Having a strong core is very important. It translates to having a better posture, which reduces the chances of having lower back problems and makes doing daily activities like walking, climbing a flight of stairs, and even lifting things easier. Two of the most popular exercises when it comes to working out the core are sit-ups and crunches.
Most people don’t really know the difference between the two, and you will find someone calling a sit up a crunch and vice versa. These two exercises have been compared to each other since six-packs became a thing, but can you even remember when six-packs weren’t a thing? This shows how long this rivalry has lasted. With that said, it is time we settle this argument once and for all. Crunch vs. sit-up, which is a better exercise, and why?
What is Sit-Up?
A sit-up is an abdominal exercise that is responsible for strengthening one’s core. These are multi-muscle exercises (6), which means that they work many muscles at a go. This exercise works the chest muscles, hip flexors, lower back muscles, neck muscles, rectus abdominis (abs), transverse abdominis, and obliques. Sit-ups are able to do all these due to their range of motion, but more about that will be discussed in the later parts of this read.
Apart from working one’s core, it also offers a whole range of advantages, and that is why people go for them.
Listed below are some of the advantages associated with sit-ups.
Advantages of Doing Sit-Ups
Doing sit-ups comes with many advantages. Some are the general advantages associated with some other exercises, while others are only specific to sit-ups.
Here are the benefits:
They are cheap (1)
Many exercises require people to buy special equipment or enroll in the gym. This is not the case when it comes to sit-ups as they do not require any equipment. What you might end up buying for this exercise might just be a yoga mat, and this is not that expensive.
They can be done by anyone
Unless you have been instructed otherwise by a doctor or any other qualified person or have a certain health condition, sit-ups can be done by anyone (8), regardless the age or gender. The fact that they do not require equipment, just a bit of space, also means they can be done anywhere. So, if you are bored at work, why don’t you do some sit-ups?
Sit-ups help with core stability and control (2)
We’ve been talking about how sit-ups help strengthen the core by working the muscles associated with it, like the rectus abdominis. Apart from strengthening, sit-ups are also responsible for improving stability. A stable core helps make everyday activities easier. It makes walking up the stairs or bending down to pick something easier. In addition to that, a stable core helps prevent or reduce the chances of experiencing pain once we grow old. Old age comes with many problems, and one of them is a pain in the lower back and other places. If you do sit-ups and develop a stable core, you will reduce the chances of suffering these things when you get old.
Sit-ups help strengthen the hip flexor (2)
This is among the muscles sit-ups help strengthen. Hip flexors are responsible for most of the movements we make in our everyday lives, such as walking, jumping, and bending. When you have a strong hip flexor, all these movements become easier.
Sit-ups work many muscles at a go
An average person can spend at most an hour in the gym. This is for obvious reasons like the need to go to work or school. One hour is not enough time to go concentrating on each muscle individually. This is where compound exercises come in. Compound exercises are exercises that work out more than one muscle ground and more than one joint. A sit-up is a good example because it works for so many muscle groups at a go. This helps you make the most out of the little time you have in the gym.
Sit-ups help with one’s posture
We all want to have a good posture, and one way of attaining this is by doing sit-ups. A good posture is usually a result of a strong core. Sit-ups help one get a good posture by strengthening their core.
Those are some of the benefits one is likely to experience when they do sit-ups.
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Cons of Doing Sit-Ups
Almost everything that has an upside also has a downside, and this applies to sit-ups as well. Sit-ups have one major disadvantage, and it is that they can cause injury to people pretty easily (5). When doing an exercise, one can get injured by doing it wrong or having a bad form. One can also injure themselves by doing more than they can handle and so on. With sit-ups, it is doing the exercise wrongly. With that being said, let’s find out the right way to do a sit-up.
How to Do a Sit-Up?
Not knowing the right way to do a sit-up will put you at risk of getting injured. Thus, it is important to know how to perform one as getting injured is painful, and it also takes away most of the progress you have made. Here is how to do a proper sit-up (3):
- First, lie down on your back. Make sure you are on a flat surface. Then bend your legs at your knees and make sure your feet are firmly flat on the ground. You should bring your heels close to your bottom so that you can create a 90-degree angle at the knee area.
- Then take your hands and place them behind your head. You can choose to put them there or cross them on your chest. This is the initial starting position.
- Then raise your body until it is no longer on the floor, and your chest is close to your thighs. Exhale as you raise your body upwards.
- Gently lower yourself back to the original starting position as you inhale.
- If you are new to the sit-up, you should try to do 10 reps at a time.
To make sure you maintain the right form during a sit up, you can look for something or someone (a gym buddy) to help anchor down your feet. This helps as you don’t have to worry about keeping your feet down as you worry about everything else (one less thing to worry about).
That is mostly all there is to know about sit-ups. Now, let’s find out more about crunches.
What are Crunches?
A crunch is an abdominal exercise that closely resembles the sit-up. The main difference between the two is the range of motion (6). Crunches have a smaller range of motion. When you are doing a crunch, only your shoulders leave the ground; the lower back is supposed to stay on the ground. Crunches help work your rectus abdominis and obliques. They are the best exercise if you are looking to isolate your abdominal muscles for a targeted workout session where you just focus on them. Just like sit-ups, crunches are effective when it comes to working out one’s core. Apart from that, crunches also offer a whole range of other benefits, here are some of them.
Benefits of Doing Crunches
The advantages of doing crunches are:
They are cheap (1)
This is because they do not require you to buy any equipment. The only thing you may need to buy is a yoga mat, which is optional. If the hard floor is how you like it, then go for it. They also don’t require you to enroll in a gym.
They are for everyone
People of all ages and genders can do crunches. However, you should not do them if you’ve been advised by an expert.
They help in stabilizing one’s core
When you have a stable core, it helps you maintain your posture. It makes lifting things from the ground and twisting your body easier. Crunches are also responsible for building muscle endurance in your core muscles (7). A study was done about this. The study wanted to find out the short-term effects of crunch exercise frequency on abdominal muscle endurance (4). The study’s main aim was to compare the short-term effects of training frequencies per week on abdominal muscles. 118 people participated in this study; 59 were men, and the rest were female.
The study was carried out on untrained adolescents. The participants were divided into four groups. People in group one were to do crunches and cross-crunches once a week. In group two, people were to do these exercises twice a week, while those in the third group were to do cross-crunches and crunches thrice a week. The fourth group was the control group, and they were not supposed to do any exercises. The study took 6 weeks, and before and after each training session, the people were to undergo tests to assess their abdominal muscle endurance.
These are the results they came up with. First and foremost, men showed high levels of abdominal muscle endurance compared to women. Training for one, two, and three times a week showed a significant increase in their abdominal muscle endurance (4). There was, however, no significant difference between the three groups. This shows that crunches really do help in building abdominal muscle endurance.
Those are some of the advantages associated with crunches, plus the fact that they’re easy to perform, which makes them easier to do at any time or place.
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Cons of Crunches
There is only one big disadvantage associated with crunches, and that is the fact that they only work the abdominal muscles (5). This makes them good for people who want to do targeted exercises, but not for those who want to work on multiple muscle groups at a go.
How to Do a Crunch?
It is important to know how to do a crunch properly so that you do not injure yourself when attempting to do one. Here is how you do them (3):
- First, lie down on the ground with your back. Bend your knees and make sure your feet are flat on the floor.
- Hold your hands behind your head. Make sure you hold them loosely to not pull on your neck when you move. Too tight, and it might cause an injury.
- Gently raise your shoulders upwards from the floor to about a 30-degree angle.
- Hold that position for about one second. You should feel your abdominal muscles being engaged.
- Lower yourself to the original position.
- If you are new to crunches, you can try 3 sets of 15 reps.
Differences between Crunches and Sit-Ups
The main difference between a sit-up and a crunch is the range of motion involved (6). When it comes to sit-ups, you have to move all the way close to your knees. As for crunches, you only move slightly off the ground. Due to the range of motion involved, sit-ups engage more muscles compared to crunches. The downside of this attribute of sit-ups is that they have a greater risk of injury.
On the other hand, crunches allow for target workouts for the abdominal muscles since they mostly concentrate on them.
When it comes to crunch vs. sit-up, it all depends on what an individual wants as they both are effective for different things. They also share a couple of similarities, like the fact that they both have the same starting position, are cheap, and do not require equipment (9). It is always good to be cautious before you try a new exercise. Do not do more than you can handle and ease yourself into the exercise.
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This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Benefits of Sit-up Exercises (2019, livehealthy.chron.com)
- How to Do Sit-Ups (2020, verywellfit.com)
- Real Talk: Which Are More Effective Sit Ups or Crunches? (2019, wellandgood.com)
- Short-term effect of crunch exercise frequency on abdominal muscle endurance (n.d., pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Sit-Ups Vs. Crunches—Here’s Which Exercise Is Better For What And Why ( 2020, womenshealthmag.com)
- The major differences between sit-ups and crunches — and which core exercises are best for you (2020, insider.com)
- What Are the Benefits of Doing Crunches? (2018, livestrong.com)
- Which Abdominal Exercise is Better: Crunch or Sit-up (2011, bcliving.ca)
- Yes, There Is a Difference Between Situps and Crunches (2020, menshealth.com)