Everyone longs for a slim and trim core. But what’s the most effective way to get there: situps or crunches?

Pros: Work multiple muscles

Situps are a multi-muscle exercise. While they don’t specifically target stomach fat (Note: neither do crunches!), situps actually work the abdominals as well as other muscles groups, including:

  • chest
  • hip flexors
  • lower back
  • neck

Muscle cells are more metabolically active than fat cells. This means they burn calories even at rest. By helping you build muscle, situps will help you burn more calories in the long run. Also, strong core muscles can help improve posture. Good posture can improve appearance without weight loss.

Cons: Injuries

The main drawback to situps is the possibility of lower back and neck injuries. You should ask a doctor for advice if you’ve had any related injuries to prevent strain.

The form

To perform a proper situp:

  1. Lie down on your back.
  2. Bend your legs and place feet firmly on the ground to stabilize your lower body.
  3. Cross your hands to opposite shoulders or place them behind your ears, without pulling on your neck.
  4. Curl your upper body all the way up toward your knees. Exhale as you lift.
  5. Slowly, lower yourself down, returning to your starting point. Inhale as you lower.

Beginners should aim for 10 reps at a time.

By hooking your feet together during a situp, you can get a decent workout for your lower legs, too!

Pros: Intense muscle isolation

Like situps, crunches help you build muscle. But unlike situps, they work only the abdominal muscles. This intense muscle isolation makes them a popular exercise for people trying to get six-pack abs.

This also makes them ideal for strengthening your core, which includes your lower back muscles and obliques. Doing so can improve your balance and posture.

Cons: Exclusive to the core

While a strong core is certainly an asset to overall fitness, it’s not necessarily conducive to everyday movements. Also, like situps, while crunches are good for developing muscle, they don’t burn fat.

Another consideration is your current fitness level. Crunches build up the abdominal muscles over time, but can cause significant back pain for beginners. If you do incorporate crunches into your workout routine, it’s best to start off with a set of 10 to 25 at a time and add another set as you get stronger.

The form

The setup for a crunch is like a situp:

  1. Lie down on your back.
  2. Bend your legs and stabilize your lower body.
  3. Cross your hands to opposite shoulders, or place them behind your ears without pulling on your neck.
  4. Lift your head and shoulder blades from the ground. Exhale as you rise.
  5. Lower, returning to your starting point. Inhale as you lower.

It’s best to start off with a set of 10 to 25 at a time and add another set as you get stronger.

Both situps and crunches are helpful for strengthening and developing core muscle. Over time, a stronger core can also improve your posture and reduce your risk of back injuries later in life.

However, neither exercise burns fat. The only way to attain a flat and muscular stomach is to combine these exercises with a healthy, low-calorie diet and regular fat-burning aerobic exercise.