Even in the second grade, when I was in the best shape of my life, I hated crunches. I stared up at the sky while the rest of my soccer team flailed in the AstroTurf and made my peace with my one-pack.
I’ve always known crunches were bullshit, and finally the rest of the world is coming around to my Truth. I still see the occasional dude doing 200 crunches on the mats at the gym, but Rocky poseurs have dropped off dramatically in recent years. Now, all the cool kids are planking, squatting, and eating right.
Be the plank
“Traditionally, you would crunch your way to training your abdominals. But the phenomenon of the core has become more and more popular, and the core is more than just the six-pack in the front,” Harley Pasternak says. Pasternakknows. He’s the author of 5 Pounds, and he’s the guy the beautiful people go to when they want to get more beautiful (including GQ’s Joel Stein.) Pasternak says doing a lot of crunches can actually give the illusion of a belly and create an imbalance in your midsection that leads to postural problems. Instead, he says you should work your whole core by planking.
Watch him do a pike plank better than you’ve ever done anything in your life here.
Abs are created in the kitchen
Joe Lazo, six-pack-haver, personal trainer, and star of the new Bravo show Work Out New York, is in favor of moves that require you to stabilize yourself, like squatting. Lazo suggests doing squats simultaneously with other compound movements, but he says that ultimately it comes down to diet. “Your abs aren’t going to bulge out of your body by doing more and more crunches,” he says. “Abs are created in the kitchen. If you’re still eating candy, you’re never going to see your abs.”
That’s the meanest thing anyone has ever said to me.
You’re already doing things that work your core—do more of those things
David Kirsch, a fitness expert whose new book, Ultimate Family Wellness, hits shelves in December, is gentler on the crunch but still no great fan: “I’ve found much more effective ways to tone, reduce, and strengthen your belly,” he tells me. Kirsch suggests planking or working with a stability ball. He says even push-ups work your abs, allowing you to hit pretty much all your beach muscles in one move.
Crunches are still better than nothing
If for whatever reason you actually enjoy crunches, well, that’s fine, too. When I call up trainer Gunnar Peterson, it’s 5:30 A.M. in L.A., and Peterson is already mid-workout. (I am mid-muffin.) I ask Peterson if crunches are still relevant. “Of course they’re still relevant.” Dang. “I don’t think crunches are the one and only, but crunches are still working your core. You’re doing a crunch when you get out of bed, and when you get out of your car.”
So, bottom line: Crunches are probably still better than this belt that may or may not jiggle fat away. But there are other—arguably better—ways for those of us who hate them to get similar results.