Are sit-ups and crunches going to give you a six pack?

√ Do you want to lose stomach fat? 

√ Do you want to have a toned stomach?

√ Crunches and sit-ups won’t help you getting there.

Let’s debunk the myth that doing sit-ups and crunches are going to give you those desired visible abs.

When strolling through the gym the stretching area always seems extremely busy. But rather than stretching most people are doing thousands of reps of abdominal work. 

Kind of contradictory if we think of how much of society sits all day long in a desk chair shortening the front of the body followed by going to the gym to do some more “shortening of the front of the body”.

But why don’t sit ups help with a flatter stomach?

  • sit ups and crunches shorten the rectus (abs) which can lead to hunching which in turn makes you look like you have more stomach fat than you actually do; these exercises don’t help reduce the actual fat on your abdomen
  • when trying to achieve a flatter stomach you want to look at exercises that lengthen the front of the body and strengthen your posterior chain (back of the body) instead of focusing on exercises that shorten the front of the body
  • the reason why you hold stomach fat won’t be solved by doing abdominal work but is most likely linked to your cortisol (stress) levels or has another hormonal or dietary origin
  • if you are continuously doing a whole lot of crunches and sit ups you will thicken the muscle itself over time which doesn’t make you have abs because it’s the fat you need to lose on top of your muscles rather than making the muscle thicker


Experts such as Lou Schuler and Alwyn Cosgrove who wrote “the new rules of lifting for abs” describe sit ups as one of the worst exercises when training the abdominal muscles and spinal specialist Stuart McGill says in “Low Back Disorders” that “enough sit-ups will cause damage in most people”.

It’s just not healthy for our spine to be flexed all the time like it’s done when performing sit-ups and crunches. 


So we can’t do sit-ups at all?

Yes you can do some crunches and sit-ups every now and then a but throw away the idea that you will get a flatter stomach doing them. There are a whole lot of exercises which strengthen your abs and core without spinal flexion. 

Tip: If you want to keep sit ups in your exercise routine try them on a fit ball 

If you are a beginner generally starting up with exercising or a beginner and in your first trimester there is a place for sit ups . It only doesn’t make sense to train your abs more often than all other muscles.



Now everyone is asking themselves:

What can I do if I want a flatter stomach?

  • Clean up your diet and focus on unprocessed, clean foods. Sugar and alcohol don’t help reduce tummy fat!
  • Sleep lots and focus on stress management because these two factors have a huge impact on your stress levels (cortisol which we learned can increase abdominal fat)
  • get your TVA working (deep core muscles). If your TVA is strong and works well it is going to automatically draw in your belly making your tummy look flatter
  • choose exercises to strengthen your core that don’t involve spinal flection such as planks (and side planks), swiss ball roll out, Pilates exercises (focusing on your TVA), gymnastics core exercises etc.
  • Strength train! Heavy lifting (of course this depends on the level of the individual) will help to tighten your belly and if you are doing a good program will help you to lose overall body fat which in turn should help to reduce belly fat.
  • Also focus on exercises that help lengthen the front of your body such as deadlifts, lat pull downs etc.
  • Be patient! If you do have a bit of tummy fat and you are doing everything right it won’t fall off overnight so be a little patient ;-)

Dave Tabain
Dave Tabain