six reasons your were right to hate crunches ... or not ?01 Sep 2016
Six reasons you were right to hate crunches
I read this article and asked Professor Lon Kilgore his opinion on it .. read below for the article and his comments
Special to The Globe and Mail
Published Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015 3:07PM EST
1. Crunches load your spine at an equivalent of 340 kilograms of compressive force. This is over and above the maximum recommended by the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. For an exercise that was supposed to help eliminate back pain by strengthening the core, crunches have only worsened the back-pain epidemic.
2. When performing a crunch, the work is being done by the superficial muscles in the abdomen and the hip flexors, which shorten and tighten with each repetition. But here’s the thing: These muscles are already short and tight thanks to all the sitting we do in our daily lives, so it makes no sense to further shorten and tighten them. Crunches only weaken your core, mess with your alignment and set you up for back pain and pelvic floor dysfunction such as incontinence and, for women, pelvic organ prolapse, which is the descent and eventual protrusion of an organ into and out of the vagina.
3. Crunches do not make your tummy flat. Next time you are at the gym, watch people doing crunches and pay attention to their abdomen – you will notice the tummy pooches outward, which is the opposite of the so-called purpose of this exercise. You will also notice that the shoulders round, the head tucks forward, the butt tucks under and the breath is often held. This is disastrous to the core and pelvic floor and only serves to exacerbate the terrible posture we live in all day.
4. Crunches cause downward pressure on the pelvic floor and outward pressure on the abdominal wall, which can contribute to a condition known as diastasis recti (a separation of the outermost abdominal muscles) in both men and women. That’s right – men can get it, too.
5. Research has shown that as many as 52 per cent of women with pelvic floor dysfunction have diastasis recti. This stat is alarming, especially given that women can have diastasis recti after pregnancy but have no idea. So when they start doing
crunches in an attempt to lose their mummy tummy, they make their existing diastasis worse by putting outward pressure on the weakened abdominal wall. The pressure also bears down on the pelvic floor and puts them at greater risk of chronic back pain, incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse.
6. When you do a crunch, the pressure inside the abdominal cavity increases and, in a dysfunctional core, the ability to manage this increase in pressure is hindered. This results in the internal organs being pushed down. Pelvic floor physiotherapist Julia Di Paolo of PhysioExcellence in Toronto has seen a consistent increase in prolapse and believes it is caused in large part by our increasingly sedentary lifestyles, the rise of challenging exercise programs such as CrossFit and boot camps, and the lack of awareness about core exercise in pregnancy and postpartum recovery. “Crunches are a part of every ‘hard-core’ exercise program out there and are often one of the first exercises a new mom will choose in an attempt to get her body back,” Di Paolo says. “New moms, and most people who sit for a living – which is most of us – do not have the core strength or stability to withstand the demands of most mainstream fitness programs and they end up in my office with a condition that will dramatically affect their quality of life and which activities they can do.”
So instead of crunching your way to oblivion, I urge you to take a step back. If it’s a flat tummy you are after, begin with optimizing your alignment during everyday activities such as sitting and walking – position your ribs over your pelvis, keep your tailbone untucked and balance your weight over your feet rather than the forefoot. Move more, sit less and exercise your pelvic floor in isolation to start, then progress to dynamic movements such as bridges, squats and lunges. Choose exercises that restore your body instead of break it down.
overview by Professor Lon Kilgore :
Well, I essentially agree that crunches are not too effective of an exercise (sit ups are just as safe and more functional) but many of the facts she provides are actually not facts at all.
A quick review of her points:
1. The compressive force on the vertebral column is tangential not linear and as such the OSHA recommendations are not applicable. McGill is a theorist and can be off base about real world things (I know him).
2. Short and tight does not equate to fit and ready to contract and "crunches only weaken" implies a complete lack of understanding of how exercise works.
3. They do flatten if you lack muscular tone but if they hypertrophy after significant addition of resistance over time then yes they begin to protrude.
4. Diastatis recti is a transient condition found most commonly in 2nd, 3rd and immediate post-partum women. It is transient and not permanent and thoughtfully applied exercise helps make it go away. Infants, children, men, etc, about 1% of them can get it too, but again it is very transient and it is not generally seen in those with strong abdominal development.
5. Preparing for childbirth through exercise is what is needed for prevention.
6. Stated to specifically applies to a diseased "core" (in context this is only the abdominal musculature) and not to normal people but they then apply their statements to the general population. Making a generalization that all new mothers and office workers cannot do beginners workouts is an inappropriate assumption. Even the expert quoted doesn't seem to be an expert. They need to read about the East German and Soviet training methods for women, where they intentionally impregnated and trained maximally pregnant female athletes because they were maximally anabolic during pregnancy ... it was absolutely unethical but since pregnant women are not sick, in fact they are the most anabolic people on the face of the earth, they adapted to brutal workloads and became the best female athletes on the planet.
The summary is a recommendation to use better posture (OK), change foot center of pressure (not discussed in the article nor is it an issue in the public), do pelvic floor exercises that cannot be quantified in load or progressed other than repetition or duration (only useful in the first few months), do bridges (which increases vertebral column tangential pressure in the opposite direction of crunches but it still increases the pressure to similar magnitudes as crunches), and she does not understand that all exercises break the body down, as that is the intent of training for fitness, to break down so recovery and fitness improvement will follow.
Sometimes I cringe when I see women writers treat women as a "special" population that cannot do anything of note physically. Women are quite special in so many ways BUT these writers are ignoring how badass women actually are. They are not weak helpless little things that can be injured by the wind blowing crossways and they are not physically limited to a point where they cannot physically do amazing things or even basic things. I think to write about them in that way perpetuates a socially driven and culturally created stereotype and is wrong, although as we see here it can be printed without hesitation in the popular press ... and that in turn makes the author money.
All in all this was an effort to take the methods used for pregnancy associated diastasis recti and apply them to the rest of the world. Using methods for rehabilitation cannot work optimally in healthy populations.
Of course this is all my opinion :)