Every time I go to the gym I cringe when I see so many people doing crunches both with and without a personal trainer! Because what I know and they don’t know is that crunches create a diastasis or make it worse and that a diastasis can cause back pain, postural issues, pelvic floor problems and gastrointestinal issues. A diastasis as you must already know by now if you are reading this article, is a separation of the outermost abdominal muscles.
So why do crunches create a diastasis? Because you are not only working the muscles in the wrong direction but you are putting force on the connective tissue that joins the outer most abdominal muscles (recti muscles). So, let me explain what I mean when I say that crunches work the muscles in the wrong direction. To strengthen a muscle, you want to make it shorter. To stretch a muscle, you want to make it longer. So, when you are doing a crunch you are making the abdominal muscles longer not shorter. So test this out yourself and you will see that when you do a crunch the muscles are getting longer not shorter. Lay in a back lying position with your knees bent. Put one hand under your head and one hand on your belly. Now close your eyes and in your mind’s eye bring your belly button back to your spine (which is engaging your transverse muscle) and hold it there as you lift your head and shoulders off the floor. You will feel your muscles moving forward towards your hand. This forward movement is making the recti muscle longer and putting force on the connective tissue. This is because it is impossible to hold the transverse in completely when the shoulders come off the floor. That is why you should replace the crunch with the head lift. After 4 weeks of strengthening your transverse muscle in a seated position you will have transverse strength and awareness and will be able to hold your transverse in when you lift JUST your head. No shoulders please! You can test this out also with putting your hands on your belly. I say hands because with the head lift you will be needing to hold a splint so you will have to lift your head without any hands. Your hands will be on your belly so you will know if your transverse is in or out when you lift your head. When you lift your head make sure your chin goes down and touches your chest. If you lift your head leading with your chin you won’t be able to hold your transverse in. The head lift is 5 steps and is explained in detail in the Lose Your Mummy and Say Good Bye to Your Gut Guys DVD. If you have neck problems, you can do the 5 steps without lifting your head. So please just say NO to crunches.
In case you missed our Tupler Tip of the week, you can watch it here: https://youtu.be/NVYMJOVs43g