Definitely not crunch time
May 22, 2013 7:48 AM   Subscribe

Annoyingly, crunches irritate a bulging disc in my back. Since I'm not keen on having surgery just so I can do this one thing (the disc doesn't otherwise bother me, as long as I keep my core strong), what alternatives to crunches can I try? If it matters: I do already do push-ups, planks and side planks.
posted by elizeh to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
If you're already doing those other things, I doubt you're losing out on anything by not doing crunches. Does your workout consist of anything else?
posted by exit at 7:53 AM on May 22, 2013

There was an apparatus at a gym I belonged to a while back that facilitated crunch-like exercises. I'm not sure if it targets the exact same muscles, but it's close. Basically, the effect is that you hang in the air and raise your knees toward your chest. You could do it on a pull up bar, but this thing was set up so you rested on your elbows so it was less taxing on your arms.
posted by gjc at 7:54 AM on May 22, 2013

You could try ab wheel rollouts or vertical knee raises, which is what gjc is talking about. Planks are pretty much the greatest, though, so don't feel like you need to add a ton of ab accessory work.
posted by baby beluga at 7:57 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

You could increase the difficulty of your planks by lifting a leg or doing planks on an exercise ball. both increase instability and the amount of work you do.
posted by Zelos at 8:01 AM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I like the standard core routine from Strength Running. You don't have to be a runner to benefit.

It might be worth talking to a physical therapist, though -- they may have more specific suggestions to help target exactly the right muscles without exacerbating the situation.
posted by pie ninja at 8:02 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I hate working out, but I looooove working with a medicine ball. You can do sit-up-and-reach (with a partner or not -- it's super fun with a partner), or touchdowns alternating sides (with your feet on the ground or lifted). That might be a bit too close to the crunch position, but you might consider trying it.

V-sits? Something more Pilates-like?

Rowing (like, on a machine) would also be good. It's basically an all-around great exercise. The thing is that you need to be absolutely clear that you have your form correct -- but then again, you need to do that with everything you're doing, particularly planks and stuff.
posted by Madamina at 8:08 AM on May 22, 2013

Best answer: Crunches aren't a great idea for even uninjured people anyway. You can find a lot of different movement progressions at gymnasticsWOD. Here are a few ideas.

Ab wheel rollout from knees -> standing rollout

Hanging knee raise -> hanging leg raise -> dragon flag

L-sit progression -> V-sit

Front lever progressions

Flag progressions

360 pull/skin the cat -> back lever
posted by ludwig_van at 8:17 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Dunno if it will hurt your back, but heavy weights will keep your core much tighter than sit-up and ab exercises. Deadlifts, back squats, front squats, etc.
posted by mrfuga0 at 8:55 AM on May 22, 2013

I was told by a back specialist that crunches are notoriously bad for backs and that people should just not do them. At all.
posted by Eicats at 8:57 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Hooping is really good for your core, with the bonus of not feeling like exercise.
posted by fiercecupcake at 9:16 AM on May 22, 2013 [3 favorites]

The Roman chair works and I hate it, therefore I recommend it highly as a crunch substitute.
posted by headnsouth at 9:17 AM on May 22, 2013

Seconding fiercecupcake on the hula hooping. You want to use a weighted hoop that is the right size for your body, not any of that plastic Walmart nonsense. It is an incredible core workout and also ridiculously fun, especially when you start getting good at it.
posted by futureisunwritten at 10:16 AM on May 22, 2013

There was an article in the NY Times blog about how crunches specifically are bad for your back, with some replacement exercises, and videos.
posted by doozer_ex_machina at 1:57 AM on May 23, 2013

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