comment Elizabeth! It goes to show the importance nutrition plays in the role of weight loss. And 100lbs is an incredible feat! Congratulations!

Bob - October 3, 2012

Proper weight management is 80 percent diet and 20 percent exercise. Also, if you do high volume pushups and squats, you don’t need any ab work, as these two exercises both work the abs and core.

    Srdjan Popovic - October 9, 2012

    Hey Bob, thanks for the comment. I think it’s a great idea to incorporate full body, functional exercises that require core engagement and stability such as sprinting and kettlebell training (along with the ones you mentioned).

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