ummm…not anytime soon!
As Mike Boyle, one of the world’s leading exercise experts says, “We use our abs to crunch when get up out of bed in the morning!” That is a little bit of a stretch however, but there is an underlying message there.
Our abdominal muscles, which range from the rib cage into the pelvis and wrap around the sides of our bodies, are active in CONJUNCTION with other moving muscles (namely the arms, legs, hips and back). When they are not active, they are usually turned off as a result of sitting. This is a good example of why excessive machine training in a gym can be hazardous to your back!
Most machine-based exercises have you lying or sitting which deactivates your abs while the rest of your body parts are doing work! You feel your abs when you use a machine? Of course you will, but they are fighting hard to catch up to the load imposed on them by the machines! Doing a few of them will not kill you, but because it is what previously taught, there is constant overkill on these muscles.
Add to that the fact that 60-80% of our day we sit (traffic, breakfast, lunch, dinner, office, sofa, computers, school, etc)…not to say you have to stand all day but if you are sitting you are slouched (your rib cage is sinking into your pelvis)!
What happens when we do tons of crunches? We use our abs to…(wait for it)…sink our rib cage into our pelvis!!
Therefore, we are strengthening a slouchy pattern and if anyone has read articles from leading experts about postural faults, they will explain how crunches WILL lead to slumped shoulders, forward head posture, weak abs, weak glutes, tight chest muscles, tight hamstrings, etc.
In the 15 years that I have been in this profession, I have yet to see anyone do 3×100 reps of back extensions to counteract the 3×100 crunches or sit ups they have done! If I ever come across that person, I will shake his or her hand because at the very LEAST, they are creating some degree of muscle balance anterior-posterior.
Doing only your abs and not your back is like doing all biceps and no triceps exercises.
Remember as well that crunching requires the lower back to round out. The fact that the lumbar spine is moving is a bad sign. The lumbar spine, BY DESIGN, was never allowed to have a great range of motion…very minimal at the least! It is the UPPER back (thoracic spine) and the hips that are supposed to be the mobile part!
It stands to reason then that the abdominal muscles were designed to have a “bracing effect” on the lower back and as such, should be trained that way!!
Planks, and variations of planks, whether they be standing or lying are great for stabilizing and strengthening the rest of your body. Remember, the abs were designed for stability!
Therefore, stability core exercises would include all and any exercise that involves the lumbar spine to be immobile. You will be pleasantly surprised that these exercises, the ones that have a “bracing effect”, can be made to be the most challenging exercises you have ever done.