The never-ending saga to attain perfection has led most of us into a fixated dilemma of what exactly needs to be done and how. The rectus abdominis or simply the abdominals and the dream to host a perfect one, have long lured us into strenuous workouts and crazy diets. A confusion that has besotted those who burn the gym floor is the conflict between a sit up and a crunch. Let us hope that by the end of this article, we can sort out the puzzlement!
Before we go into the difference of what each exercise does to your body, let us learn more about these workouts.
A sit-up is an endurance-training regime, which helps to strengthen and bring to shape the abdominal muscles. It is more of a movement-based exercise with a wider range of muscles involved. It is a multi-muscle workout, which usually targets the following areas:
- The chest
- Hip flexors
- Lower back
- The neck muscles
All you require to perform a sit-up is an exercise mat placed on the floor. No other special equipment is required. A correct sit-up helps to build your core and strengthen your abs. Once you perfect the art of doing a sit-up, you can bring in variations to make it more productive.
Now, the question that arises, is how it differs from the enviable crunches. The answer to that lies in the form we do it in, or rather, we should be doing it in.
Performing Sit Ups Correctly
However it is done, a sit up and for that matter, any exercise should not be rushed. Care needs to be taken in timing your extension, pulls and pushes. The muscles, cartilages, and tendons holding on to our muscular-skeletal structure are extremely sensitive. A bad angle can cause immense pain and, in many cases, can prove to be catastrophic. A sit up, hence, needs to be done properly.
- Lie down straight, with your back to the ground.
- Bend your knees, placing your feet on the surface.
- Now, there can be three ways of creating stability:
- Crossing arms over your chest or
- Placing your fingertips behind the ears or
- Placing the palms behind your head, just above your neck
- Bring your chest to a full sitting position. This needs to be done without jerking your head or putting pressure on the neck. The hands placed in the respective positions as previously mentioned, stabilizes the body movement and prevents any untoward and unnecessary jerks.
- While doing step 4, the neck needs to be slightly flexed forward.
- Return to the position you were in Step 1.
Sit Ups: Points to Ponder
An extremely important point to remember while doing proper sit-ups is that doing it the correct way is far more effective than the number of reps you would do. In addition, the movement needs to be smooth. The reason is that a sit up involves a whole lot of muscle groups and hence there are chances for all of them, a few of them, or at last one of them, to be strained or injured.
Breathing correctly is important while doing any exercise and for sit-ups, which involve the chest, it is all the wiser to follow a basic rule: Inhale as you go back to the position of lying down ie. Step one in this case and exhale when you rise.
A faster movement might cause jerks in the head and neck and that would limit your movement since the body would recoil to the recline position. Because of this, not only will the exercise not be effective but also the probability of an injury to the neck will be high.
Now, with anything in life, monotony has a tendency to be a spoilsport. Sit ups can be spiced up to make them more interesting and effective. These are just variants of the standard sit-up workout we spend our time doing in our gym classes.
- Sit-ups with a weight
- Wide leg sit up
- Running man sit-up
- The Russian twist
- The Russian twist with a weight or a medicine ball
- The full sit up
The full sit up is a standard sit up, but a bit more intense and slower in movement. Extra care should be taken while performing workouts with additional weights, as chances of injury increases depending on the weight you carry. Remember, the fundamentals remain the same. That brings me to the more focused set of regimes: Crunches.
A crunch is like a half sit-up. However, the similarity ends there. While the sit up is a whole lot muscle in play, the crunches only deal with the core, or the abdominal muscles. While the former is more of a strength training work out, the latter is a direct workout, enabling you to tone your abdominal group of muscles and turning them into rock.
Crunching muscles properly
- Lie straight on the ground with bent knees and keep your feet shoulder wide apart, on the floor.
- Now, similar to sit-ups create stability to your movements.
- Hands on your chest
- Fingers behind your ears
- Hands behind your head just above the neck
- Raise your shoulders and head to a point where you can feel the squeeze on your abdominal muscles. Do not push your head forward; just keep it straight and look to the front.
- Return to the position you were in Step 1.
The precautions that need to be in place while undertaking the crunches are similar to that of the sit-ups. Since this movement just involves the abdominal core, it is wise to start slow, with fewer reps and then slowly build it up from there.
Here are a few effective ways to add fun and effectiveness to serious crunching.
- The Standard Crunch
- Crunch using weights
- Reverse Crunch
- Raised Leg Crunch
- Crunch with a Swiss ball
- Crunch with a Swiss ball and a weight
- Bicycle Crunch
- Side Crunch
- Reverse Crunch Pulse
- Decline Crunch
- Cross body crunch
Now, many of these crunches involve the movements of the legs, namely the Bicycle crunch where you twist your torso with both legs in the air and pedal alternatively, bending one knee and kicking the other leg outwards.
V Ups is one of the new age workouts where you lift both your torso and legs in the air, with your fingers touching the toes.
The sit-ups and the crunches both work on the abdominal areas and hence should be included in any work out regime targeting the core. Hence, the argument of which one works and which does not is really circumstantial and inconclusive.
The risk of injury remains if not done properly. People with lower back issues would need a specialist advice before embarking. When done correctly, the result is amazing and works wonders to your core.