Guest post by Coach Kevin Trumpfeller
Basic crunches, have been a part of almost every fitness training program, including military basic training programs, and military fitness tests for many years. You may be doing hundreds of them every day and wondering why your back and neck hurt.
Recent research suggests that crunches push your curved spine into the hard floor or pavement. They over develop the “front” side of your body and ignore the opposite (back) side and promote imbalances that cause back pain. Most directly, you have a tendency to interlace your fingers behind your head or neck and pull yourself up, causing cervical (neck) pain.
There are several more effective, safer belly fat (abdominal) exercises. Ab exercises that burn calories and fat, will help you lose weight and won’t hurt your back or neck. Try these:
Dead Bugs – Dead bugs train and strengthen weak abdominal muscles. How to perform dead bugs? Start flat on your back with your arms and legs outstretched above you, much as a dead bug. Your hands and knees should be pointing at the ceiling. Raise your left arm ABOVE your head until it almost touches the floor as you simultaneously lower your right leg until it is straight and just above the floor, you are extending opposite arms and legs. Pause briefly, then return to the starting position and repeat with your right arm and left leg. Alternate left, right, left until you can’t do any more.
Bird Dogs – You should perform this exercise on a mat to protect your knees. How to perform bird dogs. Start on your hands and knees with your knees directly below your hips and your hands directly below your shoulders. Keep your back flat and your abs tight as you lift your left hand and right leg off the floor. Point your left hand forward and extend your back leg behind you. Imagine that you are a bird dog pointing at a bird. Hold this extended position for as long as you can. Return to the start position and switch opposite arms and legs and repeat and hold. This core and abdominal exercise requires you to stabilize and balance your body which requires and involves additional muscle groups (and calories).
Planks – Planks are an excellent “core” exercise, they train your abs, but also the opposing back muscles and side muscles or obliques. All of these muscles work together to support your spine and help you stand upright and twist and turn. Planks train your abdominals and your lower back equally thereby preventing any potential muscle imbalances that lead to back pain, as you are working more muscles, you’ll burn more calories as well.
How to perform planks. Start from a pushup position on a mat or the floor, then lower your upper body to your elbows and forearms with your elbows directly below your shoulders. Now straighten your body from your neck to your ankles and HOLD this position for as long as you can. Planks appear to be a simple, deceptively easy exercise, but quite the opposite, you will find that holding the position for as long as possible is much more difficult but also more effective than they appear.