There are many different habits and workouts you can do to improve your life. What about doing crunches, what benefits can you expect?
Crunches are a type of calisthenics, also known as bodyweight, exercise but you can also do them with external weights. They are a convenient way to work out your ab muscles at home without any equipment.
To do a crunch you start lying with your back on the ground with your legs bent at the knees and your feet flat on the ground. Raise your head and shoulders from the ground as much as possible while keeping your lower back on the floor. Make sure you don’t use your arms but your ab muscles to do this movement.
Lower your head and shoulders until you are back in the starting position. Make sure you pay attention to using the right technique to avoid any injuries.
Some people question how useful this exercise can be but adding crunches to your routine can offer you some of the following benefits to a certain extent. Even though you can expect these benefits a small amount by doing crunches, this exercise is generally only used to specifically work out ab muscles.
1. Stronger muscles
Crunches are mainly a strength training exercise, which means they are mostly for improving muscle strength and endurance. Extra muscle is not only beneficial for your health in many ways but it is also considered to be visually appealing.
Some of the muscles you work out with crunches include:
- Abdominal muscles
If you like the idea of building muscle while doing crunches you can do weighted crunches. This means carrying extra weight on your chest or in your hands to increase the amount of muscle mass you gain.
Crunches can be useful to build ab muscle mass. To build the most muscle mass you want to do about 4 sets of 10-40 crunches depending on how advanced you are.
That being said, at some point your body weight may stop being enough resistance to build extra muscle mass with crunches. When this is the case crunches with external weights or strength training exercises where you use external weights are the next step if you want to keep building extra muscle.
2. Stronger immune system
Your immune system is a collection of biological processes that protects you from diseases.
You do have to keep in mind that at some point working out can turn into overtraining which can weaken immune function. However, most people don’t come close to this point, especially with a generally less intense exercise like crunches.
3. Can help with losing weight
Losing weight is about using up body fat, which is basically energy stored. To do this you want to make sure that you require more energy throughout the day than there is coming in from food.
One way to try to make this happen is by doing a workout. By increasing the intensity of your movements for a period of time you use up more energy than usual. Doing crunches can help with weight loss since doing a workout like it generally requires more energy than most of your usual daily activities.
30 minutes doing crunches can help you burn around 133-229+ calories depending on weight, intensity, and much more. If you want to learn how to burn more calories while doing crunches make sure you read the article on how many calories crunches burn.
Another way workouts, mainly strength training exercises, help you lose weight is by increasing your muscle mass which in turn helps with burning more energy with everything you do.
Crunches burn a very low number of calories during the workout. On top of that your ab muscles are not a very big muscle group so there is not a lot of room for extra muscle mass. These things combined make crunches one of the worst exercises for weight loss, but they are more helpful than doing nothing.
Keep in mind that other lifestyle habits like what you eat are important when trying to lose weight no matter what exercise you do. You can work out and gain weight at the same time if your other lifestyle habits are not good.
4. Improved mood
Most people are not always completely aware of it but the physical health of the human body has a big influence on the mood and thoughts of the individual.
Doing crunches doesn’t just help with this by improving general health. There are inevitably many different reasons involved but one reason why exercises like crunches benefit mental health is that they promote the release of endorphins, “feel-good” hormones (7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12).
Besides the actual physiological changes doing crunches will cause, you will likely also have positive feelings about having done something challenging that’s good for you.
5. Builds fast muscle and muscle endurance
Not all muscle is the same, it can be made of different types of muscle fibers. These different types have different properties with accompanying advantages and disadvantages.
A common categorization of these muscle fibers is “type 1, slow-twitch muscle” and “type 2, fast-twitch muscle”. Your muscle groups are not made of one or the other, they are made of a certain ratio of type 1 vs type 2 fibers. The way you train can influence this ratio (13).
The type 1, slow-twitch muscle fibers are generally more useful for longer duration workouts like jogging, swimming at a low tempo, cycling at a low tempo,… Basically activities at intensities you can do for an extended period of time.
The type 2, fast-twitch muscle fibers are generally more useful for short duration, fast body movement workouts like sprints, powerlifting, javelin throwing,…Basically activities at intensities you can only do for a short period of time.
As a strength training beginner crunches will initially help you build type 2 muscle fibers. Once you get to a point where crunches start being a less intensive exercise they will help you build more type 1 muscle fibers.
6. Improved cardiovascular health
Your cardiovascular system is the circulatory system inside of your body and includes heart and blood vessels. These transport many types of important nutrients, oxygen, and waste throughout your body.
When you move more intensely your body needs to transport these things, which means using your heart, at a higher rate.
Your heart is a muscle that can be trained by using it more intensely. While doing crunches is mainly a strength exercise, this exercise also makes your heart beat a little faster and thus helps you strengthen your cardiovascular system. This in turn leads to a wide variety of other benefits (14, 15, 16, 17, 18).
Do keep in mind that muscles can get injured. If you have not done any physical activity in a long time you may want to start out with low-intensity movements and build up from there.
7. You can do crunches almost anywhere
A downside of many exercises is that they need you to be in a specific location, or use specific equipment that you generally don’t have at home.
This makes it so you often have to drive, cycle, or walk somewhere for a while. Let’s say you exercise twice a week and going to your workout takes 10 minutes to get there and 10 minutes to go back. That’s 40 minutes less free time per week.
This extra transportation also makes it easier to say no to your workout. Being able to be consistent is key for a good workout plan.
However, with crunches you don’t have to worry about these things. You can do them as good as anywhere. All you need is a few blocks of free time throughout the day and you can get in a crunch workout.
8. Low impact workout
If you exercise a lot, or you plan to, potential injuries are a very relevant concern.
Consistency is a big part of working out. The effectiveness of your workout plan will go down drastically if you can’t exercise for 2 weeks every month because of injuries.
Some exercises like running can be rough on body parts like knees and back. Especially if it is the case that you’re carrying around a few extra pounds.
Luckily doing crunches is generally a low impact workout, the shocks your body will experience are relatively soft. This is a huge benefit of crunches, particularly if you are generally injury-sensitive.
9. Budget-friendly workout
Another potential hurdle for many workouts is the budget required.
Some exercises require inexpensive equipment starting at a jumping rope to at-home workout machines of hundreds or thousands of dollars. Even the investment required for gym subscriptions adds up after a while.
Money put into improving your health is generally a great investment but sometimes you can get the same effects with less. In the case of crunches you don’t need to invest any budget at all, potentially in an inexpensive yoga mat. This can be a great benefit depending on your personal situation.
10. Improved cognitive function
Another benefit of exercises like doing crunches is that they can help you improve your cognitive function in a few ways. First of all, they can help with the prevention of diseases like Alzheimer’s disease (19).
Another way working out benefits cognitive function is by improving brain plasticity (20, 21, 22). Better brain plasticity basically means that you are able to learn things faster, see the connection between things faster, and remember things better.
That means that adding a crunch workout to your routine can benefit you by improving areas like your academic performance, job performance, and much more.
11. No complicated technique required
Some machines and workouts almost require a university degree before you can use them optimally. For example some kettlebell workouts or something like dancing can be slightly more complicated to get started with.
When trying to stick to an exercise routine you want to be able to start as soon as possible and as few reasons as possible to not work out.
You do want to pay some attention to your posture when starting out but crunches are generally a simple workout when it comes to technique.
12. Lowers LDL
LDL, also known as low-density lipoproteins, is considered to be “bad” cholesterol since there are negative side effects associated with having high levels of LDL in your blood.
13. Healthier lungs
To move around your body needs oxygen, the more intensely the more oxygen. Your body absorbs oxygen from the air through your lungs.
By using your lungs more, thanks to workouts like doing crunches, you can improve how well they work (27, 28, 29, 30, 31). Crunches will not be the best exercise for engaging your lungs but the usage of your muscles will increase the amount of oxygen your body uses.
Improving how well your lungs function leads to benefits like improved exercise performance and getting tired slower.
14. Slows down aging
Most people think of age as the number of days, months, and years that have passed since the day they were born, this is usually referred to as their chronological age. There are also many other ways to measure “age” based on physiological factors (32).
Exercises like doing crunches obviously won’t have an influence on the number of days that have passed since you were born. However, physical activity can slow down the aging in terms of how fast other measurement methods progress (33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38).
In general these other age measurements are more accurate methods than chronological age for assessing risk on age-related diseases. Slowing these down can be a huge benefit for your health.
15. Helps against type 2 diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is a disease that involves consequences like high blood sugar, insulin resistance, and lack of insulin. These things in turn can have really bad consequences so type 2 diabetes is definitely something you want to avoid.
16. Improves sleep
Good quality and duration sleep are extremely important for your physical health and cognitive function. Unfortunately, many people can do a lot better with both quality and duration.
A lot of the things you do throughout the day influence the quality and duration in some way. One of the things that can benefit sleep a relatively high amount is doing a workout like crunches (44, 45, 46).
You do want to keep in mind that exercising too close to bed time can have the reverse effect and mess with your sleep. Make sure you give your body time enough time to calm down after a workout. For most people this comes down to avoiding exercises at least an hour or two before going to sleep.
17. Regulates blood pressure
Your blood pressure is how much pressure the blood circulating in your blood vessels pushes against the walls of these vessels. This measurement is a popular way to determine how healthy your heart is.
Another benefit of working out, and thus doing crunches, is that it can help you regulate blood pressure (47, 48, 49). This happens because of the influence of a variety of consequences you get from doing crunches including a stronger heart, less stress, expected weight loss, and more.
While most, if not all workouts, are better for most of these benefits than crunches, it is amazing that you can get so many important benefits from adding one activity to your routine.
Also keep in mind that consistency is a big factor for a workout plan. The more you love the exercise you do the easier it becomes to do it consistently. If doing crunches is a workout you love, great. If not there are plenty of other exercises and alternatives to crunches to consider that can also offer a lot of benefits.