Are Crunches Or Sit-Ups Better For Sculpting Your Stomach? We Asked Experts.
Sit-ups and crunches—if you’re working out to lose weight, you’ve probably tried both of these ab-exercises at least once. They’re simple, ab-sculpting workouts that only require your body and a little bit of floor space. Plus, they can be done safely by practically everyone at any fitness level. But is one of these exercises better than the other for burning fat and sculpting ab muscles?
To learn more, we looked into the benefits of both sit-ups and crunches, and spoke with Karina Blackwood, a certified personal trainer, pilates, and yoga instructor, and Shane Duquette, a certified Personal Training Specialist (PTS) and nutrition coach, to get their professional thoughts and opinions. They agree that crunches and sit-ups are both not ideal for burning stomach fat and building muscle. Instead, they recommend a combination of consistent cardiovascular exercise, high-intensity interval training, and strength training, with a healthy diet and overall lifestyle habits. And, while both crunches and sit-ups target the abdominal muscles, Duquette says that crunches are better for training your six-pack abs and sit-ups train your hip flexors. Find out more about these exercises below and what you should do instead to sculpt your stomach!
What Are Crunches?
Crunches, Blackwood says, "target the rectus abdominis muscle, which is the 'six-pack' muscle in the front of the abdomen." By strengthening this muscle, you can improve your core strength, posture, and stability. She explains how to perform crunches, "Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Place your hands behind your head and lift your shoulders off the ground, exhaling as you crunch upwards. Hold for a second, then slowly lower back down to the starting position."
What Are Sit-Ups?
While crunches focus on the abdominis muscle, sit-ups target the entire abdominal muscle group. This includes "the rectus abdominis, obliques, and transverse abdominis muscles," Blackwood says. Sit-ups can also help improve core strength, stability, and posture. To perform a sit-up, she says to, "Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Cross your arms over your chest and lift your upper body off the ground, exhaling as you sit up. Hold for a second, then slowly lower back down to the starting position."
With both crunches and sit-ups, Blackwood wants to note that they can both put a strain on your neck and spine if you do them incorrectly or with too much force. She recommends you "focus on engaging the abdominal muscles rather than pulling on the neck," and to use "controlled movements rather than jerking or bouncing motions" to prevent injury.
Are Crunches Or Sit-Ups Better For Burning Stomach Fat?
So, what's better for burning and sculpting belly fat: sit-ups or crunches? Duquette says, "Both crunches and sit-ups burn a similar amount of calories, and so both are similarly good for burning stomach fat." He also emphasizes that while crunches are better for training your six-pack abs, "making them better for improving your appearance," sit-ups train your hip flexors, "making them better for gaining general strength."
Blackwood on the other hand notes that both crunches and sit-ups target the abdominal muscles, but neither workout alone is very effective for reducing stomach fat. "This is because spot reduction, or the idea that you can target fat loss in a specific area of the body by doing specific exercises, is a myth," she explains. "When you exercise, your body burns calories from fat stores all over the body, not just in the area you are targeting with a specific exercise."
"To reduce belly fat, you'll need to combine regular exercise with a healthy diet and overall lifestyle habits," she continues. When it comes to effective workouts for burning belly fat, Blackwood recommends, "cardiovascular exercise, such as running, cycling, or swimming, which burns calories and improves overall fitness." And, if you don't have time or space for outdoor cardio workouts, try these at-home exercises you can do to burn fat. She also suggests, "strength training exercises that target the entire body, such as squats, lunges, and push-ups, can help build muscle mass and boost metabolism, which can lead to increased calorie burning even at rest."
And, for diet, she says that it's crucial to consume "a balance of whole, nutrient-dense foods that provide adequate energy and nutrition for exercise and daily activities." Eat foods that are rich in lean proteins, complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, and a variety of fruits and vegetables. It's also important to drink enough water (and other non-sugary beverages!) and to get at least eight hours of sleep every night to support weight loss and overall health.
She says that while crunches and sit-ups can "can be effective for strengthening and toning the abdominal muscles, which can help create a more defined midsection," it's important to understand that they alone are not enough to burn stomach fat. Blackwood says that with a combination of regular exercise, a balanced diet rich in nutrients, and overall healthy lifestyle habits, you can burn belly fat and achieve a flatter stomach.
The Bottom Line
So, sit-ups are for building overall abdominal strength while crunches focus on the abdominis muscle (or the "six-pack" muscle in the front of the abdomen). While they are both good exercises for sculpting your abdominus muscles, neither workout alone is very effective for reducing stomach fat. It is only through a combination of effective, consistent exercise, a healthy diet, and overall lifestyle changes that you will be able to see substantial fat burn. When it comes to other ab-sculpting exercises, Blackwood recommends cardiovascular workouts or HIIT.
Blackwood also wants to remind you that it's important to think of weight loss as a journey. Make sustainable lifestyle changes that you can maintain over the long term. And, if you need support, reach out to a healthcare professional or certified fitness trainer and listen to your body to ensure you are doing the most effective workouts and that you are exercising safely!
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