I've spent a lot of time on the topic of flat abs, both in my blog and in some of the articles I've written and, at the bottom of those discussions lies the sticky thorn embedded in the quest for six-pack abs: Crunches. Crunches aren't the only exercise we use to try to get flat abs, of course, but they represent the ingrained belief that ab exercises are what we need to reach the holy grail of ab perfection.
If you need proof or, perhaps, permission to stop spending so much time on crunches and to do more effective core exercises that work your muscles in multiple planes of movement, you're in luck. In a study published in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, researchers decided to answer the question most of us have been struggling with for years: Do ab exercises reduce abdominal fat? To that end, they placed 24 sedentary men and women into two different groups: A non-exercise group and an ab exercise group. The ab group did 7 different exercises for 6 weeks, repeating 2 sets of 10 reps of each move. The conclusion? At the end of 6 weeks, there was no change in body weight, body composition or abdominal fat.
The take home message here is that crunches aren't inherently bad, but if you're doing them to lose belly fat, you can safely turn your energy to more effective ways of doing that: Cardio, strength training and more functional core exercises.
What do you think? Does this kind of study change your mind about crunches or flat abs? How much time and energy do you expend on the goal of six-pack abs? Leave a comment and tell us what you think?