Crunches are dead. Nobody is doing them any more. They’re bad for your back. You’re a bad person if you do crunches.
Those may all have been headlines in 2010, and they’re not all serious. The current consensus from the body of research on spinal degradation is that repetitive flexion can wear on the discs between bones. We can’t claim to know which exercise or how many reps, may herniate or bulge a disc, but we can choose to avoid those exercises.
While biomechanics land wants to keep our spine stable and safe, functional anatomy land looks at how we use muscles. We’ve figured out that your abs don’t really serve to create movement, as much as they work to resist movement. The muscles through our trunk serve to transfer energy between our powerful arms and legs. That connection builds a powerful midsection.
Most everyone wants a stronger midsection or sexier abs, and fortunately fewer folks are encouraging the endless crunches and sit-ups that Patrick Bateman did. Instead, we’re focusing on the anti movement.
The most spine-friendly, high-demand core training is focused on anti. Anti-extension, anti-rotation, anti-lateral flexion. We’re avoiding movement, not creating it.
Unless, of course, we are. I’m about to tell you about my favorite crunch variation.
Stop making that face. See, we’re going to go from a place of slight extension to a place of slight flexion. We’re avoiding end-range, where most of the issues arise from. We’re teaching our bodies to tolerate and control some movement through our lower back.
Enter the Dynamic Deadbug to Reverse Crunch. It’s a great way to combine the anti-extension benefits of the “deadbug” exercise along with the benefits of a gentle posterior pelvic tilt. The goal here is to engage more muscle at the same time, giving more of a 360˚ core engagement effect. Let’s take a look:
Compared to the last #GoHard core exercise you saw on Insta’, it doesn’t look like much, but that simplicity is a strength of this exercise. There’s actually a lot going on. Let’s review:
The set up for this deadbug to reverse crunch is pretty important. We want our lower back to start as close to the ground as possible. Setting a good position is pretty critical for most of us to feel our abs more effectively. This set-up move may be the most important thing that you do:
.Once you feel that lower back get closer to the ground, reach your hands and knees straight up to the ceiling. If your lower back moved, then reset that position. I can’t tell you how important that is.
The move starts with the deadbug. If this is new to you, I’d focus on just this for a while. We’re going to challenge that low-back position that you created earlier. Ya’ know that “Set it and forget” phrase from that cooking infomercial? This is the opposite. Set it and remember it at all costs.
When you reach on the deadbug, focus on using opposite sides. One arm and the other leg. This creates a mild rotation effect on your mid-section, reminding your abs to be strong to resist that rotation. We want reaches on both sides to be as symmetrical as possible. A good way to ensure this is focus on a exhaling throughout the reach. It’s like blowing out candles the entire time!
The reverse crunch is less movement than you think. The reverse crunch is less movement than you think. Together now: The reverse crunch is less movement than you think.
Imagine that you’re driving your knees straight up to the ceiling. You’re slightly lifting your butt of the ground. You are not in any way attempting to knee yourself in the face. That’s not the reverse crunch that you’re looking for:
On the way back down, you can reset your lower back position before the next deadbug. It’s a sneaky way to challenge your core more on the reverse crunch, while ensuring great position for each subsequent deadbug. Sneaky, right?
Crunches may be the dinosaurs of core training, but everything from the old days aren’t extinct. The reverse crunch has evolved to survive modern times, and when you add it to a dynamic deadbug, it can be an awesome way to work your abs.
Remember to start with a great position, blow out candles through the deadbug reaches, and slowly lift your knees towards the ceiling. Make sure that position is solid before continuing on to the next deadbug.
This exercise can be great to wrap up your warm-up before heavy lifting, to build in to your exercise pairings to keep your abs fired up, or to end a workout with a core focus. Wherever you use it, remember: Slow, Blow, and Go. Set your position, move slowly while exhaling, and get after 2-4 reps at a time.
Let me know if you have any questions, and give feedback once you’ve tried it out!