Crunches🚫. If you know me, you know that I am not a fan of the “crunch”. Most people do NOT do them correctly which negates the core strengthening potential of a crunch. Ideal form for a crunch maintains neutral alignment of head/spine, and engages the deepest abdominal muscles that draw abs inward. Most execute a crunch with outward pressure to both the ab muscles and pelvic floor muscles, and kinks the neck (think chin touching chest) to make dozens of reps uncomfortable and not very effective.
Strong abs are needed to support and stabilize the torso. Without a strong anterior chain, the posterior chain (i.e., back muscles) will take the grunt of the workload. How does your back feel at the end of the day: strong or sore and achy? For us mamas, “workload” means carrying and picking up kids (all day long!), lifting Amazon Prime boxes, or hauling a copious amount of Target bags into the house. We need to be functionally strong to eliminate back pain and take care of the kiddos — especially if you’re pregnant, or recently postpartum.
There are so many MORE EFFECTIVE exercises than a crunch to strengthen abdominal muscles. And, reminder— you cannot spot reduce. Love handles will not flatten/disappear/appear toner with 100’s of crunches. #truth
Instead of crunching your way to neck pain, try these five exercises instead. Yep, they do require some weight…that’s how strength is achieved.
1. Bear Crawls: forward/backward/side-to-side, 10 each direction — maintain neutral spine, keep your knees close to the ground as possible. This ‘simple’ move requires lots of hip and shoulder mobility. Skip if you have sore wrists.
2. Side Planks with 10 leg raises: modified or full side plank— stick with modified side plank if you have an abdominal wall separation.
3. Hover & Squeeze with 10 belly breaths: use towel, pillow, yoga block, or child’s ball between KNEES— take a deep belly breath in through your nose, as you slowly exhale gently squeeze ball and engage lower abs.
4. Half-Kneeling Halos, 10 each direction: use a dumbbell or kettlebell to swivel around your head…like a halo. If using a kettlebell, hold bell upside down. Choose a weight (10-20 pounds) that is a decent challenge to complete.
5. Farmer’s Carry: pick up two heavy objects (yep, this weight could be a stack of Target bags on one arm, baby in the other!). A carry is one of the most functional and core strength building exercises we can practice as moms! Walk tall, briskly, and for as long as you can while carrying weights.
Each of these abdominal exercises tend to be safe for mamas with a normal abdominal wall separation AND expecting mamas. Because we are all different, check with your physical therapist or physician to verify they are appropriate for YOU.
Be sure to check out the video to see how each exercise is executed. Try one set or even just one of the five exercises— our motto at AMC, anything is better than nothing.
Want more experience a mom-centric, core workout for yourself? Try out a FREE live-streaming Small Group Training session or a BRAND NEW 20-minute HIIT workout with Coach Cassandra.