Are you keen to sculpt your abs? An abs workout increases your stability and lowers your risk of injury. A strong core is functional and attractive. Here is what we found when we put the plank and the crunch to the test.
PLANK versus CRUNCH
The crunch is a dynamic movement. It’s a spinal flexion – a forward bend of the spine.
The plank is a static hold - an isometric contraction of the muscles of the spine.
What muscles do you work?
Both the crunch and the plank engage the rectus abdominis and the obliques. However, the plank also targets the erector spinae, the glutes, hip flexors, quads and deltoids.
Why we love these moves
- The crunch is great for isolated conditioning.
- The plank provides increased activation of target muscles and functional strength benefits.
The GymNation team have explored which type of abdominal exercise – isolation or integration – provokes the greater muscle activation. This study highlighted:
- A plank with hand reach gives 20 percent more rectus abdominis activation than a crunch.
- A plank with a knee lift toward the opposite side of the chest increases rectus abdominis activation by 30 percent and external Oblique activation by 20 percent.
THE VERDICT: the plank is the winner
While the humble crunch can work wonders for your core, a plank is an optimal exercise to condition your abs for sports performance, rehab, and general fitness. Maximize the benefits of your abs workout with increased muscle activation through planks and plank variations.
When to choose crunches over the plank
If you have weak wrists or shoulders, choosing to challenge your abs with crunches may be your best workout.
Technique tips: what to watch out for
- During crunches, it can be tempting to place your hands behind your head. As a result, you can pull forward on your head. Avoid poor form by touching your fingertips to your forehead. You should also always keep your chin tucked.
- If your hips are too high in the air while performing a plank, the effectiveness the move is reduced. To get the most from your plank, you need to keep your body in a long straight line and make sure your hips are in line with your shoulders.
The perfect plank prescription
- If you’re new to planking we suggest you start by aiming for three 30 second holds.
- When you’re ready to increase the intensity of your abs workout, add knee lifts and hand reaches.