Blame it on Katrina Kaif’s clear-cut abs in Kaala Chashma or on Deepika Padukone’s washboard abdomen flashing through those beautiful saris she dons every now and then—a toned core is every woman’s dream.
And the first obvious step apart from cutting down your salt intake, eating clean, and working extra hours in the gym, is to simply go big on abdominal crunches. Isn’t it?
“Ab crunches target the rectus abdominus muscle, the outermost layer of the abdominal wall (the six-pack), and the muscle that runs along the front of the torso,” points out Dr Kruti Khemani, celebrity sports physiotherapist and founder of Continuum Clinic, Mumbai.
Raving about the upside of this exercise, she says, “Crunches are important for stability and performance and they play an integral part in developing good core strength.”
In fact, a 2011 study supports her claim and further adds that ab crunches can help improve your posture and increase the mobility and flexibility of the muscles.
But conditions apply
Every possible advantage can actually backfire if the crunches are not done right. Hence, Khemani suggests the right way of doing it:
1. Lie on your back with your knees bent. Plant your feet on the floor at a comfortable distance from your rear.
2. Let your hands support your head, but remember to keep your elbows away from your ears.
3. Exhale and draw your belly button in toward your spine and visualize them compressing together to help the lower back press on to the floor.
4. Simultaneously, lift your head, neck, and shoulders off the mat—not so high though.
5. Pause for a moment and then inhale as you lower your upper body back down to the mat.
6. Remember to keep your feet, lower back, and tailbone in contact with the mat as you go up and down.
Renowned fitness instructor and lifestyle coach Grandmaster Akshar added:
Ensure that you are properly warmed-up before doing ab crunches and follow it up with proper stretching. Drink water to stay hydrated, and take rest for a few seconds between sets to avoid injury. Also, for best results make sure to practice on an empty stomach.
And what if you don’t comply?
Chances are that your extreme yearning for a flat stomach can lead you to practice this exercise at home or at the gym minus the expert supervision. The result? Well, you could end up doing it all wrong and worsening your case.
“Poor posture or incorrect alignment will lead to no positive result. Additionally, not following the correct technique will cause back problems,” Akshar warns.
In fact, according to Dr Khemani, ab crunches may actually be harmful to some individuals with certain medical conditions such as osteoporosis or those with a history of spine problems/injuries.
Moreover, crunches may potentially increase one’s risk of injury in the spine because of repetitive ﬂexion creating pressure on it.
So, you know what? We don’t think it’s worth risking your back for, unless, of course, you’re practicing under expert supervision, okay?