I’ve said a few times that I don’t do crunches and opt for planks instead. For years I did crunches… on the mat, on the ball, center crunches, side crunches. It was during a meeting with my trainer-friend that I was told “oh… you’re rectus dominant.”
All that meant was that I was using my rectus abdominus (the six pack muscle) more than those deeper stabilizing muscles in my abdomen, or the transverse abdominus. It wraps around your spine for protection and stability.
Alrighty, so what’s so bad about that? Studies have shown that there is a connection between the inability to efficiently contract the core muscles and chronic back pain.
To improve stabilization, its important to work the muscles that are closer to the spine and keep the spine and lower back stable and supported. Those are the transverse abdominus muscles. (The superficial muscles work to help with movement.)
The number one exercise for the transverse abdominus is the plank! When I incorporated these into my routine, I noticed a big difference in how I felt. I stood taller and did have less back pain. I can feel it when I neglect them, too. Crunches have their place, but if I’m focusing on my abs, I want to be working on my inner core.
I find that the plank works best for me when I focus on making myself very long while I’m up there, and as they say, focus on pushing your belly button toward the ceiling. The plank can be tough at first and even induce some shakes, but is well worth it in the long run.
Are you a plank person or a crunch person? Or do you do something totally different for your abs?
I am not a trainer or medical professional. My observations and information come from discussions with trainers, perusing the internet, and personal experience.