Crunch time

Have you watched early morning television lately? If by some chance you have found yourself awake around 3 or 4am and pressed on the screen then you may have found yourself watching some semi-porn wrapped around an advertisement for the latest widget designed to give you perfect abdominals in around 14 seconds. There are rollers, straps, wheels, and rockers all promising to target, trim, and tone your abdominal muscles.

Similar ads can be found adorning the morning shows from around 9am to midday with the same claims but slightly more fully clad and tastefully shot models. According to the advertisers of course, if you want perfect abs then you need to purchase their product and the promise of “easy monthly payments” doesn’t disguise the fact that your abs will come at a significant price. With all of these promises out there the American Council on Exercise commissioned researchers from the University of Wisconsin to compare the effectiveness of these gadgets to the traditional sit-up or crunch.

For the analysis the researchers used electromyography (EMG) to identify baseline abdominal strength among all participants, males and females aged 18 to 24. They used electrodes placed on the upper and lower rectus abdominal muscles, external obliques, and rectus femoris. Using information gathered from these electrodes on electrical activity within the muscles they measured maximum voluntary contraction for each piece of equipment and exercise. There were eight pieces of equipment measured, the yoga boat pose, stability ball crunch, decline bench curl, captain’s chair crunch, bicycle crunch, side plank, and front plank.

The results showed that none of the exercises generated greater muscles activation than the traditional crunch. Many of the gadgets, and also the front and side plank, actually showed lesser muscle activation than the good old sit-up (crunch).

The researchers say that for the average person who wants to have stronger abs and less back pain, lying down on the floor and doing a few crunches every day is as good as anything.

This advice might not sit well on morning television because it means your wonderful abs won’t cost you anything except some time and effort. Which means for all those widgets and gadgets that promise you the earth and charge you accordingly, it’s crunch time.

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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